City Readies for Historic Front Row Seat


From Beyonce to Bono, visitors from around the world are descending on our area as Alexandrians and the entire capital region are preparing to play host for the worlds most anticipated party: the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

The 56th Presidential Inauguration for President-elect Obama will take place on the steps of the U.S. Capitol at noon on January 20, 2009. The swearing-in ceremony will be followed by a parade along Pennsylvania Avenue in the afternoon, after a luncheon hosted for the new President by the Joint Congressional Commission on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Obama has chosen A New Birth of Freedom as the theme for his inauguration. Inspired by another senator from Illinois, the theme commemorates the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincolns birth. The words come from the Gettysburg address and express Lincolns hope that the sacrifice of those who died to preserve the nation shall lead to a new birth of freedom for our nation.

Each U.S. Senator and Representative received a limited quantity of free tickets to the swearing-in ceremony, but unless you are extremely well-connected, its unlikely you received one. But even without a ticket, you will be able to have long-range views of the historic events from the National Mall to the west of the Capitol grounds.

For the Inaugural Parade, the good news is that there will be fewer ticketed bleacher seating areas along the parade route. Fewer bleachers mean more space for standing-room crowds. This will allow more general public viewing than in past inaugurations.But no matter, you will need to arrive very early on the parade route to get a good viewing spot. People can begin to position themselves on the parade route at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. Hundreds of marching bands, military units and floats will participate in the parade.

And of course it will be a chance to see the new President in person.

Inaugural balls and parties will take place at venues throughout the region, with some beginning as early as January 15 and ending the evening of January 20. Ten official balls are planned by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, but with several other balls are planned by the various state societies, there will be more than 70 unofficial balls and parties held during the week of the Inauguration throughout the region.

Alexandria, along with all of America, has witnessed unparalleled interest in the presidential election and the transition of power. President-elect Obama has captured the imagination of citizens and media from around the world. As the transition proceeds, all of the energy that was on the campaign trail is now focusing on the metro area. The City of Alexandria is planning its own special programs to commemorate the inauguration, most notably with a jumbotron simulcast of the swearing-in ceremony planned for Market Square.

Any inauguration means big business for the areas travel and tourism sector, but with the inauguration of our nations first African American president, the economic impact is expected to be even greater. January is traditionally a slow month, but in inauguration years, hotel occupancy jumps about four to six percent in January, with many hotels selling out in the days surrounding the festivities. Alexandria will benefit from the tax dollars these visitors are generating through spending in our hotels, restaurants and retail shops.

If you live in Alexandria, you in all likelihood already have been asked to host friends and family whore planning to come to town for the festivities. The Alexandria Convention and Tourism Corporations website,, is a good place to start for resources on special inauguration events happening in the city. If you dare to brave the crowds and head into D.C., is the place to go for information on events throughout inauguration week. Despite what you may have heard, hotel rooms are still available in the region so friends and family may still be able to be a witness to history.

As you plan your transportation to and from Alexandria for the inauguration, officials are encouraging attendees to use public transit, including Dash and the free Old Town Trolley service, to connect to Metrorail and Metrobus. This is the only way to navigate your way through D.C. during this busy time. You can also avoid waiting in line in Metro stations on Inauguration Day by pre-purchasing all-day passes online.

The Potomac Riverboat Company has obtained special permission to run a water taxi service from the Alexandria waterfront to Pier 4 on Maine Ave. in D.C. on inauguration day itself. The cost is $90 roundtrip or $50 one way and can be purchased online at

Because security will be unprecedented throughout inauguration week, be sure to check any relevant websites as inauguration day itself approaches. If you have to do any driving at all on inauguration day, be sure to check out your routes since many of Virginias roads will be closed in and around D.C.

Whether you attempt to head into D.C. or plan to enjoy the celebrations from home, know that you are witnessing an event that will go down in history as one of Americas finest and proudest moments.

Some sites that may be helpful include:

If Youre Staying In Town

Some things to do if you plan to spend
Inauguration Day in Alexandria:

A jumbotron screen will broadcast a simulcast of the swearing-in ceremony and parade live in Market Square from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Live entertainment will be featured throughout the afternoon.

Warm up with a free cup of hot chocolate or cider at the Torpedo Factory Art Center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Celebrate the Irish heritage of Barack Obamas great grandfather at Pat Troys Irelands Own Restaurant with a champagne toast at noon and free hot dogs at lunchtime.

Visit the home of our nations first president, George Washington. Take the oath of office yourself at Mount Vernons new interactive Inaugural Gallery and see some of the first inaugural buttons worn by supporters of Washington.

Visit the Alexandria Black History Museum to celebrate the swearing-in of our nations first African America president.

Attend the Servant Forge Humanitarian Inaugural Ball at the Torpedo Factory Art Center from 8 p.m. to midnight (tickets required).

For more information on all of these events,

If youre going

Some things to plan for if you are attending the Inaugural events in Washington, D.C:

Dress the part. Temperatures could dip into the 20s or 30s, so dress warm and wear comfortable shoes fit for a lot of walking.

Make your Metro plans, pre-purchase your fare card, and visit for station closures and other restrictions. Expect crush level crowds.

There will be many road closures, including all the bridges from Virginia into D.C., so if you drive (not advised) you will need to access D.C. from the Maryland side. Good luck.

Dont bring coolers, suitcases, backpacks or strollers. You will be turned away at the security perimeter.

Leave young children home.

Leave early. Huge crowds are anticipated for all inaugural events. Pack a major dose of patience. There will be long lines and high security measures.

Choose your celebration. You cant do it all so decide to view either the parade or the swearing-in. You wont be able to do both on January 20.

For the opening celebration, swearing-in and the parade, theres a list of prohibited items. Check out for details.

If you are attending a gala, youll need a ticket. There are 10 official balls and over 45 unofficial balls. Wear comfortable shoes, eat beforehand and dont check your coat.

For more information on all of this information, visit\inauguration