Where to Go, How to Get There and What to Expect

By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 19, 2009

The next-to-last-minute guide to the inauguration:

Q Somehow, I've managed to avoid every article, blog, podcast, newscast and Twitter. But now I really want to go to the events tomorrow. Can I get there?

A It can be done, but it's going to be rough. You probably will have to choose between joining the throngs at the Capitol and the Mall for the swearing-in ceremony or lining up to get a spot at the parade along Pennsylvania Avenue. The fanfare at the Capitol starts at 10 a.m., and the swearing-in takes place at noon. The parade rolls out about 2:30 p.m., running until 5 or so.

But your day might have to begin well before dawn.

Here's why:

Don't even think about driving. Bridge lanes going from Virginia into the District are closed to personal vehicles from 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. From Maryland, most roads are open, but they will be choked with charter buses and security checkpoints. And once you get into Washington, most downtown streets will be closed to unauthorized vehicles, too. See The Washington Post's Get There blog for the latest details: http://www.washingtonpost.com/getthere.

Metro is the best way to go, and the trains begin running at 4 a.m. Buy your farecard today. Metro officials predict that the 60,000 parking spaces in their lots will be gone by about 5:30 or 6 a.m.

Virginia transit authorities are offering free bus rides and shuttles: See http://www.vsp.state.va.us/Inauguration_2009_GetAround.shtm.

Bicyclists can pedal all the way and park for free at two valet centers set up by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. One is in the parking lot for the Jefferson Memorial, the other at 16th Street NW between I and K streets. The service runs from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., but space is limited. Check the group's Web site, http://www.waba.org, for details. Bicycles will not be permitted on Metrorail on Inauguration Day but can be placed on the front of buses.

One gamble is taking a taxi or a limousine, which are exempt from the bridge restrictions but might get mired in the congestion.

Okay, we get past the traffic and make it into town. Now what do we do?

Once you arrive at the Mall, head to the ceremony security gates, which open at 8 a.m. for those with tickets or 9 a.m. for everyone else.

If you're parade-bound, gates open near the route at 7 a.m. Officials will close them once capacity -- about 300,000 -- is reached, regardless of whether those in line have tickets or not. This might happen as early as 10 a.m.

If I accidentally bring my Swiss Army knife, will they hold it for me at the gates?

Absolutely not. Security is intense, and the list of prohibited items is well beyond the usual Fourth of July restrictions. Pretend you're going on an airplane, only without bags and strollers and backpacks. Any prohibited items must be left outside the gates and will not be returned.

For the latest lists of what's permitted or prohibited, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/inauguration and click on Frequently Asked Questions.

Whew. So now I'm set. Right?

Not exactly. D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier warned that plans could change up to the last minute, so keep checking online for the latest information.

It's an important ceremony. Do I need to dress nicely?

Best-case scenario, it's going to be 30 degrees out there. Fashion and formality are moot: This is about survival. Wear layers. Start with long underwear, add ample amounts of wool and top it off with a hat and mittens. Bring newspaper, cardboard, Styrofoam or a plastic bag to stand on, because the cold will find its way into your shoes. Hand and foot warmer packets are highly recommended.

I want my children to witness history. Should I bring them along?

Give some thought to this. Strollers and framed backpacks are not allowed in the security perimeter near the swearing-in ceremony or along the parade route. A strong set of shoulders will work for most kids. If you child is small enough, a soft carrier such as a Baby Bjorn, a sling or an Ergo will work. If you have a large, incorrigible child who won't be bribed into a no-whining pact, it might be best to stay at home and watch on television. If you do bring your children, don't forget to label them or their clothing with your name, address and mobile and home phone numbers in case you are separated.

I've heard about all the planning for getting in, but how do I get out?

The Metro stations with exit-only restrictions will be back to normal use by about 10:30 a.m. The bridge restrictions going into the District will be lifted by about 7 p.m., but going out of the city, lanes are open all day.

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