How to Get 2021 Inauguration Tickets & Complete Presidential Inauguration Guide

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more details.

Spread the love

One of my favorite bucket list trips I’ve ever taken was attending the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you want to attend a Presidential Inauguration, it’s both easier and harder than you might think! Here’s what you need to know to get 2021 Inauguration tickets and tips for going to a Presidential Inauguration!


Can’t read now? Pin for later!


How to go to a Presidential Inauguration and Get Inauguration Tickets



When is the 2021 Presidential Inauguration?


Capitol Hill Inauguration Day Washington DC


The Inauguration will be held on January 20, 2021. The swearing-in happens at noon on that day, but you need to be in town before then to pick up your tickets. Additionally, expect to be up and on your way to the ceremony before dawn. 


I would expect to spend 3-5 days in Washington DC for Inauguration, depending on how much additional sightseeing you want to do.


Remember that Inauguration Day 2020 doesn’t exist. The 2020 election leads to a 2021 Inauguration Day. Don’t buy anything or book anything with 2020 in the date.



How to Get Inauguration Tickets


Washington DC - Presidential Inauguration - Getting my tickets
Picking up my tickets from my senator.


Inauguration tickets are tickets to the public Swearing-In Ceremony. There are other events in Washington DC during this time, including Presidential balls and parties. If you want to go to any of these other events you will need to research tickets for them directly.


Some years there are public concerts and other festivities in the days leading up to the Inauguration, but these won’t be announced until we know who the winner of the election is. Second inaugurations also tend to be more subdued than a president’s first inauguration.


Step 1: Contact Your Senators and Congress Representatives


Washington DC - Presidential Inauguration - Stopping to peek into Joe Biden's office
Stopping to peek into Joe Biden’s office


Each Representative and Senator has a select number of tickets to give out for their constituents. Some give them out first-come, first-served, while others do more of a lottery. You should call their offices and inquire about getting tickets as early as you can.


Ask both of your senators as well as your representative so that you have three chances to get tickets. It doesn’t matter which political party they are, which one you are, or which one the election winner is. So I got tickets from my Republican Senator for a Democratic Presidential Inauguration. The tickets are not given out by party affiliation.



How Much Do Inauguration Tickets Cost?

Tickets are free. I have seen people try to scalp them, which I guess you could technically get away with buying scalped Inauguration tickets, but I don’t know how you could ensure they were legitimate. 



What Do I Do if I Only Want to Attend Inauguration for One of the Candidates?

This situation happened to me. I got tickets for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration hoping to see the first woman president inaugurated. I just let them know I no longer needed them when I learned it wouldn’t be the case. They gave the tickets to the next person in line. There was no issue that I didn’t want Trump Inauguration tickets.



When Do I Find Out if I Got the Tickets?

Offices will let you know before Inauguration, but it can feel like a last-minute decision. You should make complete arrangements as though you will be attending so that you can go if you do get them. If you will need to fly to DC and cannot get refundable tickets, then you may want to wait. However, I would make every other reservation you can as long as they are refundable.


If you aren’t able to get tickets, you can still see the ceremony on large video screens on the National Mall, along with thousands of other spectators. 



Step 2: How to Pick Up Inauguration Tickets


Washington DC - Presidential Inauguration - Stir crazy waiting in line to pick up tickets from my senator's office
Stir crazy waiting in line to pick up tickets from my senator’s office


Your Senator or Representative will give you the instructions to pick up the tickets. Generally, you can expect the instructions to be similar from office to office.


You must pick them up in person, and they will not mail them. The person who made the request must go to get them with a government-issued ID. This means you have to be in town at least mid-day on the 19th. I suggest getting to Washington DC on the 18th so that you don’t accidentally miss your ability to pick up your tickets. 


There are multiple buildings that their offices can be in, so make sure you are going to the right building. Additionally, there may be a long line to wait to get in, so do not go at the last minute!



Plan Ahead for Going to the Inauguration


Washington DC - Presidential Inauguration - Joe Biden getting sworn in as Vice President
Joe Biden getting sworn in as Vice President. Will we have a 2021 Biden Inauguration?


You will need to make arrangments for going ahead of time since you won’t find out if you’re getting tickets until the last minute. This includes getting a hotel room and planning what else you want to do.


Book a hotel that can be canceled if you end up not going. I use Booking because they have options for canceling listed as room options. 


A good hotel option is the Holiday Inn Washington Capitol-National Mall which is located just a short walk from the Capitol Building. 


If you can’t get refundable plane tickets if you need to cancel, then I would plan to drive to DC (if that is feasible). Otherwise, buy nonrefundable plane tickets and plan to go and watch from the National Mall if you can’t get tickets. 


Another option is to take Megabus. You can get cheap bus tickets from some major US cities if you look early. This is how I went on my last trip from Philadelphia to DC. However, it won’t likely be refundable tickets. But if you can get cheap bus tickets you won’t have to waste much money in the event that you cancel.



Presidential Inauguration Tips

Here are some things to know before you go to Inauguration:


Inauguration Day is busy and security is tight


Washington DC - Presidential Inauguration - Walking to the lawn of the lawn of the US Capital early in the morning
Walking to the West Lawn of the US Capital early in the morning


You won’t be able to get around the city like a normal day.  Many roads are closed. Prepare to use public transportation rather than driving. I happened to be driving through DC the night before Inauguration in 2017 and I spent four hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic. That being said, make sure your auto insurance coverage is up to date as tensions can run high in traffic jams. I was actually driving a car back to Philly to sell it and if I had gotten in a traffic accident…ooh that would have been bad!


The Metro will have extended hours during Inauguration to help accommodate the increased demand.  



You Cannot Use Uber or Lyft to Go to Inauguration

Uber and Lyft will not work inside the particular areas blocked off. The apps themselves won’t even be operating.



You Need to Bring Your Supplies

Washington DC- Going to a Presidential Inauguration


You will be standing around for hours. Bring water, snacks, and a blanket if you want to be comfortable.



Plan Ahead for Using the Bathroom

There will be porta-potties available, but you should bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer.


Do Not Bring These Banned Items

Don’t bring umbrellas, glass bottles, coolers, selfie sticks, drones, balloons, metal bottles, weapons of any kind, signs with anything attached or larger than 20’x3’x1/4,” or backpacks larger than 18”x13”x7.”



What to Bring to Inaugration


Washington DC- Going to a Presidential Inauguration
Don’t forget sunglasses!


You will want to bring the following:


A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). I use the Pacsafe Citysafe, which fits the required dimensions. It also has anti-theft features so you can feel safe that you won’t get your pocket picked while you’re in DC’s crowds.


A Cell Phone so that you can navigate your way to the ceremony.


A Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.


A Camera since you will want to capture the moment. I use a mix of my Nikon D810 and my Samsung8 smartphone these days. (Though many of these pics in this post were on my old Nikon D40).



What is the Inauguration and Swearing-In Ceremony Like


Washington DC - Presidential Inauguration - Barack Obama getting sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America
Barack Obama getting sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America


It was so much fun! Yes, we were cold and tired, but it was completely invigorating! I am so glad that I got to go, and I will go again!



What to Wear to a Presidential Inauguration


   Washington DC- Going to a Presidential Inauguration


First, expect to be cold! You’re going to be outside for hours in the early morning in January. Dress accordingly! The average temperature in Washington, DC in January is between 25 and 43 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 to 6 degrees Celcius). Add to that standing outside for hours on end, and expect to be quite cold!


You will want to wear layers and make sure to have a hat and gloves. Of course, all presidential swag is welcome.



What to Wear to Inauguration for Women


Washington DC - Presidential Inauguration - My friends showing off an amazing Obama jacket


Here are my recommendations for what women should wear to Inauguration: 


A Winter Coat: You need that can handle the cold like this North Face parka


Thermal Layers: This ultra-lightweight down layer is my new #packinggoals. I don’t own one, but my friend Allison does and she wore hers while we were stuck at a Serbian bus stop in the cold early morning. I was so jealous, and this is on my future packing lists for anywhere I go that’s cold. It’s great because you can wear it on its own when you need a quick layer of warmth, but you can also wear it under your coat when it’s really cold outside.


Shoes: Upgrade your regular city boots to a waterproof version.


Socks: Upgrade your socks to thick, warm wool socks.


Gloves: In DC, you’ll be doing a lot of navigating on your smartphone, especially when you need to use public transit. I found it incredibly annoying to have to take my gloves off every few minutes, so I upgraded to tech-friendly gloves like these. They’re also clutch for using your phone to take pictures.


Winter Scarf: You want a thick knit scarf that you can pull up and cover your face when necessary.


Leggings: You’ll want to be covered from head to toe when you’re outside. Regular leggings are great for late autumn, but for winter swap them for leggings that are lined with fleece for extra warmth. You can wear them under dresses or even slip them under your jeans.


Hat: A fleece-lined knit cap will keep you warm, and you’ll fit right in with the locals.



What to Wear to Inauguration for Men


Washington DC - Presidential Inauguration -What to Wear to Inauguration - Sweet Obama Jacket


Here are my recommendations for what men should wear to Inauguration: 


A Winter Coat: You need that can handle the cold like this North Face parka.


Wool Baselayer: You’ll want an extra boost of warmth under your shirt as a wool baselayer.


Shoes: Upgrade your regular city boots to a waterproof version.


Socks: Upgrade your socks to thick, warm wool socks.


Gloves:  Upgrade to tech-friendly gloves like these so you can use your smartphone for pics and to help navigate.


Winter Scarf: You want a thick knit scarf that you can pull up and cover your face when necessary


Hat: A fleece-lined knit cap will keep you warm, and you’ll fit right in with the locals.



More Washington DC Travel Resources


Washington DC - At the White House


Headed to Washington, DC? Check out my other guides on how to getting White House tickets and visiting Monticello in Virginia. You can also listen to this interesting history of the Civil War Defences of Washington DC.



Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

Before you leave for Washington, DC make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be in large crowds where pickpocketing risks increase. 


I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for three years, and I happily recommend them.  If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.



Pin this Guide on How to Get 2021 Inaugration Tickets for Your Trip!


How to go to a Presidential Inauguration and Get Inauguration Tickets




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *