Friday, January 20, 2017, marks the inauguration day of President-Elect Donald Trump. The presidential inauguration is a sacred tradition in American governance, signifying the transition of power and the solemn responsibilities of the presidency of the United States. For many Americans, the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to witness history and engage civic roots is compelling.

The history of the inaugural address

The inaugural address is a tradition dating back to 1789 when the honor went to the first president of the United States of America, George Washington. Washington was sworn in at the Federal Hall in New York City. Spectators remembered the first president as fidgety and a little uncomfortable. Some people speculated President Washington would be more at home on the battlefield than in the presidency.

Washington’s inaugural address, the shortest in history at 135 words, focused on the need to create a strong Bill of Rights and Constitution. He stressed the importance of acting in the interest of the public good. About 10,000 spectators attended his inaugural address which was a fairly sober affair. Other inaugurations were often spicier.

  • Lyndon B. Johnson gets the prize for the most botched oath. Instead of “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,” he said “without any mental reservation whatsoever.”
  • Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration was reportedly so rowdy the police had to intervene.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton set the record for the most inauguration balls at fourteen events.
  • William Henry Harrison set the record for the longest speech at 100 minutes.

Obama’s inaugurations

As a re-elected President, Barack Obama had the honor of two inaugural ceremonies. The first one took place on January 20, 2009. Many people look back on President Obama’s inauguration as a high point in American history with the swearing-in of America’s first black president. To date, President Obama holds the record for the most expensive inaugural ceremony at $150 million.

President Obama’s second inauguration was attended by nearly 2 million Americans who either lived near or made the journey to Washington, D.C. The previous attendance record of 1.2 million was held by Lyndon B. Johnson. Presidential inaugurations are huge affairs.  

Obama’s second one included performers Beyonce, Yo-Yo Ma, and Aretha Franklin. Many remember Franklin’s performance for the power or her voice as well as her bold taste in hats. There was a little kerfuffle when Chief Justice John Roberts messed up the oath, but other than that, there was little in the way of discord. Obama later took the oath again, correctly, in privacy at the White House. Barack and Michelle Obama attended ten inaugural balls altogether.

Obama’s second inauguration was a little bit more subdued. Beyonce reprised her 2009 performance and James Taylor played “America the Beautiful.” Obama gave an 18-minute speech about the challenges American would face as a nation in the next four years, including the high cost of health care and the growing deficit. About half as many people attended the second term proceedings.

What to expect for President Elect Donald Trump’s inauguration

Donald Trump’s campaign has been marked by surprise, discord, and some disbelief. Fivethirtyeight.com, a website service who takes its name from the electoral, found the President Elect Trump to be the least-liked presidential candidate since 1980, because of his victory over other Republican nominees and eventually Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, surprised the nation. Some voters contend Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, although Trump took electoral votes. The final tally shows Clinton had a 2.8 million vote lead in the popular vote.

Trump’s popularity has gotten a boost since the Presidential election rising from 37 percent to 46 percent after his victory. General approval of President Barack Obama also rose from 50 to 54 percent.

Speculation is in full swing for what to expect at Trump’s inauguration. One thing is certain, the Presidential Inaugural Committee is trying to get big bucks to shell out on the event to the tune of $65-75 million. Trump tweeted, “The so-called “A” list celebrities are all wanting tixs to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary, NOTHING. I want the PEOPLE!” In a release on December 30, 2016, it appears President Elect Donald Trump succeeded in getting the people to the parade with high school and college marching bands, veterans and others participating.

Naysayers often make an appearance and use the inauguration to protest and demonstrate, as every U.S. American citizen has a right to do even on inauguration day in Washington D.C. So far only one permit is issued, Bikers for Trump is a proactive nonviolent group who is expected to bring 5,000 members to the party.

Inaugural tips

If you’re planning on witnessing the inauguration, there are a variety of things to consider. You can get up-close and personal by obtaining tickets to the ceremony. The tickets are free, but you have to apply to get them well in advance from your local representative or senator’s office. If you can’t get a ticket, you can still catch the ceremony on giant screens positioned on the National Mall, or hang out on Pennsylvania Avenue and watch the inaugural procession. A parade will wind its way from the U.S. Capitol to the White House.

Here are a few things you’ll need to know to keep your D.C. trip as safe and successful as possible.

  • Book early. D.C. gets packed during inauguration weekend. Get an early start on securing your flights, housing and dinner reservations.
  • Have your identification ready. Be ready to prove who you are, especially if you’re a ticket-holder.
  • Dress appropriately. Winter in D.C. can be cold in January with temperatures between 20 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Many of the events will take place outside near national monuments. Wear layers of warm clothing and comfortable shoes. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Plan to walk. Driving isn’t advisable, especially during inauguration weekend. A lot of the main thoroughfares will be impassable. It will be much quicker to get around using your feet and the metro system.
  • Anticipate security. Officials are anticipating an “unprecedented level of security” at this inauguration. There will be screening for address and parade-goers. Be patient and cooperative and leave this list of prohibited items at home. Some prohibited items to pay close attention to include umbrellas, strollers, backpacks, firearms, selfie sticks, animals other than service/guide animals, mace, laser pointers, coolers, backpacks, and packages of any kind.
  • Be aware of protests. Even if protests are intended to be peaceful, dangerous behavior cannot always be prevented, especially when crowds gather.  It’s advisable to avoid protests. Stay vigilant and give protesters plenty of space.

Trip planning

Visiting D.C. to see the inauguration gives you ample opportunity to explore the city. Check out the D.C. tourism site for more original ideas for tourist destinations. There are plenty of ideas for fun things to do during the winter, upcoming festivals and exceptional restaurants. There’s even a list of free and “almost free” things to do, so you can stick to a budget.

  • Winter follies: Snow could be falling adding to the fun or frustration. Check out these winter must see’s and must do’s while you’re in town for the inauguration.
  • See ‘em in a museum: When the winter air is just a little too inhospitable for you, take the time to tour Washington D.C.’s amazing collection of museums. There are 17 Smithsonian Museums total, with subjects to satisfy everyone in your traveling party. If you love biology or earth science, take a visit to the National Museum of Natural History. Check out the Hall of Human Origins, or marvel at the crystals and ores on display in the Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals. You can even catch sight of the purportedly-cursed Hope Diamond. If engineering is more your bag, check out the National Air and Space Museum. There are several art museums, including several celebrating African and American Indian creations. There’s even a museum for the stamp collector in your life: the National Postal Museum.
  • Go back in time: Remember the days of America’s first president by visiting historic Georgetown. Tour the streets and see 18th and 19th-century mansions, stroll the waterfront and traverse cobblestone pathways, all the while with access to 21st-century shopping and restaurants. Visiting the town during winter will add an extra pretty dusting of snow over the old buildings and streets.
  • Visit the White House: Did you know that the White House and grounds are actually a National Park? You can see the White House by securing a tour through a member of Congress. White House tours are free of charge, but you’ve got to get your name on the list early if you hope to get your spot.
  • See the monuments: Don’t worry about the cold – you can see Washington D.C.’s many treasured monuments on a bus tour. You can stay snug and warm while you see some of D.C.’s most beloved structures, like the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
  • Fine dining: You’ll find everything you could possibly want for food in D.C. Fine dining and trendy restaurants are everywhere. A few suggestions for at least one meal at up-and-coming cultural establishments include:
  • Haikan: Here’s your chance to try Chef Katsuya Fukushima’s takes on Sapporo-style ramen, plus some mapo tofu poutine and crab rangoon.
  • Rasika West End: Grab some tandoori lamb chops or palak chaat at this modern Indian restaurant. The place also features an international wine list and Sunday brunch.
  • Jaleo: Spend the happy hour with some delicious Spanish tapas. This restaurant has been making a splash in a big way – the awards keep rolling in.
  • Ben’s Chili Bowl: Grab an affordable and craveable bowl of chili at this little place. Ben’s Chili Bowl may not be highbrow, but it’s a beloved D.C. tradition, and a must-do for visitors.
  • Clyde’s: This burger joint has been open in Georgetown since 1963, churning out cheeseburgers, wings, and crab cakes.
  • Market Lunch: In spite of the name, what you really want to order at Market Lunch is their big, fluffy, blueberry buckwheat pancakes. It’s a D.C. breakfast favorite.
  • & Pizza: This unique pizza place lets customers decide what to put on their pies. Each custom pizza is baked fresh, with toppings like fried eggs and garlic sauce.
  • District Doughnut: Crafted, gourmet donuts are waiting for you. Grab flavors like vanilla chai creme brulee or cannoli.
  • Save money and budget: You’ll find that a lot of things to do in D.C. are a little pricey, but there are plenty of affordable activities to enjoy. Here are just a few:
  • Grab a beer: Plenty of local taphouses and breweries include free tours. Find a nearby craft beer house and sample an India Pale Ale (IPA).
  • Visit the monuments: Impressive, totally free and open to the public. For some added mystique, go as a group and visit monuments when they are lit up at night.
  • Visit the Eastern market: There are plenty of fun foods and cuisine for people who want an affordable, fun, and fresh bite to eat.
  • Visit the Library of Congress: This is where United States history lives. Tour the halls of the Library of Congress and marvel at the arches and mosaics.
  • Hang out at the Mall: The Washington Mall is beautiful in the wintertime stroll from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.

Go prepared before you explore, travel insurance is always a good idea.  You never know if a snow storm will disrupt travel or if you might need a concierge for unexpected reasons. Visit Depart Smart.org for more safety tips and advice.