The January 20th inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, will be the event of the century, and it is something that you do not want to miss. This guide will help you plan, whether you have tickets to the events or are just coming to enjoy the festivities on the streets.


  • The best place to look for information is the website of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. This site keeps up a blog with information about plans for the week, the official inauguration schedule, and the inauguration store.
  • The Senate’s inauguration website features information on the events, history of past presidential inaugurations, and a place to sign up for updates.
  •’s inauguration guide does not disappoint. This guide features lots of links and information about inauguration activities as well as ways to plan a great weekend in DC.


Mr Obama's inspirational speeches played a key part in his successful campaign.
The 18th is when the events begin. President-elect Obama will host a free event at the Lincoln Memorial in the afternoon. Show up as early as possible, as one of the only free public events of the week, expect millions to attend.

Monday the 19th is Martin Luther King Day and is a day of community service. The Obama and Biden families will perform community service all day and attend the Inaugural Eve Concert for America’s Children in the evening. The concert is free but requires tickets.

The 20th is the day everyone has been waiting for, some since November 4th, some for over 100 years. The full length of the National Mall will be open to spectators. The inauguration will be a star-studded ceremony; Aretha Franklin is singing, Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma are performing, and of course, the new President Barack Obama will give his inaugural address.

The events begin at 10am, ticketed visitors are allowed to arrive starting at 8am. The ceremony itself begins at 11.30am. Be prepared to stand outside in the freezing cold and rain and possibly snow for six hours or more, especially if you get trapped by the parade.

At approximately 2.30pm, the Inaugural Parade will begin. Visitors are allowed to line up along the route starting at 7am so this is another time when you have to show up early. The parade route will follow Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.

The evening of the 20th is packed with balls

The evening of the 20th is packed with balls. The Committee itself is hosting ten official balls, the only balls that the President and First Lady are guaranteed to attend, but there are literally dozens of unofficial ones. If you want to find out the scoop on what the women are wearing to your ball, check out Dress Registry, where women are registering photos and information about their gowns to be sure that none are duplicated!

If you do not have tickets to a ball yet, there are plenty of organizations selling tickets. To find them, check out local websites such as Washington City Paper and ask your social and professional organizations, such as the National Bar Association or the Green Party and see if they are having a ball.

Where to stay

If you haven’t booked a hotel room in the DC/Virginia/Maryland area by now, you probably are not going to get one. If you have friends or family in the area, this is the time to get reacquainted. Other options include:

  • Find hotels that are an hour or more away. These hotels will be close to their normal prices and you can always park in the city and take the Metro through town.
  • Look at Craigslist. There are dozens of new ads for house and room rentals every day and they are not going as fast as you would think.
  • Search through local classifieds, such as the Washington City Papers classifieds section.

Getting around

Heavy traffic is expected during the US presidential inauguration.
The best way to get around DC is always the Metro and this will especially be true during the inauguration. The Metro is the best way to get from point A to point B without getting stuck waiting for limos and motorcades. Best to leave the roads to the celebrities. Plan to leave very early, there is no way to avoid the lines. The Metro is selling special inauguration passes online for $10, you can load them up as needed. It’s best to order these cards before you arrive. You can also purchase one of their many one- or seven-day passes.

The inauguration of President Obama is, most likely, the biggest thing that will happen for Americans in our lifetimes, and it is happening in our nation’s gorgeous capital. With a little planning and a healthy appreciation of crowds, you can celebrate with the rest of the globe in what will be, at least for a week, the center of the world.

Your thoughts on "How to prepare for the inauguration"

  • I can't imagine how crazy it's going to be, we were living in the DC area for the last inauguration and decided to stay out of the city (and we all know that one wasn't nearly as attended.) I'd wager you'd have to go further than an hour to find a hotel now. My parents live outside of Annapolis, MD (about 45 minutes away) and hotels there have been booked since Obama won the election!

    on January 14, 2009 at 2:24 pm Reply
  • Looks like you've done your research. Now, have a great time :)

    on January 15, 2009 at 12:03 am Reply
  • Welcome to ITP, Kat! This is a great guide to help foreigners like us get our heads around the circus! I'm sure it's going to be crazy-busy over the whole week.

    on January 14, 2009 at 12:40 pm Reply

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