News & Politics

Inauguration: Want to Celebrate Like a President? It’ll Cost You

Recession be damned—Washington hotels are lobbying hard for high rollers during Barack Obama’s inauguration. Many are offering luxe packages with price tags into six figures. Hotels will be playing host to what is expected to be a record number of inaugural balls, receptions, and parties during the five-day soiree that will entertain perhaps a million or more guests.

Here are some of the big inaugural packages.

The president’s holding room. Photograph by Chris Leaman

Most unusual item in a hotel package: Round-trip airfare and hotel for four in St. Petersburg, Russia, part of the Omni Shoreham’s Live Like a President package—the trip is aimed at gaining “foreign-policy experience.” The $440,000 package also includes an in-suite dinner with entertainer Mark Russell.

Best ride: The $200,000 inaugural package at the Mandarin Oriental comes with eveningwear by Ralph Lauren plus unlimited use of a chauffeured Maserati Quattroporte.

Most creative ride: Golf carts. The Hay-Adams hotel has rented six to get guests around during the inauguration.

Best keepsake: Limited-edition inaugural pin by Ann Hand for $75 or the Gucci luggage that comes with the Ritz-Carlton’s high-roller package.

Most controversial item: A puppy—in honor of Obama’s promise to get his daughters a dog—was originally part of the package deal at the Omni Shoreham but was dropped when the hotel caught heat from animal lovers. Instead, the hotel will make a donation to the Washington Humane Society.

Best Tour: The Hilton Washington’s $44,000 Behind the Inaugural Bash package includes a tour of the “president’s holding room,” a secure two-room space exclusively used by the President and his entourage. It features a rotunda with a marble-and-granite floor etched with the presidential seal. There’s also a sitting area, powder room, and private elevator. Guests who book the package will be among the few members of the public ever to set foot in the place.

Ball with the most star power: The American Music Inaugural Ball at the Marriott Wardman Park, which will be divided into two events—a Legends Ball hosted by Dionne Warwick with the Temptations and others, and an Urban Ball hosted by Ludacris with Cedric the Entertainer and Lil Jon.

Hottest new ticket: The Hawaii State Society has never had a ball—but then it’s never had a president who grew up in Hawaii. Tickets to its event sold out quickly, and even the GOP governor will be there.

Least hot ticket: The Texas Black Tie & Boots ball. This time it will be held at National Harbor, a long drive from the White House—and it no longer has the draw of being the home-state party for the President.

Most expensive ball tickets: $10,000 for two to the Creative Coalition ball at DC’s Harman Center for the Arts.

Least expensive accommodations for out-of-towners: $10 for a couch in Silver Spring. The Web site lists hundreds of Washington-area airbeds, couches, futons, and rooms for visitors needing somewhere to crash.

Most expensive package: Virginia investor Earl Stafford Sr. paid some $1.6 million to organize a blow-the-doors-off bash at the JW Marriott for disadvantaged and down-on-their-luck people that includes a “youth ball.”

>> See all of's inauguration coverage.

This article first appeared in the January 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.

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