Yes, we know it’s likely to be jaw-clenchingly cold and you might need to invest in a decent pair of snow boots. But if you can brave the eastern seaboard’s winter chill, there’s a couple of very good reasons to visit Washington D.C. in the new year.
The 2013 Inauguration
First of all there’s the small matter of the United States’ grandest political celebration, the 57th Presidential Inauguration, which takes place on Monday 21st January. This once-in-four-years event is the largest to be held on the National Mall, and the 2013 spectacle will be no exception.
Shortly before midday, the incumbent President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will formally take the oath of office in the Swearing-In Ceremony on the steps of the U.S Capitol Building. U.S residents can apply for tickets from their senator or representative’s office to view the swearing-in up close, but other attendees can still soak up the atmosphere along the National Mall and watch the proceedings on one of the 20 ‘jumbotrons’ posted along the route.
The Inaugural Parade
In a tradition that dates back to George Washington’s 1789 inauguration, the swearing-in ceremony is followed in the afternoon by the Inaugural Parade, down 15 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. Featuring the First and Second families along with military units, marching bands, mounted units and other entertainment, the parade typically lasts around two hours.
Viewing from Newseum
One of our favourite Washington museums – the Newseum – is offering a special viewing package for Inauguration Day. For a ticket fee of $100, attendees will be able to view a live feed of the swearing-in ceremony on a 40 x 22 ft high definition screen (and also have a limited view of the Capitol’s west side), and then have a prime position for the parade, which passes directly in front of the building on Pennsylvania Avenue – all while remaining warm and indoors.
Full access to the Newseum’s 15 galleries and theatres is included throughout the day, so don’t miss the popular “Every Four Years: Presidential Campaigns and the Press” exhibit for some historical context. Tickets are expected to go quickly, so book in advance.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
For only the second time in history, the Presidential Inauguration falls on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday in the United States to mark King’s birthday, held on the third Monday of January each year. Because of the overlap, there will be plenty of additional events taking place in the city, and throughout the month of January.
While some dates and events are still to be confirmed, others are firmly in the calendar including Let Freedom Ring! at The Kennedy Center on Sunday 20th January, with the annual musical tribute to MLK featuring Smokey Robinson and the Let Freedom Ring Choir. The National Children’s Museum at the National Harbor will also be laying on a programme of special events on Monday 21st.
Other commemorations will take place at the Lincoln Memorial where King gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech in 1963; at the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial itself, at the Washington National Cathedral and at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
Don’t forget to check out our previous article on Washington, DC for Political Junkies and History Buffs.
Accommodation in D.C. is expected to book up fast around the time of the inauguration. Visit Virgin Holidays for a wide choice of Washington D.C. hotels.
Virgin Atlantic operates a daily flight to Washington D.C. from London Heathrow.
Header photo © snapzdc