Insider tips for the day in D.C.

Obama's Inaugural

January 19, 2009|By Paul West | Paul West,paul.west@baltsun.com

Think the inauguration will be a hopeless mess? Not worth the hassle?

Don't buy that hype. You can beat the system and be a part of history. But there's no way around it: You need a plan.

We'll dispense with common-sense advice, like: Wear enough clothes to be outdoors for 10 hours on an abnormally cold day. Wool beats cotton.

Here are insider tips for joining the D.C. fun.

* Get an early start. Best to be out the door before the sun comes up. Subways start running at 4 a.m. and by 9 or 10 a.m., they might be impossibly jammed.

Insider tip: Bring a $10 bill and buy a commemorative farecard. You'll need it to get back, and you won't have to wait in line twice to pay.

* Pick one - parade or swearing-in. You can't do both. The parade steps off around 2:30 p.m., but you'll need to be downtown before 10 a.m. Everyone must pass through security.

Insider tip: If you ride the subway to the parade, get off at Metro Center (Red, Blue and Orange lines) or Gallery Place-Chinatown (Red, Green and Yellow lines).

* Ride public transit. For Marylanders, MTA shuttle buses are a good, but limited, option (www.maryland.gov has info).

Insider tip: Park at BWI Marshall Airport and take a Metrobus nonstop from the terminal to the subway. It's $3.10 each way (exact change) and drops you at Greenbelt Metro station. Take the subway to L'Enfant Plaza station for the swearing-in; Gallery Place-Chinatown for the parade.

* Take your car, but be prepared to bail. Expect main routes - Interstate 95, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, U.S. 50 and the Capital Beltway (I-495) - to be jammed, so have an alternate ready. U.S. 29 might be a good option.

Insider tip: WTOP (103.5 FM) updates traffic reports every 10 minutes.

* Don't drive into downtown Washington. You won't be able to park near downtown, and Metro lots will fill by 6 a.m. Hailing a cab is always an option.

Insider tip: Take U.S. 29 to downtown Silver Spring, park and ride the subway. Go to Gallery Place-Chinatown for the parade or Farragut North and walk via 18th Street to the Mall and the swearing-in.

* Catch a D.C. bus. Metrobus has special corridors to speed you (a relative term) toward downtown ( www.wmata.com has info).

Insider tip: If the Silver Spring subway station overflows, take a bus from there. Take Route 70 if you are parade-bound, or Route S4 and walk to 18th Street to reach the Mall for the swearing-in.

* Strap on your boots and travel light. There's no getting around it, you'll have to walk. Expect at least two miles each way. Stick a sandwich, snacks and bottled water in your pocket for fuel.

Insider tip: Many streets are closed, even to pedestrians. If you can, go to www.dc.gov and print out an inaugural walking map.

* Visit a museum. The Mall never closes, you don't need a ticket, you won't go through security and 20 Jumbotrons will show the swearing-in and parade. Take binoculars and see President Barack Obama with your own eyes. Go to a museum to warm up.

Insider tip: The Smithsonian Castle and newly renovated American History museum, down toward the Washington Monument, open at 8 a.m.

* Plot your escape. Getting there is only half the fun. The faster you want to skip town, the farther you may have to walk. You will not be allowed to cross the parade route, and subway stations near the Mall will be crowded or closed.

Insider tip: If you came on the Red line, retrace your steps. If you took the Green line, walk down 7th Street SW toward the Waterfront station. For Blue and Orange lines, you'll probably have to brave the crowds at L'Enfant Plaza.

If this sounds too complicated, or freezing weather isn't your thing, sleep in and turn on the tube at 11:30 a.m. You'll have a better view than the folks who made the trip. And who will contradict you if you later boast that you were a face in the crowd of 1 million?

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