Obama Inauguration: Tickets, Hotels, and Everything Else

With the election over, America's attention now turns to Inauguration Day. President-Elect Barack Obama's inauguration will occur on January 20, 2009 -- and the planning starts right now.

Inauguration Day 2009 Tickets

Want to attend? You do need a ticket, and it won't be easy to get one. About 240,000 Inauguration Day 2009 tickets are being printed for the public, but you can't get these puppies through Ticketmaster. The public passes are handed out through senators and representatives, so the only way you can get your hands on one is to beg your local lawmaker.

The inauguration tickets are expected to be pretty close to forge-proof, too. In fact, officials in charge of the planning won't even say what they look like because of "security precautions."

The general public can still take a chance without tickets -- but with all the security, odds are you'll end up watching from a TV screen from quite a distance away if you don't have those credentials. The inauguration parade, though, is open to anyone.

Inaugural Ball Hotels

There's also the issue of where to stay. Even before the election ended, hotels in and around Washington, D.C. were booking up in advance of the inaugural ball. The Ritz-Carlton hotels and the Four Seasons had sold more than half of their rooms by midday Tuesday, according to the Washington Business Journal, and the Willard Hotel along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route was more than 90 percent booked. As for the remaining rooms, many of the hotels also have wait lists, and those people will get first grabs starting Wednesday morning. The potential guests wanted to wait to see who won the race before committing.

Wondering how much people are willing to pay for such an excursion? The Ritz-Carlton's high-end inauguration package -- which includes a four-night stay; two seats at the inaugural parade; two tickets to one of the official balls; a specially commissioned 18k white gold "Heart of the Nation" pendant with white diamonds, rubies, and blue sapphires; a 24-hour on-call chauffeur, and a personal outfitter from Saks Fifth Avenue -- runs $50,000.

Smaller hotels offer more modest options, and some reported still having open rooms as of Tuesday evening.

The Obama Inauguration

The Obama inauguration itself promises to be a monumental event. Unofficial estimations predict a record turnout, with attendance in the range of 500,000 to 1 million. President Bush, in comparison, had about 300,000 at each of his inaugurations. Planners are preparing 30,000 "front-row" chairs to set up around the U.S. Capitol, where the swearing in takes place. They're also readying scores of blankets and ponchos in case of rain, as umbrellas are not allowed because of security reasons.

Traditionally, the inauguration begins with a religious service, followed by a meeting with the outgoing president. The vice president is then sworn in, after which the new president takes his oath. The inaugural address follows, then lunch, the parade, and the inaugural balls begin.

Parties aside, though, the most significant moment of all is likely the simple utterance of the constitutional phrase that's been said dozens of times before:

"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."