Where to stay for Obama’s inauguration
Washington DC’s Willard InterContinental Hotel is using their Oval Suites to host parade-viewing soirees on 21 January. (Oscar Raymundo)
Barack Obama and Washington DC are ready for round two.
With the US President’s inaugural address taking place on 21 January, scores of politicos, diplomats, history buffs and pop stars are expected to converge on the US capital this weekend in preparation for the historic occasion. Even though the number of attendees is estimated to drop from the President’s first inaugural address (1.8 million people attended in 2009), the expected crowd of 700,000 is still significantly higher than the second inaugurations of the two previous US Presidents, George W Bush and Bill Clinton.
And this drop off is good news for travellers. Many of city’s historic hotels have rooms still available, and all of the ones listed below are within walking distance of the Capitol building steps (where the swearing-in ceremony will take place at 11:30 am) and the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue (which will start at 2 pm). Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on where Beyoncé will be staying.
The Jefferson Hotel
Built in 1923, the Jefferson was one of two buildings besides the White House that was deemed a target during the air strikes of World War II. At the time, the Jefferson was the British military headquarters, with a rooftop-lit glass atrium that could be seen from the sky. Quieter times and a complete renovation followed, and in 2012, the hotel’s intimate Gallatin meeting room was used to host re-election campaign meetings for President Obama.
Willard InterContinental Hotel
Before his own inauguration in 1860, Abraham Lincoln used his first presidential pay check to cover his stay at the Willard. The hotel is also where Martin Luther King Jr wrote his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. For the 2013 inauguration, the Beaux Arts-style hotel is using their Oval Suites overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue to host private parade-viewing soirees. You do not have to be a guest of the hotel to attend, just know someone who can put you on the list.
Mayflower Renaissance Hotel
A presidential favourite, the Mayflower hosted the very first inaugural ball for President Coolidge in 1925. It’s also where President Franklin Roosevelt wrote “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” in 1933, where President Truman lived while the White House underwent renovations in 1945, where President Kennedy held his inaugural ball in 1961 and where Monica Lewinsky stayed during the Clinton scandal in 1996.
In 1930, the quaint Hay-Adams offered the first air-conditioned dining room in DC, luring legendary US aviators Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. In 2009, it became the temporary home of the Obama family for the two weeks leading up to the first inauguration. Today, the Hay-Adams is also known for its Author Series, which invites renowned literary figures for intimate conversation with hotel guests. Past authors have included Joyce Carol Oats, Toni Morrison and Clinton’s 1993 inaugural poet Maya Angelou.
The only DC inn to make the list of Historic Hotels of America, the Morrison-Clark once served as a lodging club for military servicemen, with each First Lady up until Nancy Reagan presiding as honorary chairperson. After the club closed in 1987, the Victorian twin townhouses reopened as an inn with the original fixtures and a 19th-century art collection.
Henley Park Hotel
The restored Tudor mansion is the closest hotel to the Washington Convention Center, where Obama’s inaugural ball is scheduled to take place the night of 21 January. The hotel’s award-winning restaurant, the Tavern at Henley Park, is a favourite dining spot of senators, ambassadors and the rest of Washington’s political elite.