With all the reports of ticket lotteries, request cut-offs, sold-out hotels, and packed parade masses one might get a little discouraged and overwhelmed in their dreams of witnessing firsthand the sights and sounds of Washington D.C. during inauguration time.
If you’re coming up for the day from surrounding areas, already have dibs on your favorite D.C. relative’s couch, or were savvy enough to have booked your hotel room months ago (like many who believed President-elect Barack Obama would win since the day he was officially named the Democratic presidential candidate), here is a (very) condensed guide (to be updated as more information develops) to local attractions to check out during your stay:
Museums and the Arts
The new Capitol Visitor Center will be opening Dec. 2, and according to Destination DC’s Website, is “designed to welcome visitors to the seat of the U.S. government.” It will have two orientation theaters, an exhibition gallery, a dining facility for up to 550 people, gift shops and an underground walkway linking it to the Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress. Entry is free, however, you must obtain a timed entry pass, and they are distributed first come, first serve.
The National Museum of American History reopens to the public Nov. 21. The museum will have a new high-tech gallery displaying the original Star-Spangled Banner, a central atrium and grand staircase, and a new permanent exhibit space called the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Admission is free.
For the medical and science buffs, the National Museum of Health and Medicine has a collection of medical oddities for your amusement, including a segment of John Wilkes Booth’s vertebrae; gallstones and a molar from President Eisenhower; fragments of President Lincoln’s skull, and the brain, spleen, and partial skeleton of President Garfield’s assassin; and microscope slides of President Cleveland’s tumor. Admission is free.
For African and African American history and culture, check out the Anacostia Community Museum, The National Museum of African American History and Culture, and The National Museum of African Art.
Learn Your Presidential History
As part of the city’s Abraham Lincoln bicentennial celebration, you can experience another historic presidential moment in The Honor of Your Company is Requested: President Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball, an exhibit on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through Jan. 18, 2010. Or view a re-creation of the White House China Room, including more than 150 pieces of presidential china in The Presidential Dish at the Woodrow Wilson House Museum through Jan. 25, 2009.
One exhibit coincides with Inauguration Day, opening Jan. 20, 2009. Presidents in Waiting comes to the National Portrait Gallery, highlighting vice presidents who have moved on to the top seat in the White House. It will be on display through Jan. 2, 2010. Also, visit the Gallery’s permanent collection,