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.
National Museum of the American Indian. Fourth Street and Independence Avenue SW. Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily. Admission: Free. The museum offers an exhibit on the participation of six American Indian chiefs in Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade, as well as their petitioning him with their concerns.
Old Ebbitt Grill. 675 15th St. NW. Washington’s first known saloon, the restaurant, which dates back to 1865, has hosted Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt. William McKinley is even thought to have boarded here during his tenure in Congress.
“A 19th Century Moment in African American History.” 905 Sixth St. SW No. 207B. The exhibit explores the first national event held by African-Americans, an 1865 celebration of Lincoln.
Jay-Z inaugural gala.1350 Okie St NE. President-elect Barack Obama has Jay-Z on his iPod, he channeled one of the rapper's moves on the stump, and his campaign may have even referenced Jay-Z's lyrics in a swipe at Hillary Clinton—so it's no surprise that the Brooklyn rapper will host a party in Obama's honor. Jay-Z will be headlining Love nightclub's party at 8 p.m. on Friday, January 16. Ticket prices haven't yet been set, but they'll probably start at $100. Call (202) 636-9030 for information. Jay-Z also will be performing at the Warner Theatre on January 19.
"Kids' Inaugural: We Are the Future" youth concert. The Presidential Inaugural Committee has arranged a concert for children on January 19 at the Verizon Center with Miley Cyrus, Bow Wow, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Usher. The concert will feature Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, and their families. Although it is free, tickets will be required. The concert also will be broadcast live on the Disney Channel at 8 p.m.
Oprah show. 2700 F St. NW. Like Obama, Oprah is moving from Chicago to Washington—for inauguration week at least. She'll be taping a live show from Kennedy Center Opera House on January 19. But don't expect to get tickets now; they vanished in the first 105 minutes of availability.
Charity dinner. 1600 21st St. NW. Star chef Alice Waters, the owner of Chez Panisse, is making dinner for 80 on January 19 at the Phillips Gallery. Ingredients, of course, will come from local and sustainable farms. The proceeds of each $500 ticket go to charity; tickets will be available here starting in January. Other chefs will be preparing dinners for the "Art. Food. Give." event across the city, including Daniel Boulud, Dan Barber, and Rick Bayless.
Official inaugural store. 625 E St NW. Run by the PIC, the store sells official inaugural memorabilia, from T-shirts to china plates. It's open 10 a.m.–8 p.m. until January 17, and then 8 a.m.–10 p.m. through January 21.
Commander in Chief's Ball. 401 F St NW. Continuing a tradition begun by George W. Bush, one of Obama's 10 official inaugural balls will be solely for the military, with the guest list made up of military personnel and their spouses. Guests also will include the families of those killed in combat or still deployed. Tickets will be free, but the ball is invite only; officials are still deciding how to distribute tickets. The ball will be held at the National Building Museum on January 20.
Illinois State Society Inaugural Gala. 999 9th St. NW. The reception kicks off at 5:30 p.m., and the ball begins at 8:30 p.m., on January 19. Long since sold out, even with tickets costing from $300 to $500 each, the ball is expected to have Obama among its attendees.
Hawaii State Society Inaugural Ball. 1330 Maryland Ave. SW. On Inauguration Day at 7 p.m., the Aloha State throws its own official ball. The $200 tickets went quickly, and guests are hoping to catch a glimpse of Obama at the gala.
Creative Coalition inaugural ball. 610 F Street NW. The inaugural ball may be unofficial, but it will feature Sting, Elvis Costello, and Sam Moore. Although Obama likely won't swing by, a star-studded guest list includes Seal, Anne Hathaway, Susan Sarandon, Ashley Judd, and members of Congress. Tickets for the gala, which have sold out, ranged from $10,000 to $100,000, with proceeds going to the Creative Coalition. The ball starts at 9 p.m. on January 20.
Neighborhood Inaugural Ball. Washington Convention Center. Called "the premier event of Inauguration evening" by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the ball features Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, and Alicia Keys. Tickets will either be free or affordable. Some will be set aside for D.C. residents. The ball also will showcase interactive technology, including webcasting, to allow "neighborhood balls across the country" to participate in the event. The ball also will be broadcast live on ABC on January 20 from 8 to 10 p.m.
Youth Inaugural Ball. 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW. To celebrate young people's engagement in politics, Obama will host a ball for guests ages 18 to 35 at the Washington Hilton. Tickets—usually $150 for an inaugural ball—will be $75.
Obama Home States Inaugural Ball. Washington Convention Center. An official inaugural ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center will honor "invited guests" from Obama's home states—Illinois and Hawaii. Tickets for the official regional and home states balls can be purchased for $500 and up. If any tickets are left over to be sold to the general public, they will cost $150.
Biden Home States Inaugural Ball. Washington Convention Center. Biden's home states of Delaware and Pennsylvania get their own official ball, with an invite-only guest list. Tickets for the official regional and home states balls can be purchased for $500 and up. If any tickets are left over to be sold to the general public, they will cost $150.
Top Chef inaugural ball. 303 Pennsylvania Ave SE. Fans of Top Chef can party with Season 4 contestant Spike Mendelsohn—and taste his down-home dishes—at a hamburger-themed inaugural ball on January 20. For $99, guests can snack on miniature burgers, fries, and milkshakes at Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery. As to the dress code, bluejeans are "highly recommended." Only 200 tickets are available; call (202) 543-8222 to purchase.
- Read more about the inaugural events.
- Read about the history of inaugurations.
- Read about inaugural balls of the past.
- Read some tourist tips for Washington, D.C.
- Take a quiz on inaugural trivia.