A Visitor's Guide to the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama

A map, details on the inaugural speech and parade, and a list of presidential-themed exhibits.

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The presidential inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20 is by far the most anticipated event in Washington in a long time. But battling the crowds of people expected to flood into the city won’t be easy.

Still, along with the official ceremonies, there will be plenty of things to do for the 2 million to 4 million people expected to watch the festivities.

Clearly, organization will be key. U.S. News offers a map to some of the presidential-themed activities going on during inauguration week—and, of course, to the ceremony itself.

Click on the markers for information about each event

We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. Lincoln Memorial. After arriving by train in Washington on January 18, Obama will welcome visitors from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at 2 p.m. The star-studded event is free and open to the public and will be broadcast on HBO from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for those unable to attend. Musicians performing include Beyoncé, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, John Legend, Shakira, James Taylor, and Stevie Wonder. Historical passages will be read by artists including Queen Latifah, Denzel Washington, and Jamie Foxx. And Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, who is openly gay and whose ordination created worldwide debate in the Anglican church, will deliver the invocation.

Public observation area for the inauguration. The National Mall. With a record number of observers expected, the entire Mall is being opened up for the first time for those wishing to watch the inauguration. But the expected crowd of 2 million to 4 million is equivalent to the population of Los Angeles, and the Mall is only 2.5 miles long—so the squeeze will hardly be an easy feat. The section of the Mall between Third and Fourth streets NW is for ticket-holders only.

Oath of office and inaugural address. U.S. Capitol. Gates to the ticketed area open at 8 a.m.; ceremony starts at 11:30. Scheduled events begin at 10 a.m. and include welcoming remarks by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, an invocation by Rick Warren, music by Aretha Franklin and Yo-Yo Ma, and a poem by Elizabeth Alexander.

Inaugural parade. Starts at Fourth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW; ends at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. More than 13,000 people will participate in the inaugural parade, which will have more than 90 cultural and community groups—including bands, Boy Scouts, tumblers, and even Alaska's Suurimmaanitchuat Eskimo Dance Group, along with military regiments and representatives from the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. The 5,000 tickets for bleacher seats have been sold out, but non-ticketholders also can watch the parade. The parade will begin at 2:30 p.m.

National Prayer Service. 3101 Wisconsin Ave. As per tradition, Obama and his family will attend a prayer service at the National Cathedral on Wednesday, January 21. For the first time in history, the service will be led by a woman—Sharon E. Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It will include prayers, readings, and hymns spanning an array of faiths. More information TBA.

National Museum of American History. 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily. Admission: Free. Along with its two permanent exhibits on presidential history, “First Ladies at the Smithsonian” and “The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden,” the museum hosts one exhibit on Lincoln’s life and another on 10 rare documents relating to his presidency.

National Portrait Gallery. Eighth and F streets NW. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. Admission: Free. Along with its complete collection of presidential portraits, the museum hosts a display of images of the 14 leaders who first served as vice presidents and an exhibit focused on photographic portraiture of Lincoln.

Smithsonian American Art Museum. Eighth and F streets NW. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. Admission: Free. The location of Lincoln’s second inaugural ball, the museum launches an exhibit on the gala March 8. The ball’s dances will be re-enacted at noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. on January 31.


Corrected on : Updated 1/13/08