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Secret Service Dos and Don’ts for Inauguration Day

Just about everything you need to know to smoothly access the inaugural events.

Security will be tight at the White House viewing stand for the parade. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user acaben.

The Secret Service this week issued a thorough and specific security plan for the 2013 inaugural activities spanning Sunday and Monday, January 20 and 21. Because the Department of Homeland Security has designated the inauguration a National Special Security Event (NSSE), the Secret Service is in charge of creating and implementing the plan. What that means is they are lead dog for the occasion, and everyone who plans to attend official inauguration events should read up on the basic dos and don’ts:

• Do not forget your ticket if you have been issued one from the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies to view the inauguration on the Capitol grounds. Tickets are distributed almost entirely through members of Congress. A ticket and valid ID are required to enter the Capitol grounds.

• Do take public transportation to the Capitol. If you are a ticketed guest, the recommended Metro exits are Capitol South, Eastern Market, Union Station, NoMa-Gallaudet U (New York Ave.), Judiciary Square, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Federal Center SW, and L’Enfant Plaza.

• Don’t plan to take Metro to these station stops, because they will be closed: Smithsonian, Archives, and Mt. Vernon Square.

• Don’t try to go to the Capitol grounds if you don’t have a ticket.

• Do, however, go to the National Mall if you don’t have a ticket. No ticket is required to view the ceremonies from the National Mall, an area that begins at Fourth Street, Northwest, and extends toward the Washington Monument. The entry points to this area are Constitution Avenue, Northwest, at Seventh, Ninth, and 12th streets, and Independence Avenue, Southwest, at 12th Street.

• Do become familiar with road closures. See the DC government’s map online.

• Do be prepared for a security screening. They will definitely occur at the Capitol grounds for ticketed guests, and for the general public and ticketed guests entering the inaugural parade route, the area of the White House viewing stand, and the inaugural balls at the DC Convention Center.

• Do expect long lines for security screening.

• Don’t bring any of these items with you to the ticketed viewing areas of the Capitol grounds:

Aerosol sprays

Air horns

Alcoholic beverages

Animals (other than service animals)



Duffel bags

Explosives of any kind (including fireworks)

Firearms and ammunition (either real or simulated) 

Glass containers

Knives, blades, or sharp objects (of any length)

Large bags

Laser pointers

Mace and/or pepper spray


Pocket or hand tools, such as Leatherman tools

Portable chairs (other than those for disabled persons)



Sticks or poles





Other items that may pose a threat to the security of the event as determined by and at the discretion of the security screener

• Do note these security entry points for the inaugural parade. They open at 6:30 AM on Monday, January 21:

Second Street, Northwest, and C Street, Northwest

John Marshall Park at C Street, Northwest

Indiana Avenue, Northwest, between Sixth and Seventh streets, Northwest

Seventh Street, Northwest, and D Street, Northwest

Tenth Street, Northwest, and E Street, Northwest

12th Street, Northwest, and E Street, Northwest

13th Street, Northwest, and E Street, Northwest

14th Street, Northwest, and E Street, Northwest

12th Street, Northwest, and Constitution Avenue, Northwest

Tenth Street, Northwest, and Constitution Avenue, Northwest

Seventh Street, Northwest, and Constitution Avenue, Northwest

Constitution Avenue, Northwest, between Sixth and Seventh streets, Northwest

• Don’t bring any of these items with you to the inaugural parade route, the area of the White House viewing stand, or the inaugural balls:



Animals other than helper/guide dogs


Bags and signs exceeding size restrictions (8-by-6-by-4 inches)






Glass or thermal containers

Laser pointers

Mace/pepper spray



Supports for signs and placards

Weapons of any kind

Any other items determined to be potential safety hazards

• Do bring signs and placards to the inaugural parade, if you care to, but do make sure they are made only of cardboard, posterboard, or cloth and have dimensions of no more than 3 feet wide, 20 feet long, and one quarter inch thick. If you don’t meet this requirement, your placard will be taken away from you and not returned.

• Do not expect to debate the merits of these rules with any person handling a security checkpoint or screening area. They don’t take kindly to those kinds of debates, and you won’t win.

Our advice: For the inaugural ceremonies and parade, dress warmly with a hat, gloves, and comfortable shoes, and pack very light—be sure to have ID, tickets, some money and credit cards, your Metro card if you have one, a fully charged phone, your glasses, and your patience. For the balls, dress festively but comfortably, still pack light, remember ID, tickets, money, and, if relevant, where you parked the car or the phone number of your hired driver.

And, of course, remember to have fun and enjoy the historic occasion.

  • shw008

    Can you bring a small handbag to ticketed area of inauguration ceremony?

  • Michael Trotter

    Cool! I like this!!! Unfortunately I'll be watching on television! But that is okay! I'll have my hot chocolate and my cookies by my side and watching every one else freeze their cookies off! Please people, adhere to the Secret Services rules!! Don't give them any problems! These rules are more for your protection as well!!

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