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The Post's Inauguration FAQ

Need to know exactly what to expect during Inauguration Week -- and the big day itself?

Here's your starting point: Inauguration Watch's list of frequently asked questions. (We'll be adding to this document over time as more information becomes known -- many of these items are still developing.)

Of course, you can also e-mail us directly with information or questions -- we'll do our best to help.

Click on the sections below to jump directly to the information you want.


Inauguration Day Timing

Some of this information is preliminary. More detail will be added as it becomes available.

  • 4 a.m. -- Metro opens (at rush-hour service and fare levels).
  • 4 a.m. -- Monday extended alcohol service for bars and nightclubs ends; they can remain open 24 hours through Jan. 21.
  • 8 a.m. -- Security gates open for ticketed guests
  • 9 a.m. -- Ceremony gates open.
  • 10 a.m. -- Musical prelude. See the full schedule.
  • Noon -- Ceremony ends, followed by the inaugural address, luncheon, departure of President Bush and parade.
  • 2 p.m. -- Approximate start time for parade
  • 7 p.m. -- Official balls start
  • 9 p.m. -- Rush-hour Metro service levels end.
  • 2 a.m. -- Metro closes.
  • 4 a.m. -- Tuesday extended alcohol service for bars and nightclubs ends.

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Open and Closed

Transportation Overview

  • Virginia-D.C. bridges and highways (66, 395) will be closed to D.C.-bound vehicles from 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
  • Large areas in and around downtown Washington will be closed to parking and general use by non-residents from 3 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Wednesday.
  • Roads around the National Mall will be closed from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
  • Roads around the Capitol will be closed from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway will be closed Jan. 20 (no hours provided).
  • Smithsonian and Archives/Navy Memorial Metro stations will be closed Jan. 20.
  • Mt. Vernon Square Metro station will close at 7:30 a.m.
  • Judiciary Square Metro station closes at 4 p.m.
  • Additional Metro stations will be entry-only or exit-only, or will have entry- or exit-only entrances.
  • D.C. buses will be on a modified Saturday schedule, with additional inauguration-specific routes.
  • Virginia buses and regional rail in Maryland and Virginia also will aid in ferrying people to the inauguration.

Roads and Bridges

The District has a comprehensive list on their inauguration site. A rough outline follows.

Starting at 3 p.m. Monday, extensive road closures and vehicle restricted zones will be established in Washington. Many of these areas will be posted by law enforcement personnel and vehicular traffic will be limited to residents with government-issued identification or vehicle registration showing residency inside the restricted area, or to vehicles conducting essential business there. See yellow area on map. These will be lifted at 7 a.m. on Wednesday.

Starting at 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Memorial, Key, Chain, Roosevelt and 14th Street bridges from Virgininia into the District (and Maryland just west of the District) will be closed to all non-authorized vehicular traffic, as will northbound I-395 and eastbound I-66 inside the Beltway, and I-95, I-395 and Dulles Toll Road HOV lanes farther out. These restrictions will be lifted at 7 p.m.

Starting at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, roads around the National Mall will begin to be shut down entirely (red area of map). These closures will be lifted at 7 p.m.

Starting at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, streets around Capitol Hill will be locked down. These closures will be lifted at 5 p.m.

Mass Transit

  • Metro trains

    • Smithsonian and Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter subway stops will be closed Jan. 20

    • Metro's Mt. Vernon Square station closes at 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 20; Metro's Judiciary Square station closes at 4 p.m. on Jan. 20

    • Federal Triangle, Federal Center SW, Farragut
      West, Capitol South and McPherson Square Metrorail stations will be
      exit-only from 4 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Other downtown stations will have a designated entrance, while its other outlets will be exit-only.

  • Washington buses will be operating on a modified Saturday schedule that will include 23 "Presidential" rapid bus corridors. Metro's FAQ explains these and other steps they're taking.

  • Georgetown Metro Connection buses will be available with altered schedules and routes.
  • Virginia transit authorities will offer free bus rides and shuttles.


  • Tickets required for area of mall immediately west of Capitol (map)

  • Multiple closed areas on parade route (map)

  • Washington Monument will be closed

  • Phillips Collection, Corcoran Gallery, Museum for Women in the Arts, the Holocaust Museum, the Library of Congress, Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery and the National Gallery will be closed.

  • Newseum will be open, but apparently has sold all tickets for the time of the parade. A few walk-up tickets may be made available.

  • The Navy Memorial and Heritage Center will be open.

  • Restuarants: For the latest list of open eateries, check the Going Out Gurus blog's inauguration category

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Prohibited Items

The Obvious

  • No firearms (real or simulated)

  • No mace or pepper spray

  • No fireworks or other explosives

  • No animals other than service animals

  • No knives, blades or sharp objects

  • No pocket or hand tools such as the “Leatherman”

  • Security screeners have the power to prohibit any items that may pose a threat to the security of the event.

On the Mall

  • No tents or that includes no camping out

  • No glass bottles

  • No alcohol

  • Most other items on the lists below are allowed

On the Metro

  • No bicycles for the entire inauguration weekend

  • No signs or placards more than 18 inches by 18 inches

  • No signs or placards affixed to a pole

  • No using metro bathrooms -- they will be closed for security purposes

  • No parking at Greenbelt, Van Dorn Street or Morgan Boulevard stations

  • No plastic or checks for Metro parking -- cash only

At the Opening Concert, Along the Parade Route and at Official Balls

  • No bicycles

  • No backpacks, large bags, suitcases or duffel bags. Bags smaller than 8 inches by 6 inches by 4 inches are allowed.

  • No aerosol cans, which could include silly string

  • No coolers

  • No thermal or glass containers

  • No chairs (except at opening concert) or strollers

  • Walkers and other devices for those with special needs are permitted.

  • Blankets are allowed

  • Signs are allowed, but only if they are no more than 3 feet in length, 20 feet wide or a quarter inch thick. They must be made out of poster board, cardboard or cloth.

  • Cameras are allowed; tripods and camera bags are not

  • No staking out spots until 7 a.m.

On Capitol Grounds

  • Ticketed attendees only

  • No strollers

  • No laser pointers

  • No umbrellas

  • No posters

  • No food or beverages, but small snacks are allowed

  • No thermoses or coolers

  • No backpacks, large bags, suitcases or duffel bags

  • Walkers and canes will be allowed

-- By Brittany Levine

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The Swearing-In Ceremony

What takes place during the ceremony?

The sitting president and president-elect, as well as the vice president-elect, travel to the Capitol from the White House for the swearing-in ceremony. Weather varies, but it typically is close to the freezing point with a good chance of snow on the ground, according to historical data compiled by the National Weather Service.

The president and vice president elect take the oath of office from Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., after which the new president delivers his inaugural address. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. on the west front of the Capitol, which faces the National Mall. Obama must be sworn in by noon.

The schedule is as follows (read more about inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander here and the complete biographies of all participants here):

Musical Selections
The United States Marine Band

Musical Selections
The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus

Call to Order and Welcoming Remarks
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein

Dr. Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA

Musical Selection
Aretha Franklin

Oath of Office Administered to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
By Associate Justice of the Supreme Court The Honorable John Paul Stevens

Musical Selection, John Williams, composer/arranger
• Itzhak Perlman, Violin
• Yo-Yo Ma, Cello
• Gabriela Montero, Piano
• Anthony McGill, Clarinet

Oath of Office Administered to President-elect Barack H. Obama
By the Chief Justice of the United States The Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.

Inaugural Address
The President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama

Elizabeth Alexander

The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery

The National Anthem
The United States Navy Band “Sea Chanters”

After the address, the new president escorts the outgoing chief executive to a departure ceremony before attending a luncheon in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

Do I need a ticket to view the ceremony?

Tickets will be needed for the areas closest to the stage in front of the Capitol. A total of 240,000 have been printed so far; they will be distributed before the inauguration by members of Congress and the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

The likeliest way to obtain a ticket is to contact your local member of Congress, though many legislators have already reported a deluge of requests.

If you can't get a ticket, you can still watch from various free areas on the National Mall. Large television screens are expected to be set up in various spots around the area.

What else takes place on Inauguration Day?

In recent years, the day has started with the president-elect attending a morning worship service, a custom started by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. After the worship service, the president-elect is escorted to the White House by members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

President Bush is expected to leave the Capitol right after the swearing-in, and, following a formal departure ceremony, leave Washington from the east front of the Capitol via helicopter.

The new president's day usually concludes with one or more official inaugural balls.

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The Parade

What is the parade route?

The parade, which takes place after the swearing-in ceremony, will run down Pennsylvania Ave. NW from the Capitol to the White House.

When does the parade start?

Officially it starts at 2 p.m., but often that is delayed.

What takes place during the parade?

After his luncheon, President Obama will travel to the White House, where he will watch the parade from a reviewing stand.

Who else will be in the parade?

Between 10,000 and 12,000 participants from college, high school, and military bands -- as well as drill teams, military honor guards and other groups -- are expected to march with Obama in the parade.

Do I need a ticket to view the parade?

Tickets are needed to sit in one of the 8,700 planned bleacher seats, but no ticket is required to watch from the sidewalk. Tickets will sold by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Unused bleacher seats are expected to be made available to the public a few minutes before the parade begins.

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The Balls

When and where are the official balls?

The presidential committe has announced the following official balls. President Obama will make an appearance at each.

Youth Inaugural Ball -- Young Americans aged 18-35; Washington Hilton; tickets $75

Obama Home States Inaugural Ball -- Illinois and Hawaii invited guests; Walter E. Washington Convention Center; tickets $150

Biden Home States Inaugural Ball -- Delaware and Pennsylvania invited guests; Walter E. Washington Convention Center; tickets $150

Eastern Inaugural Ball -- CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT, PR, and USVI invited guests; Union Station; tickets $150

Mid-Atlantic Inaugural Ball -- MD, VA, DC, NY, NJ, and WV invited guests; Walter E. Washington Convention Center; tickets $150

Midwest Inaugural Ball -- KS, IN, IA, MI, MN, ND, NE, OH, SD, WI, and MO invited guests; Walter E. Washington Convention Center; tickets $150

Southern Inaugural Ball -- AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, and TX invited guests; National Guard Armory; tickets $150

Western Inaugural Ball -- AK, CA, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY, AZ, CO, NV, NM, UT, OK, GUAM/AS invited guests; Walter E. Washington Convention Center; tickets $150

Neighborhood Inaugural Ball -- D.C. residents, additional guests; Walter E. Washington Convention Center; tickets $150

Commander-in-Chief's Inaugural Ball -- Enlisted active duty and reserve military; National Building Museum

What are the unofficial balls?

Many other balls are being staged by state societies, advocacy groups and other organizations. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For a full listing of inaugural balls, see the Going Out Gurus.

Which balls will President Obama attend?

Only the official ones listed above.

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Lodging and Getting Around

Are hotel rooms available?

Most hotels say they are nearly fully booked. Some are likely to release more rooms closer to the ceremony.

Where should I look for a short-term rental?

Craigslist.org has been listing rentals of or in private homes, and a number of Web sites have sprung up to match landlords and tenants specifically for the inaugural. The District's government has moved to suspend various tax and other requirements for residents renting their homes.

What do I need to know about public transportation?

Record rail and bus ridership is expected in the area.

WMATA, which runs the area's main subway and bus lines, has set up a web site with information on schedules, fares and hours during inauguration week.

The Metro system will open at 4 a.m. on Jan. 20, operating at rush hour service levels (and corresponding fares) until 7 p.m. It will close at 2 a.m. on Jan. 21. The Archives-Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter Metrorail station will be closed on Jan. 20; the National Mall entrance to the Smithsonian station will also be closed. Off-peak fares will be charged all day.

You can also sign up for transportation alerts for Inauguration Day online.

The Maryland Transit Administration will run MARC train service on all three lines into Washington; MTA buses will also run. Both will operate on a special schedule.

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Dining, Nightlife and Entertainment

For the latest lists of open eateries and late-night bars, check the Going Out Gurus blog's inauguration category.

There also is a full calendar of inauguration events.

For Washington-Area Residents

Is Inauguration Day a federal holiday?

Federal employees are entitled to a holiday if they work in the District of Columbia, Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland; Arlington and Fairfax counties and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church in Virginia.

Will area schools be closed?

Here is a basic rundown; check with your individual district to be sure.

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More Resources

We'll gather useful resources and informative web sites here. Feel free to e-mail us with suggestions.

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-- Washington Post and washingtonpost.com Staff

By Washington Post Editors  |  December 5, 2008; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Answers
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Correction: Biden is to be sworn in by Justice Stevens.

Posted by: jonathanlane1 | December 8, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know if there will be events on the mall the weekend before the inauguration? I recall "An American Reunion" prior to Clinton's first inauguration with lots of bands and other cultural events. I hope there is stuff like that.

Posted by: thegraneys | December 15, 2008 6:54 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone know who is staying at Blair House until January 15th. It seems strange that whoever was booked to stay there would have a problem with being relocated to a different spot so that the Obama family would not have to move into a hotel for a week+.

Posted by: CaitlinOfABQ | January 3, 2009 1:22 AM | Report abuse

So now that they've officially closed all bridges from VA and you can't take your bike on Metro is this officially a non bicycle friendly event?
What garbage if so. Is it true that there will be no way to walk or bike into DC from VA?????

Posted by: DadRyan | January 7, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I live on 12th St NW, some blocks north of Pennsylvania Avenue, and I was planning to just walk down to the Mall early on Inauguration Day. Am I going to be allowed to cross Pennsylvania, on foot, on my way to the Mall before 7 am?

Posted by: clarkjerome | January 7, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Where are the public restrooms going to be? Will businesses be open or portapotties be available?

Posted by: cujophoto | January 8, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Title says Prohibited Items, how to get around. But the list just shows prohibited items, not how to get around the list.

Posted by: blasmaic | January 8, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Please please, can someone offer clarification on "no backpacks?" Does this just apply to those big enormous summering-across-Europe type packs, or the little ones that grade schoolers carry textbooks in as well? I plan to walk 6 miles (one way) and then stand for 6 hours that day, and that will require more water, sunflower seeds, and beef jerky than you can fit in a 6x8x4 bag. And I already have a back problem caused by carrying a too-heavy tote bag on just one shoulder... it's not ergonomic... this is the whole reason I own a fourth-grade-style backpack to begin with. I can't bring it, really?

Posted by: bug451 | January 9, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"So now that they've officially closed all bridges from VA and you can't take your bike on Metro is this officially a non bicycle friendly event?
What garbage if so. Is it true that there will be no way to walk or bike into DC from VA?????"

Memorial Bridge is open to pedestrians. Don't know about bikes.

Unrelated question: Are any sites going to be set up near the festivities to watch the ceremony live but indoors?

Posted by: gluce | January 12, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

The Post is a nightmare.

Try here for useful maps and things to do in DC .. who knew you had to go to the NYTimes for some useful info on DC:


Posted by: tslats | January 16, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I have read a considerable amount about inauguration plans and do not see anyway that a disabled person not in a wheelchair could possibly attend.

Subway stops in the immediate vicinity of the mall are closed, streets are closed, VA bridges are closed to cars, and chairs may not be carried in.

Our nation has pretty effectively excluded the ambulatory disabled from witnessing the inauguration in person. As usual, the needs of the disabled are an after thought.
There is something seriously flawed in the planning procedures.

Having recently had spinal surgery and pretty unstable, even on a walker, after extensive walking and with chairs prohibited, I see no way that I could even reach the event to attend.

Have I missed something?

Posted by: cocoabolton | January 17, 2009 4:29 AM | Report abuse

I've been having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around all the road closures, as it's a bit hard to visualize them all in list format. I've posted interactive maps of the closures and pedestrian access routes as well as other inauguration day info here:


Posted by: mm148896 | January 18, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

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