Avoid the DC tourist trap: Tips from a former resident

This Metro experience could be yours! Photo via WTOP.
This Metro experience could be yours! Photo via WTOP.

President Obama is being inaugurated on Monday, and now that you know how to make the trip, it’s also important to consider what to do once you’re down there. Or rather, in a small city whose population is about to temporarily skyrocket, it’s more important to consider what not to do so as not to get lumped in with the huddled masses donning American flag t-shirts and cowboy hats (really). Here are three crucial things to avoid in our nation’s capital, brought to you by a former DC resident who was present at the last Inauguration. 

Getting up the crack of dawn

The Metro opens at 4am on Monday morning, which is totally irrelevant to anyone who actually wants to have a pleasurable experience on Inauguration Day. The inauguration itself takes place at 9:30 am, and for some patriotically masochistic reason, everyone feels like they need to be at the National Mall before the sun even rises. While the thought behind this is valid, it’s important to note that the Mall held 1.5 million people at Obama’s first inauguration, and it seemed like all of them appeared at once. They’re expecting attendance to drop by  about one million this time around, so your odds are already improved. At the very least, do yourself a favor and miss the traffic. You’ll probably end up watching the event on one of the many giant Jumbotrons they systematically place around the nation’s biggest lawn.

The Metro

Between Congress, seasonal internships, and five-university college population, DC is a city whose numbers are constantly shrinking and swelling, and the public transit system is not equipped to handle it. On top of that, the city is expecting an additional 5 million people this weekend, so do yourself a favor and rent a bike. Seriously. Even just by skimming the WMATA website, you can read their tone of impending doom. Getting to the Mall might be OK if you don’t mind waiting for a packed subway car, but waiting for a bus out of the Mall is like being a grown man trying to get a life boat off the Titanic. DC is a far more pleasant city when biked. It’s relatively easy too – the District is smaller than Brooklyn – and the space that you’ll be inhabiting is even smaller.


I can’t stress this enough, ever: liquor stores are closed on Sundays in DC. All of them. If you’re planning to make the experience a boozy Capitol tailgate, stock up on Saturday. That being said, liquor will otherwise be flowing freely through the city. Over 150 bars are extending their hours from now until Tuesday. DC bars and restaurants will now be serving alcohol until 4am instead of the usual (lame) 2am, and some establishments will even be open 24 hours. Just don’t be a jerk and camp out in a restaurant without ordering anything. The city may be gaining a ton of revenue from the influx of tourists, but your servers and bartenders are working for the same kind of money they always do. Just like you.


  1. Morgan

    I showed up to the Inauguration at 11am, right before Obama’s speech and got a spot right in front of a jumbo-tron and it was perfect. I had friends who showed up at 4am and didn’t even get let onto the Mall. so don’t waste your time.

    (also hey hey Katrina.)

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