Guest Author - Donna Ledbetter
Washington D.C., will be abuzz and aflitter on January 20, 2009 to celebrate the inauguration of America’s 44th president, Barack Obama. Scheduled events will take place all around the metropolitan area, in Baltimore, and in parts of northern Virginia. People from around the world are expected to flock to Washington, D.C. You’ll want to be armed with as much logistical information as you can have to avoid extensive crowds. Maneuvering through the District will be easy as long as you remember not only to plan ahead, but to plan for contingencies as well. Here are a few tips:
1) If you are traveling with children or a large group, make sure everyone has everyone else’s cell phone number. If you have a pay-go plan, make sure everyone has minutes.
2) Make sure you know the name of your hotel and how to get there on the metro or how to get there by cab. Plan out your route to National Mall using the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority trip planner. Simply go to http://www.wmata.com and enter your start place and destination. Make sure everyone has these directions.
3) Buy a SmarTrip metro pass online and have it delivered to your home. This will save you time at the metro when you’re first starting out. You’ll be able to avoid the long lines of people who will be purchasing their metro pass cards for the first time on January 20.
4) If you’ve already decided to come to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration, consider booking your lodging in nearby cities like Baltimore, MD, or Alexandria, VA, to save a few dollars. You can save even more by staying in nearby, but lesser known, areas that are just as convenient. Consider, for example, Rockville, College Park, Bowie, or Frederick in Maryland and Herndon, Annandale, or Fairfax in Virginia.
5) Leave the driving to the metro or take chartered bus to the National Mall. Parking availability will be nonexistent during the inauguration. If you have lodging close enough to Washington, DC, you may also consider hiking or biking in using a trail from a nearby area.
6) If you can take the time off from work to enjoy both the inauguration and parts of Washington, D.C., begin visiting sites after the inauguration. Most people will take off Friday, Monday, and Tuesday. If you can stick around Wednesday or Thursday, you’ll avoid major crowds.
7) Dress for snow or rain. Though the forecast for January 20 won’t be available for a few more days, preparing to brave the winter elements of the MidAtlantic region will help you as you think about packing. And on the off chance that you happen to miss the weather report that morning, you’ll still be prepared.
8) Eat before you arrive. There may be hot dog vendors or concession stands around the Mall, but they are often overpriced. After the ceremony, consider walking just a few blocks from the Mall to Chinatown. Or walk a few blocks in the opposite direction to Eastern Market. Do not take the metro. It is a 20-minute walk at best to both of these locations and with the crowds, walking will probably be faster.