News & Politics

21 Things to Do in DC to Celebrate Inauguration 2021

A roundup of official and unofficial inauguration events around town.

Photograph by Evy Mages

This year’s inauguration will be unlike any other in history. The Presidential Inaugural Committee and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser have asked people to stay home and watch the festivities virtually, and—due to the pandemic and the potential of violence from pro-Trump extremists—that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. So, what’s there to do? Here’s a schedule of events around town, both official and unofficial, to celebrate one of the strangest inaugurations in history.

Saturday, January 16

Kick off: The first official event from the Presidential Inaugural Committee is the show “America United: An Inauguration Welcome Event Celebrating America’s Changemakers.” Catch performances from Black Pumas and Resistance Revival Chorus. Other big names in attendance include Whoopi Goldberg, actor/comedian Cristela Alonzo, actor/musician Darren Criss, Nik Dodani (from Netflix’s Atypical), Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and New York Congresswoman Grace Meng. Details: Saturday 1/16 at 7 PM; Free, stream the show online here.

Sunday, January 17

Sing along: There will be a special “We the People Concert,” which is a fundraiser for the inaugural committee. Hosted by Keegan-Michael Key and Debra Messing, the virtual show will feature Carole King, James Taylor, will.i.am, AJR, Michael Bivins, Fall Out Boy, and Ben Harper. Other guests include Kal Penn, Connie Britton, Sophia Bush and Jamie Camil. Details: Sunday 1/17 at 8 PM; $5-$50, buy tickets here.

Pup champagne: While Joe Biden might be the star of every other show, it’s Major Biden who will be getting all the attention at this virtual “Indoguration” party from the Delaware Humane Association and Pumpkin Pet Insurance. Major, the first doggo to go from shelter to the White House, was adopted by the Bidens in 2018 from the Wilmington-based shelter. So, they’re celebrating the German shepherd with a fundraising event that’s billed as “the world’s largest virtual party for dogs.” Today contributor Jill Martin will host the party, which will also include a fun competition: Submit your own pup to be the “Secretary of Rescue Dogs,” obviously a high-profile Cabinet position. Featured guest Sir Darius Brown, a teenage animal advocate who crafts doggie bow ties, will choose a winner (and top contenders will receive a bow tie as a prize). Details: Sunday, 1/17 at 3 PM; $10 minimum donation (proceeds go to the Delaware Humane Association), buy tickets here.

For the youth: Have you explained this chaotic time of presidential transition to kids? If you’re struggling, Adventure Theatre is here to help. The youth-focused organization is virtually hosting a talk called “Teachable Moment on the Peaceful Transition of Power.” Montgomery County Councilmember Evan Glass and Adventure Theatre artistic director Chil Kong will discuss the history of presidential transitions on Facebook. Details: Sunday, 1/17 at 2 PM; Free, watch it here.

Monday, January 18

Give back: The Presidential Inaugural Committee has organized a National Day of Service to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. You can volunteer to help virtually, or sign up for a more hands-on (yet still Covid-safe) opportunity. There are dozens of partners, including the Rock Creek Conservancy and the O Street Museum Foundation. Details: All day Monday at various locations; find out more here.

Another star-studded show: To conclude the holiday, the committee is hosting an MLK celebration with Bernice King, Martin Luther King III, Al Sharpton, and Rosario Dawson. See musical artists Yo-Yo Ma, Chesca, Aloe Blacc, Andra Day, Diane Warren, and Bebe Winans. Other attendees include Congresswoman Sharice Davids and actors Sean Patrick Thomas and Lynn Whitfield. Details: Monday 1/18 at 8 PM; Free,  stream the show online here.

Tuesday, January 19

In memoriam: To honor the more than 380,000 lives lost to Covid-19, the Presidential Inaugural Committee is hosting a ceremony that will light up the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial. Other cities across the country are invited to ring church bells and light up their buildings to mark a “national moment of unity and remembrance.” Tuesday, 1/19 at 5:30 PM.

A virtual inaugural ball: While Washington parties are called off this year, you can still attend the online “AAPI Inaugural Ball: Breaking Barriers.” Join the event to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and ring in inauguration eve with celebs, politicians, comics, and others. Highlights include Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan; actors John Cho, Kumail Nanjiani, Kal Penn, and Chloe Bennet; and Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Ami Bera, Andy Kim, and Raja Krishnamoorthi. Musical artists Japanese Breakfast, Ari Afsar, and Raja Kumar are in the lineup, too. Tuesday 1/19 at 7PM; Free, watch it here.

More multicultural fun: The Presidential Inaugural Committee’s “We Are One” party will celebrate Black Americans and those within the African diaspora. Hosted by Terrence J, the virtual event will feature music from Tobe Nwigwe, DJ D-Nice, Step Afrika, the local trio String Queens, The O’Jays, and Rapsody. Catch comedian Leslie Jones and appearances from various politicians including Stacey Abrams, Jim Clyburn, Cory Booker, Raphael Warnock, and more. Tuesday 1/19 at 8 PM; Free, watch it here.

Another star-studded line up: At “Latino Inaugural 2021: Inheritance, Resilience, and Promise,” a virtual party, you’ll hang out with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rita Moreno, Ivy Queen, Becky G, and more. Eva Longoria is hosting, and you’ll hear music from Gilberto Santa Rosa, Gaby Moreno, Emilio Estefan and others. Tuesday 1/19 at 9:30 PM; Free, watch it here.

Madam Vice President: Explore the life of Kamala Harris on the eve of her ascension to the Vice Presidency with reporter Dan Morain, author of the newly released Kamala’s Way: An American Life. In a virtual event with Politics and Prose, he’ll chat with Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty about Harris’s career from California prosecutor to headline-making Senator to presidential candidate—and, now, historic Veep. Details: Tuesday 1/19 at 8 PM; Free ($28-$36 for a ticket with the book included), register here.

For West Wing nerds: Hang with President Bartlet in “Mr. President: An Evening with Martin Sheen,” an online event from Smithsonian Associates. Sheen will talk to U.S. News & World Report White House correspondent Ken Walsh about his fictional presidency, the enduring influence of the West Wing in pop culture, and how the show affected the nation’s view of politicians IRL. Tuesday, 1/19 at 6:30 PM; $20-$25, buy tickets here.

Wednesday, January 20

Details: You’ll be able to watch the full day’s events on cable news or you can stream it on YouTube here. (Everything will also be available on the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch.)

Kids zone: Keke Palmer will host the youth-focused “Our White House: An Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans,” an event from the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Before and during the inauguration ceremonies, the livestreamed show will include remarks from Jill Biden; trivia with Doug Emhoff; historical context from Doris Kearns Goodwin and Erica Armstrong Dunbar; and more. Catch the program on Wednesday from 10 AM to 12:30 PM; watch it on YouTube here.

It’s official: The swearing-in ceremony will be at noon; Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will take their oaths on the west side of the Capitol building. Lady Gaga will sing the National Anthem and Jennifer Lopez will be the musical performer. Also on the agenda: a reading from poet Amanda Gorman. Former Georgetown University president Father Leo O’Donovan will give the invocation, while the benediction will come from Reverend Dr. Silvester Beaman of Delaware. Andrea Hall, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 3920, will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

After the oaths: Joe Biden, Jill Biden, Kamala Harris, and Doug Emhoff will participate in the traditional “pass in review” on the east side of the Capitol to “review the readiness of military troops” and mark the “peaceful transfer of power to a new Commander-in-Chief,” according to the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

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The escort: Joe Biden will get a Presidential Escort on 15th Street as he heads to the White House. He’ll be accompanied by the US Army Band and the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard and Fife and Drum Corp. Drumlines from the University of Delaware Howard University—representing Biden and Harris’s alma maters, respectively—will also join the escort. 

Parade: The inaugural parade is going virtual this year. Tony Goldwyn (yet another fictional president in town!) will host the celebration. There will be a bunch of exciting guests and speakers, including Jon Stewart, New Radicals, Earth Wind & Fire, the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, the local Washington Chorus, and more. See popular TikTok stars like lip synching skateboarder Nathan Apodaca and Jason Campbell, a.k.a. the TikTok Doc. There’s a lineup of various performers from across the country, featuring drill teams, steel drummers, and flag twirlers. In a special “Dance Across America” segment, choreographer Kenny Ortega will lead 275 people in 30 states (plus two territories). The festivities will start at 3:15 PM.

Across the river: Biden, Dr. Biden, Harris, and Emhoff will go to Arlington National Cemetery to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Joining them will be Barack and Michelle Obama, George and Laura Bush, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The actual party: Tom Hanks will host “Celebrating America,” an evening TV program  that will feature Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as well as performances from Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato, Ant Clemons, and Justin Timberlake. Other performers include Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, and Foo Fighters. Hear a country duet from Tyler Hubbard and Tim McGraw, a set from the Black Pumas, and see Ozuna and Luis Fonsi in DJ Cassidy’s “Pass the Mic” segment. The 90-minute show will recognize “American heroes who are helping their fellow Americans through this crisis, including frontline workers, healthcare workers, teachers, citizens giving back, and those who are breaking barriers,” according to the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dolores Huerta, José Andrés, and Kim Ng will be part of the program as well. See the full program starting at 8:30 PM on Wednesday.

Thursday, January 21

The prayer: Keeping up with its tradition, Washington National Cathedral will host the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service, this time virtually. Joe Biden will join a variety of religious leaders in this ceremony to focus on healing and unity. The homily will come from North Carolina-based Bishop William J. Barber II. Musical performances will include Patti LaBelle, Josh Groban, and The Clark Sisters, and you’ll hear speakers from the Navajo Nation, the Muslim Community Network, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, and more. Thursday 1/21 at 10 AM; livestream it here or here.

If you want more of Major: Both Biden doggos get the spotlight in the new illustrated children’s book, Champ and Major: First Dogs. Author Joy McCullough will talk about the new White House pup stars at a virtual Politics and Prose event. Details: Thursday, January 21 at 11 AM; free ($25 with book included), register here.

This post has been updated.

Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.