The presidential inauguration always draws immense crowds trying to witness the swearing in of our next President. The crowds can cause great strain on the region’s transportation networks, especially the Metrorail system and buses.
Yes, two or three miles may seem like a long distance – but you will be thanking yourself when you’ve arrived back in Arlington in merely an hour. Most of the Metro stations will be at a standstill and you could easily spend more than an hour just trying to get down the escalators.
Also remember, you don’t have to walk BOTH ways. Walking to the National Mall or parade route at 5:30am may not be your cup o’ tea. That doesn’t mean you can’t still walk one way or even from a spot closer to DC. You could opt to take the Metro or a bus into the city and then walk on the way back.
Thankfully, Arlington Transportation Partners has put together a comprehensive walking guide for the Inauguration.
It will be very cold
Seriously. It’s January.
The average temperature on January 20 in the nation’s capital hovers somewhere in the mid-30’s, with much lower temperatures in the earlier part of the day. January also tends to include quite a bit of rain, so bringing a poncho or rainproof jacket is a must.
Know what items are restricted in certain areas
The District of Columbia has an exhaustive list of every item that won’t be allowed at the Inaugural parade route and ticketing viewing areas at the Capitol Grounds. Some of the most common items you may want to leave at home:
- Backpacks and bags exceeding 8”x6”x4”
- Thermoses or glass containers
- Umbrellas – Umbrellas are only listed as prohibited in the ticketed viewing areas on the Capitol Grounds.
Plan Your Travel in Advance
If you plan to ride Metro, make sure to have your SmarTrip card in advance. SmarTrip cards are the only way to access the system and the lines at the kiosks will be enormous. You can buy your SmarTrip card at any Metro Station and many local retailers.
- The Metrorail system will open at 4:00 a.m. and close at midnight. The system will run at rush-hour levels from 4:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The peak fare will be in effect – so the commemorative card mentioned above will help save you some money.
- Archives, Federal Triangle, Mt Vernon Square, and Smithsonian stations will be closed.
You have two buses to choose from when traveling from Arlington into the District. Metrobus (run by WMATA) and ART (run by Arlington Transit). Use Metrobus to cross into DC and ART to help you get around Arlington. We recommend the 38B, 16X, 16Y or 5A – note that some of these routes are rush-hour service only.
Do not. I repeat. Do NOT drive to get to the Inauguration.
If you try to drive to the Inauguration downtown, not only will there be zero parking spots, but you will also spend the entire day trying to drive back out of the city. There will be roads closed everywhere and your GPS will not be able to keep up with all of them. Pretty much every single road and major thoroughfare within 5-10 miles of the National Mall will become impassable.
If you plan on driving to a Metro Station and parking to take the train in, the key is to be early. The parking lots can only hold a finite number of vehicles and will quickly fill up in the early morning.