If it isn’t enough to read our Inauguration Nation series—in which we give you an insider’s look at inaugural events—you might want to book the Behind the Inaugural Bash package at the Hilton Washington. Priced at $44,000, the four-night package gives two VIP guests a firsthand look at the inaugural action.
The package’s centerpiece is a behind-the-scenes tour of the President’s Walk and Holding Room, secure locations within the hotel that the president uses when he visits. The Walk is a long hallway that wraps behind the hotel’s International Ballroom. Since 1976, it has given the president easy backstage access to any event he attends or speaks at in the ballroom. It’s lined with portraits—obtained from the Library of Congress—of every president and first lady of the United States. The hotel hopes Barack and Michelle Obama will start a new tradition of personally hanging their portraits here.
While the Walk is frequently used by Hollywood celebrities, dignitaries, and others, the Holding Room, behind a door just off the Walk, is exclusively reserved for the president’s use. When we took a tour earlier this week, the hotel’s catering director, Karen Feketis, said The Washingtonian is the only publication that’s ever been inside.
The Holding Room is actually a two-room space that’s secured with thick concrete-and-steel walls. Entering from the Walk, you descend down a short hallway that circles around a private elevator and winds past an antique secretary desk. The desk houses two books: the 1958 Cold War page-turner Inside Russia Today by John Gunther and the 1982 novel The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock. Both books, we’re told, are just for decoration.
The first room you encounter is the rotunda, a small yet impressive space in which the president receives his personal guests. It has a marble-and-granite floor etched with the presidential seal, a detail added in 1985. Hilton’s then-general manager, William Edwards Jr., commissioned a local stone company to do the work. The seal was installed and paid for by the hotel.
The second room, a sitting area connected to a small powder room, is smartly furnished with a couch, desk, and coffee table. On the walls hang paintings of the city of Washington and George Washington. The first president to use the room was Lyndon B. Johnson.
In addition to the tour, guests who book the Hilton’s package will attend a planning session of the hotel’s catering, culinary, and banquets departments to review menu selections and event preparations. They’ll also be treated to a private dinner for eight to preview the menu of the Candlelight Dinner, an inaugural event sanctioned by the Presidential Inaugural Committee that the president-elect has always attended in the past.
Two tickets to an inaugural ball are also included. Though plans for this year’s balls are not yet definite, the hotel has hosted one of the official balls during every inauguration since President Nixon’s in 1969. Chances are good they’ll get another one this year.