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Readers Share Survival Tips

Post reporters aren't the only people with experience attending inaugurations.

Many longtime Washingtonians and area visitors who have braved the elements and the crowds over the years responded to our call for advice on navigating an inauguration.

Here are some of their best suggestions for dealing with the mass of people, watching the parade and enjoying the balls.

If you have more suggestions, e-mail them to us.

Crowd Control

Nobody really knows exactly how many people will be coming to town, but what's virtually certain is that the numbers will strain the city's resources -- and the patience of many a citizen and visitor. With that in mind, some ideas for preparing to get the most from a trip to the National Mall.

Keep yourself oriented, writes one reader:

Have a map of downtown and know that the only way you will be able to orient yourself in the crowds is by seeing the Washington Monument and the Capitol.

Another suggests picking your viewing spot carefully:

Except for dead center on the grounds (and on the Mall), there are trees on the two side sections of the Grounds which, despite not having leaves on them right now, will still block the direct views of many of those seated, as well as many of the standees.

One has coordinating groups in mind:

Plan your entrance and exit from the downtown area with care -- and if you're with a group, designate a specific spot to meet when you're ready to depart, in case someone is missing.

And for those who'll brave the Metro, a reader's plea to plan ahead:

If you are going to take the Metro, definitely go a few days ahead and purchase all the fare cards you're going to need, with round-trip fare on each. Think of the Fourth of July crowds and multiply by a lot. Don't assume you will get one of the limited number of parking spaces at a Metro station on the 20th, unless you're there when they open that day at 4 a.m. Hence, arrange a ride to the station if possible.

Parade Watch

The inaugural parade, which will take place shortly after the new president's address, offers the potential to see Obama up close should he decide to walk alongside his motorcade (as many past presidents have). But the crush of people presents a challenge for would-be watchers.

One reader notes two potential monkey wrenches for people who hope to go from the Mall to the parade route. First, remember that a lot of people will have the same idea:

After the swearing-in ceremony, many people who were on the Capitol Grounds or on the Mall watching the ceremony will suddenly want to move to Pennsylvania Avenue to see the parade.

Second, he says, there's a logistical challenge:

The natural tendency for the "12:30 movers" will be to walk immediately toward the street from either the Capitol or the Mall, which will put you (and many others) on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue.
In the past on Jan. 20, once the final preparations have been made to Pennsylvania Avenue, no one is allowed to cross the street, period. … If you want to get to the north side of the street -- which will have relatively more space to watch (a very subjective term here), once the swearing-in crowds have moved over, it is not easy to get there.

So, where's a good spot? One selfless reader has a suggestion:

I would have to say any area between 13th and 15th [streets] on Pennsylvania Avenue is the best place to be for the parade.

Have a Ball

For some, the most exciting part of the inauguration is the nightlife.

Here's a suggestion for those attending the "official" balls (the ones the Obamas are scheduled to attend):

Plan on arriving early, since the fire marshals will close the venues once capacity is reached. … If you have not cleared security at that point you may not have access to the venue again until the First Family departs. If you are attending balls at the Convention Center or Union Station, you may want to have hand- and feet-warmers, since there is a very small interior area and you will be standing outside before clearing security.

Another reminder you to keep your timing in mind:

As soon as the President and First Lady make their obligatory dance on the dais and depart, the party breaks up and everyone tries to leave at once, so parking garages and coat rooms are overwhelmed. Before the President and First Lady arrive, everyone crushes together to be as close as possible to the dais. Forget wearing your designer gown, as it will be stepped on and spilled on as people try to raise a drink.

Still looking for more tips, suggestions and ideas? Visit Inauguration Central for everything in one place.

-- Carolyn Phenicie, washingtonpost.com

By Washington Post Editors  |  January 16, 2009; 4:23 PM ET  | Category:  Answers , Crowds , Parade , The Balls , Transportation
Previous: Ticket Pickup Begins at Convention Center, Then Bogs Down and Is Postponed | Next: National Prayer Service Lineup Announced

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The person noting the logistical problem crossing Pennsylania Ave. after leaving the mall made a good point. However, the maps show that there will be two pedestrian bridges to cross Penn. Ave. this year. But the thing I can't figure out is whether you'll have to go through the security screening as though you were going to watch the parade if you just want to cross. Also, they have said that the parade viewing area will be closed once it reaches capacity. Presumably, this will happen well before the swearing-in ends. Will the bridges then be closed at the same time making them worthless to people coming from the mall? It would be great if the Post could dig up some answers from the authorities on this.

Posted by: robotmo | January 16, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Links to maps showing options for pedestrians:



Posted by: robotmo | January 16, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

I've found it much easier to visualize all the traffic and pedestrian info on an interactive map I've put together Google Maps with all of the info here:


Posted by: mm148896 | January 18, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Will someone clarify what size handbags are allowed??? I understand college, hiking, mountain climbing backpacks would not be allowed. But a ladies Nne West purse/backpack should be right?? How many women even own a bag 8x6x4?? Please help anyone...I've been racking my brain trying to figure this one out!!

Posted by: myraoakley | January 18, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

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