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Learn Things to Do in Washington, DC, While Attending the Inauguration

Looking to plan your next trip within the United States? Why not Washington, DC, this January?

Every American should visit our nation’s capital; the best time to visit D.C. is during the Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2021.

So go ahead and add the Presidential Inauguration to your bucket list; visit the Washington, DC, area for this celebration of the peaceful transfer of power between U.S. Presidents and the pageantry and tradition that accompanies it every four years.

Of course, you need to attend the Swearing-In Ceremony, but there are so many other events going on that week. As one of the only tour operators offering this experience, here are the recommendations for your itinerary from Bucket List Events.

presidential inauguration washington, dc

Swearing-In Ceremony

We have helped clients attend the January 20 inaugural celebrations for George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. The centerpiece of the trip is the Swearing-In Ceremony; you can obtain tickets through a lottery of applicants to every U.S. Senator and Congressman.

If you don’t win the lottery or just want guaranteed access to tickets in a particular section, we can help; we offer advance purchase prices for each section, including North, South, West, Union Square and Mall standing areas. 

After the President-Elect takes the oath of office, administered by the Chief Justice, and gives the Inaugural Address, the President goes inside the Capitol for a luncheon. You will be looking for a spot to watch the upcoming Inaugural Parade along Pennsylvania Avenue en route to the White House.

Grandstand tickets are available, but you can just stand along the route and watch, if you prefer. Traditionally, the President, Vice President, and their spouses ride in a motorcade for part of the route and walk for a portion.

Inaugural Balls

Later that evening, the hottest tickets in town are the balls sponsored by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The President and First Lady make a brief appearance for a first dance. President Trump attended only 2 balls open to the public, known as the Freedom and Liberty balls, which drove ticket prices higher. Obama and Bush hosted 10 and 8 balls, respectively.

Catered food, beverages, and live entertainment performed by nationally acclaimed musicians are provided at the inaugural balls. For example, Beyonce performed at the Obama Neighborhood Ball, and Stevie Wonder sang at the Obama Home States Ball.

There are plenty of other balls in town during Inauguration week, put on by a variety of organizations. The Black Tie & Boots Ball is one of our favorite ticketed events. Sponsored by the Texas State Society, this country and western themed celebration took place at the Gaylord National Resort in 2017. While not typically attended by the incoming administration, W Bush did make an appearance there.

Lodging during Inauguration

So where should you stay during this popular time? We recommend finding lodging near the D.C. Metro system, so that you can ride the subway around the city, even between Virginia and Maryland. Sometimes you can even find something with rewards points. For those looking to be near all the action, we offer our clients conveniently-located four-star hotels in walking distance of the metro and Washington, DC, attractions. 

You may be waiting to book because you don’t want to lock in on a nonrefundable hotel or flight until after you see who wins the November election. To help with this, Bucket List Events offers a candidate-specific refund policy; you only put down a deposit, and it’s refundable if your candidate doesn’t win.

If you are looking to book your flights, keep in mind that there are multiple airport options. Reagan is most convenient to the city and the metro. Dulles is further out and may require a car or shuttle ride. Baltimore is even further, but might be the cheapest.

Sightseeing in Washington, DC

Now that we’ve hit on the most popular aspects of the trip, let’s add some value to your itinerary or budget. There are a lot of free activities that week and in Washington, DC, in general.

Recent inauguration celebrations have featured free concerts at the Lincoln Memorial, typically on January 19. That site is worth a visit on its own; you can stand in the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Then you turn around and take in the statue of Abraham Lincoln and the etched quotations from his speeches on the walls of the structure. 

things to do in washington, dc

At night, Washington is transformed as the floodlights are beamed onto the monuments, giving them a different look. As many places have security checkpoints and do not allow backpacks, we recommend carrying as little as possible while touring. Maybe even consider letting us help you hire a tour guide for this adventure.

You should walk around to as many sites as possible, including the Capitol, White House and neighboring Lafayette Park, the Washington Monument on the National Mall, Ford’s Theatre (where Lincoln was shot), the Jefferson Memorial and the nearby FDR Memorial by the Tidal Basin. Don’t miss the war memorials, particularly Vietnam, and various museums dedicated to Air and Space, American History, International Spy, African American History and Culture, and the Holocaust.

Once you are tired of walking, hop on the Metro to some other attractions, like the National Zoo, Arlington National Cemetery, the National Cathedral and the Georgetown Historic District. Georgetown’s historic homes and boutiques, cafés, restaurants, and museums make it a popular break.

Ready to book your trip to the Inauguration in Washington, DC? Check out our packages.

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