This is the main event of the inaugural season: The swearing-in of the new president and vice president of the United States. It takes place on the lawn of the Capitol.
There are 240,000 free tickets available for this event. Several groups, including members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, and Medal of Honor winners, get tickets automatically. The remaining tickets are divided among lawmakers to distribute to constituents. Even though tickets have not yet been distributed—they make their way to lawmakers’ hands the week before the inauguration—many are already spoken for. DC’s congresswoman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, recently announced that she’s already cleaned out—but it’s worth a try to contact your senator or representative and adding your name to the wish list. Tickets must be picked up in person from your congressperson’s office.
With this year’s historic inauguration, demand for tickets is high, and there are already scammers looking to profit. A word to the wise: No Web site or ticket distributor has tickets to sell. “Any Web site or ticket broker claiming they have inaugural tickets is simply not telling the truth,” says Howard Gantman, staff director for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, in a statement on the committee’s Web site. “We urge the public to view any offers of tickets for sale with great skepticism.”
Following the swearing-in ceremony, the new president and vice president will make their way up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, in keeping with tradition. The president and vice president will be flanked by marching bands, marching units, mounted units, and other performers selected by the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee. This event is free and open to the public, so no tickets are required. Be sure to get there early to snag a good place to stand. And dress warmly—January in Washington usually sees temperatures in the 30s.
Inaugural Balls and Other Parties
Lots of events happen around town to celebrate the change of power. On Inauguration Day, the president will attend eight official balls, organized by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. These events, which require tickets, happen at various hotels and event spaces throughout Washington. They always bring in packed houses and usually feature cash bars, finger food, and lots of waiting around for the president to make an appearance.
In the days prior to the inauguration, Washington also hosts dozens of nonofficial balls and galas. These black-tie soirees are organized by private donors, state societies, celebrities, and others, and they typically feature open bars, multicourse dinners, and live entertainment. Tickets to these events can cost several hundred dollars and can be purchased directly from the organizers. Be ready to pounce when tickets go on sale because these events sell out fast.