Your Guide to the Inauguration

Your Guide to the Inauguration

Mark Young

This 40 by 40 foot map is being used by the 2009 Armed Forces Inaugural Committee to plan logistics for President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.


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Amy Dominello and Neil H. Simon
Published: December 22, 2008

WASHINGTON - If you’re still thinking of heading to Washington to be part of what may be the city’s biggest gathering ever, you better move fast

Here’s the latest:

With the exception of buses, limos and emergency vehicles, traffic will not be permitted on two of the biggest arteries into Washington - Interstate 395 North and Interstate 66 East. The roads will be closed at Interstate 495, the Capital Beltway. Bridges across the Potomac River into Washington will also be blocked off, with some exceptions for pedestrians, mass transit, buses and emergency vehicles.

Because of the large crowd of dignitaries expected to watch the inauguration of the country’s first African-American president, the Department of Homeland Security has designated the inauguration a “National Special Security Event.”

The security measures will prevent easy movement in town. Police advise visitors to arrive by train - Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express or Metro, the Washington subway system. A 100-block area surrounding Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed to cars.

Bikes will be prohibited on Metro, though riders can use bike valet lots at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial or on 16th Street between K and I Street Northwest.

Those walking to the event should brace for a long day of standing. Those who cannot stand for six hours should consider skipping the event, security officials said.

Expect up to a three-hour wait to get through security checkpoints before Obama’s noontime oath and address, though arrangements have been made to assist the disabled, officials said.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:

How do I see Obama’s swearing-in?
It will be difficult to get close enough to directly witness the Jan. 20 swearing-in.

Tickets are required for the area closest to the Capitol steps where Obama will be sworn in at noon. They are given out by members of Congress and the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Each Senate and House member received between 200 and 400 tickets. You can call their offices for tickets, but most were inundated with calls and e-mails for tickets and have stopped taking requests.

The next best option is to join the masses expected to gather further down on the National Mall. The mall stretches two miles from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. Hundreds of speakers and 10 large video screens will be placed on the mall so people can watch and listen to Obama’s swearing-in and the inaugural parade.

Tickets are not required for the Mall. While it’s open around-the-clock, security officials are asking people not show up any earlier than 4 a.m. when Washington’s Metro system will open.

Officials don’t want people staking out spots during the days and nights leading up to the Inauguration for several reasons - a security sweep of the mall may require people to move; tents are not allowed on the Mall and the January weather in Washington is typically cold.

How do I see the parade?
The parade route will run from the Capitol to the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue. About 15,000 people will participate in the two-hour parade, which will begin at 2:30 p.m.

Advanced tickets to planned bleacher seats along the parade route are expected to be sold through the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Tickets are not needed to stand along the sidewalk.

U.S. Secret Service agent Malcolm D. Wiley Sr. said the number of people that will be allowed to stand and sit along the parade route has not yet been established. Wiley said the earliest people will be allowed to line up along the parade route is 7 a.m.

How tight will security be?
These items are prohibited:
Prohibited Items:
Firearms and ammunition, real or fake
Explosives, including fireworks
Knives, blades, or sharp objects of any length
Mace and/or pepper spray
Sticks or poles
Hand tools, such as a “Leatherman”
Bags and purses larger than 8 inches by 6 inches by 4 inches
Duffel bags
Glass containers
Laser pointers
Signs, posters
Tents or structures of any kind
Animals other than service animals
Alcoholic beverages

For more information, visit,, and

Can I bring a camera or cell phone?
Yes. Cell phone lines are expected to be jammed that day. Security officials recommend communicating by text messages, which use less bandwidth and are more likely to go through than phone calls. Camera bags and tripods are prohibited.

Can I bring water or food?
Yes, but think small, like granola bars and a plastic bottle of water that can fit in clothing pockets or small purses. No thermoses, glass containers, or grocery bags of food will be allowed. No food or drinks will be sold inside the security checkpoints.

Should I do anything to prepare for my personal security?
Yes. Prepare a security plan for your family. Designate a meeting place, like your hotel. If separated, children should look for a police officer and know a family member’s phone number. Also designate a contact back home for your group to check in with in case of emergency.

Can I bring a sign?
No signs are allowed at the swearing in ceremony. Signs are allowed along the parade route, but must be made of cardboard, poster board or cloth and no larger than 3 feet by 20 feet and one-quarter inch thick. No wood, metal or other supports to prop up the sign are allowed.

If I have something taken away can I get it back?
No. Seized items will not be returned.

I have a disability and can’t wait in line. Where can I go?
Those with disabilities and tickets to the inauguration should go to the intersection of North Capitol Street and E Street or to the intersection of South Capitol and E Street. U.S. Capitol Police will shuttle passengers on golf carts from those locations to one of the security checkpoints.

Can I volunteer to help at the Inauguration?
No. More than 40,000 people have offered to volunteer to help at Inauguration festivities and the Presidential Inaugural Committee is no longer taking applications for volunteers.

Where can I find a bathroom on the Mall or parade route?
There are plans for 5,000 portable toilets to be brought in for Inauguration Day. You can also check out Imodium’s Bathroom Finder online

How do I go to an inaugural ball?
Inaugural balls will occur between Jan. 15 and Jan. 20. The official balls the Obamas will likely attend are organized by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, but many states and other organizations host balls as well. You can buy tickets through those groups.

For more information on balls and special events, visit
http://Want to go to the ball?.

What’s the best way to travel to and around Washington?
Millions of visitors are expected to pour into Washington. Your best bet is to finalize travel plans as soon as possible.

The airlines will be using larger aircraft and have added about 100 flights into Washington between Jan. 15 and Jan. 22, said David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association.

Plane tickets are still available at standard fares. You will be able to get a seat, but it might not be at an ideal time, Castelveter said.

“Given the millions of people who want to go, they’ll be seats,” he said. “But they’ll be few and far between.”

Bookings for Amtrak’s regional service, which runs along the Northeast corridor south to Richmond, Va., have jumped by 20,600 during Inauguration week compared to the same time last year when nearly 7,000 riders used the rail line. Ridership of the Carolinian, which runs from Charlotte to New York, has jumped from 660 riders to 2,250.

In a city already notorious for its traffic, the potential of adding millions of visitors to the mix could be a recipe for disaster. About 10,000 charter buses are expected to descend on the city. D.C. officials are still working out the details of where all those buses and cars will park.

Inaugural planners are urging people to take Metro. Throughout the weekend, Metro will be able to easily handle the additional riders, said Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the transit agency.

She recommends buying one-day passes in advance online to save money and avoid waiting in line for Metro passes.

On the day of the Inauguration, Metro will open at 4 a.m. and close at 2 a.m. Jan 21. On its busiest day Metro handled 854,000 trips, Farbstein said. On Inauguration Day, the system will be at “crush-load” and could double that with as many as 1.7 million trips

As a result, Metro is advising that those within a two-mile radius walk to Inauguration events.

Are there still places to stay?
If you want to try to find a hotel room, visit or call 1-800-422-8644.

Many in the Washington area are renting out their apartments through online ads. Sites like have thousands of listings. Travel planners said this can be used as an alternative to hotels, but urge renters to use good judgment in rental agreements.

What other Inauguration festivities are planned?
On Jan. 17, Obama and Vice-president elect Joe Biden will make stops in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Del., and Baltimore before arriving in Washington that evening.

On Jan. 18, an afternoon welcome event will be held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It is free and open to the public.

On Jan. 19, there will be some events on the Mall to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. There will also be a children’s concert held in Washington’s Verizon Center. Tickets are required but are free. Details on how to obtain tickets have not yet been released.

What’s the weather like in Washington in January?
January is Washington’s coldest month. The average high for January is 42 degrees and the average low is 27 degrees. And there’s always the possibility of rain and snow.


It’s hard to keep track of all that’s happening surrounding President-elect Barack Obama’s Inauguration. But here are the basics.

Monday, January 19
Throughout the day—To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King’ Jr., Obama and Vice-president elect Joe Biden will participate in community service activities in the Washington area and ask others throughout the country to do the same.

Evening - “Kids’ Inaugural: We Are The Future” concert honoring military families at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington. Michelle Obama, Jill Biden and their families will attend. The concert is free, but tickets are required. Visit for more information. The Children’s Concert will be broadcast live on ABC and The Disney Channel.

Tuesday, January 20
4 a.m. - Metro opens. Authorities recommend those who want to watch the Inauguration on large screens along the National Mall arrive no earlier than this time.

7 a.m. - Parade route entry points open up

8 a.m. - The National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Castle building open two hours early for visitors.

8 a.m. - Gates open for those who received tickets to watch Obama take the oath of office in the area closest to the Capitol.

10 a.m. - Inauguration festivities begin with a musical prelude on the west front of the U.S. Capitol.

11:30 a.m. - The official program begins. Biden will be sworn-in and Obama will take the oath of office prior to noon.

Noon - Obama delivers his Inaugural address. After the address, he will escort outgoing President George W. Bush to a departure ceremony before attending a luncheon in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

2:30 p.m. - The inaugural parade will make its way down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.

5:30 p.m. - The parade concludes.
Throughout the evening - There will be 10 official Inaugural balls attended by Obama. They will be held at the Washington Convention Center, the National Building Museum, Union Station, the D.C. Armory and the Washington Hilton. Tickets are available by invitation only. Other unofficial balls will be held throughout the city.
2 a.m. - Metro closes.
Morning - National Prayer Service attended by Obama and Biden. Visit for more information.

Where can I find more information?
Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies:
Presidential Inaugural Committee:
U.S. Secret Service:
Washington, D.C.:
For the latest coverage, visit

Contact Amy Dominello at 202-662-7671 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Reader Reactions

Posted by ( jlynn432 ) on January 06, 2009 at 7:42 am

Anyone traveling to DC for the inauguration might be interested in this guide: “Where to Pee in DC: An Insider’s Guide for the Inauguration” Sounds goofy, but with the shortage of available bathrooms around the National Mall, this downloadable guide might be the best money spent on the inauguration. It highlights a bunch of lesser known bathrooms, plus it gives good tips and tactics for accessing them. It’s on ebay for $3.75 (item # 120351046988).

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