Your own 4-1-1 guide to historic second inauguration of President Barack Obama — and how you can take part in it. Prepare for low temperatures, high prices and tight security.
On the third Monday in January of next year, Barack Obama will, for the second time in four years, take the oath of office as President of the United States — and I’m looking forward to watching it all on television from the comfort of my sofa.
But some folks will want to be in Washington DC to witness all the pageantry in person, and why not? Call it caché. Call it street cred. Call it a sense of history. Whatever you choose to call it, there’s something special about being able to say, “I was there.”
This could be the experience of a lifetime.
If that sounds appealing, you need to start planning — and budgeting — right now. Because there may be upwards of a million people in the District of Columbia with that same sense of history.
And this kind of street cred won’t come cheap.
If you’ve been hoarding frequent-flier miles or credit card rewards points for that special trip, this may be the time.
So use this blog post to help plan your inaugural adventure. I’ll be updating it as I learn more about the upcoming schedule, events, and so on, so check back often.
You ready? Let’s get started.
The post-Christmas winter is usually a good time to score airfare bargains on flights back East, but these days don’t favor the bargain hunter. The airlines are deliberately taking planes out of service, making fewer seats available. That keeps their planes full, but it also drives up airfares.
The best advice I can give you:
- Start stalking those airfare bargains now, either on your own online or with the help of a live travel agent…or a combination thereof. Check too with individual airlines on their own sites for bargains they may be holding back from the online travel agencies.
- Be flexible in your flight planning. Look for alternatives to DC’s two airports — Reagan National (DCA) or Dulles (IAD.) Your best bet is likely to be Baltimore (BWI).
Most hotels launch their room rates to the moon for special events, and Washington DC is no exception. Also, don’t be surprised to see DC hotels insist on both a minimum number of nights, (up to five) — paid in advance.
When looking at your lodging options, you have two major factors to think about. One is cost. The other is security. Not yours; the President’s.
As with flights, your cheaper hotels definitely will lie in Maryland and Virginia, just outside the DC city limits. Both are beautiful and have their own attractions that can provide a relaxed diversion from the crush of inaugural Washington.
As for security, veterans of past Inauguration Days argue for staying within the DC city limits, since it means less hassling with security checkpoints. More on that in a moment.
Check with online travel agencies like these to see if they’re offering any hotel packages for Inauguration Day, especially if they have any bundled with reasonable airfares:
Check too with hotel aggregator sites like these:
And don’t forget to check with your favorite hotel, especially if you’ve got substantial loyalty points built up with that chain.
Your cheapest options, however, will likely be through private property owners willing to rent out their apartment, condo or a room in their house. Even here, you’ll find landlords will have jacked up their rents for the occasion, especially the ones overlooking parade routes, but they should still be cheaper than the big hotel chains.
With that in mind, here are some sites you’ll want to check out:
Congress has created an official Presidential Inauguration Web site. It includes a breakdown of the eight official events. In order, they are the:
- Morning Worship Service
- Procession to the Capitol
- Vice-President’s Swearing-in Ceremony
- President’s Swearing-in Ceremony
- Inaugural Address
- Inaugural Luncheon
- Inaugural Parade
- Inaugural Ball
Because Mitt Romney failed in his bid to unseat Obama, the ceremonial departure of the outgoing President and First Lady won’t be a part of next year’s inauguration.
As for President Obama, he actually will be taking the oath twice.
By law, US presidents must be sworn in by noon Jan. 20. But because that date falls on a Sunday next year, all the inauguration events will be held a day later. So, Obama will take the oath in a private ceremony on Jan. 20, and then again in public the next day, Monday, Jan. 21.
That means the world will witness the first black president in American history being sworn in for his second term in office on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And how cool is that?
Tickets to the swearing-in — about 240,000 of them — are distributed through the offices of your U.S. Senator or Representative, usually within a month or so of the event. That may sound like a lot of tickets, but for this event, it isn’t — and they will go very fast. So if you’re serious about attending, call or email your Congressional office, soon.
(NOTE: The tickets are FREE, so if someone offers to sell you tickets, it’s a rip-off. Don’t get scammed.)
Watching the inaugural parade is free — as long as you’re willing to stand outside on the pavement in a densely packed throng of spectators, all trying to keep warm in the midst of one of Washington DC’s bone-chilling winters.
If you want to watch from the warmth and comfort of some business establishment along the parade route, you probably will have to pay for that privilege.
IBIT reader Monique White Rubin tells how to enjoy an inaugural ball — and survive the experience.
Feel like playing the ultimate game of dress-up at the Inaugural Ball? You definitely will need tickets for that, and they won’t be easily had. They are under the control of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which falls under the GSA, the federal General Services Administration.
Actually, there likely will be multiple Washington balls in January, and the PIC eventually is supposed to have information on all of them, and which if any will be making tickets available to the public.
(NOTE: By my count, there are at least 20 UNOFFICIAL BALLS set for the inauguration. This link should provide you with information on each and how to get tickets. If you’re interested in attending one of them, don’t dawdle.)
You probably stand a better chance of seeing Allen West splitting a Herman Cain pizza with Al Sharpton than scoring tickets to one of these — but in theory, anything’s possible, right?
Not if you procrastinate, though. When it comes to events like these, he who hesitates winds up staying home.
Notice the folks in the pic above from the 2008 Inauguration Day. January traditionally is one of the chilliest months of the year in DC and snow is not uncommon. Climate change notwithstanding, plan on being cold. Very cold.
If you want to avoid hassling with rental cars, try to find lodging near a Washington Metro subway stop or commuter rail line. Parking in the capital is scarce and pricey even on routine days, and a presidential inauguration drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors is anything but routine.
However, certain stations will likely be closed for security reasons. The Washington Metro inauguration page lists which stations are best to use for the parade and which are likely to be closed. Pay attention to that
On the other hand, that special Inauguration SmarTrip card on sale for the Metro could be a great souvenir of a memorable day.
The Capitol police and Secret Service will have all of Washington on something close to lockdown for this event — and given the near-rabid hatred of Obama among some in this country, they should. Belts of security checkpoints and other measures will have a serious impact on your ability to get around, even what you can bring with you.
This Web page describes the measures put in place for the first Obama inauguration in 2009. It should give you a good idea of what to expect and how to plan accordingly.
In addition to the Presidential Inauguration site, here are some other local Web sites that could prove useful for the DC visitor:
Okay, this should be more than enough to get you started.
Edited by P.A.Rice