Every four years, two months after the general election, incoming presidents and vice presidents prepare for their first rite of passage. These presidential inaugurations are a tradition going as far back as the time of George Washington, America’s first elected president. They have been held in New York, Philadelphia, and most currently, in Washington, DC.
Since 1981, the west front of the U.S. Capitol building has been stage to the ceremony. Here, crowds of thousands can witness inaugural events from the National Mall.
Getting to the National Mall can be hassle, though, if you’re unfamiliar with the local transportation system. While driving is an option, it’s the one most to be avoided. Parking will be limited, pedestrians will be everywhere, and tour bus and public transit traffic will cause backups for blocks. The better alternative is taking the train in from Baltimore or taking the local Washington, DC public transit system.
Taking the MARC Train
A great way to save money and avoid crowds is to book a hotel in Maryland or West Virginia and commute into Washington, DC via the Maryland Regional Commuter (MARC) train. In about forty minutes, you can travel between cities with a special pass at a rate of $25.
The MARC has three lines: Penn, Camden, and Brunswick. Booking a hotel in downtown Baltimore will place you conveniently on Penn Line. A hotel in Martinsburg, West Virginia or College Park, Maryland will situate you on the Camden and Brunswick Lines. Downtown Baltimore is the most walkable of the three areas mentioned and it is the recommended place to book a hotel.
After arriving at Union Station, you may opt to transfer to the Washington, DC subway system, which the locals call the metro. If the weather is nice and you’re up for a bit of sightseeing, you can also walk.
Taking the Metro
From Union Station and all points in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, you have the option of taking the metro. On Inauguration Day, WMATA will be running its trains on a rush hour schedule. That means shorter waiting times. It also means that if miss a train, another one will be along shortly.
WMATA handles large crowds of short-term visitors regularly. Millions of people visit DC each year for festivals, marches, and national events, and many of them rely on the metro and bus systems to get them around. It’s clean, efficient, and one of the most reliable transit systems in the country.
Some metro stations will be closed on Inauguration Day. These will include some stations closest to the National Mall. For this reason, you should be sure to plan your trip well ahead. Know in advance what stop you’re getting off at, and know the directions from the stop to the National Mall.
The Baltimore/Washington, DC area is served primarily by three airports: Thurgood Marshall (BWI), Reagan National (DCA), and Dulles (WAS).
Regan National is connected directly to the metro, so if you’re looking to save money, you wouldn’t even have to book hotel room if you were flying to DC only for the inauguration.
The second recommended airport is Thurgood Marshall. It’s a regular stop on the MARC Penn Line heading to Union Station, and it’s convenient to travel to by the local B30 bus.
Dulles is the least convenient airport of the three because it’s not connected currently to any convenient transportation system. Future plans for the airport, however, will include a new connection to the metro.
If You Must Drive
Driving in downtown Washington, DC should be avoided. With so many alternatives to driving, you don’t need access to a car. However, if you do drive, expect lots of traffic on the surrounding Interstates and downtown city streets. To avoid the busiest areas, try taking one of the less traveled roadways like Route 1, which goes all along the east coast. Another option, if you have access to a GPS or trusty road map, is to navigate a path using the back roads. It will take more time, but if driving is the only way you can make it to Washington, it’s your best option.
Inauguration Day will be an historic event for the country, and there are many ways to partake of the ceremonies. As you travel there to witness events live, be sure to remember the tips mentioned here.
Interviews with representatives from WMATA and the Maryland Transit Administration are available in the Boundless Vegan Broadcast podcast episode titled Getting to Washington – Inauguration Travel Tips.