Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Make Room for the President

Destination DC, formerly the DC Convention and Tourism bureau is reporting that an additional 4,500 hotel rooms have become available for the inauguration weekend. News reports and the bureau's website say that since contracts were not finalized, the rooms were not sold and now have been put back on the open market.

They are NOT cheap - starting rates are about $650. And you WON'T find them on Travelocity or Expedia or any of the travel sites. The best bet is to call Destination DC, (800-422-8644).

Also many of the Inaugural Balls are beginning to take shape. The National Conference of State Societies has a list of some of the goings on and some of the balls that are already sold out. The NCSS blog lists some of the celebrations from January 18th to the 21st. Some of the plans include operating rush hour service - trains about every three minutes - for 15 hours on Inauguration Day.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority - which runs Metro Rail and the Metro buses - has announced some of its plans for January 20th.

Metro also plans to stay open until 2 am January 21st to allow people to get home on the trains. Parking at all Metro lots will be free for the entire weekend - including MLK Day on the 19th and Inauguration Day on the 20th.

For those who plan to take Metro to the Mall for the Inauguration the closest station to the Mall itself is Smithsonian. Unfortunately the Mall exit will be closed that day, so you will have to go to the Independence Ave. side. This puts you out at Independence and 12th st. SW. Cross Independence to get to the Mall. The Smithsonian Castle will be on your right and the Washington Monument is on the left.

Also, L'Enfant Plaza is a good place to get off, particularly since it is a transfer station for four lines - Yellow, Green, Blue, and Orange. The Yellow and Green lines come in on the top level of the station and the Blue and Orange lines come in downstairs. Make sure that you get off on the Maryland Avenue exit of L'Enfant. It takes you to - of course - Maryland Avenue. The other exits take you to D St. SW, which is the wrong direction. As you emerge from the Metro station on Maryland Avenue, you will be able to see the Capitol Building and part of the Museum of the American Indian.The National Museum of the American Indian

If you want to continue on the Orange Line to Federal Center SW, you will need to take the escalator to the top to 3rd St. SW and turn left. The Mall is about 2 1/2 blocks down the street. You will be at the intersection of D and 3rd St. SW. There is a Starbucks Coffee and a Potbelly Sandwich Shop to the right as you come up the escalator. The Mall is to your left. As you approach Independence Ave., you should see the Capitol to your right as you pass the Department of Health and Human Services at 3rd and C St. SW. The Museum of the American Indian is the windswept looking yellowish building on the left at Independence.

Also, Metro's Red Line takes you to Union Station, the main rail station in DC. It is about three or four blocks from the Capitol depending on whether you are going straight to the Senate side or if you are going to the West Lawn. Union Station is also the terminus for the VRE, the MARC trains and Amtrak. (It is an impressive building, particularly the grand hall with stone carved warriors lining the top of the walls. It also has a food court on the bottom level as well as shops and restaurants on all levels.)

If you want to come in from the North side of the Mall, Federal Triangle would be the best Metro Station to get off the Orange and Blue lines. It is near the Reagan Building, the Old Post Office Pavilion and the FBI headquarters. It is also the closest station to Pennsylvania Avenue. The Archives Navy Memorial Station will be closed all day because it is right on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Secret Service has designated Inauguration day as a special national security event, so that station is closed for security reasons. Judiciary Square on the Red Line is another option.

Expect to see a LOT of police that day. DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier has said there will probably be an additional 4,000 officers - in addition to all of her 4,000 - working January 20th. Backpacks, strollers, thermos bottles, etc. are not allowed on the Capitol grounds - along with the obvious dangerous items like knives, guns or explosives. Expect to stand long hours in the cold. Even if the estimated 4-5 million people show up, even that much body heat might not help. The temperatures average 30 degrees in January - and it rains. However, there are exceptions to the rule - last January 8th, it was 73 degrees! More inaugural prep later. Stay safe.

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