Tickets won't be distributed until next month, and, as of last week, there was no official events lineup. But no matter. Now is the time to book flights and rooms if you hope to attend the 2005 presidential inauguration festivities.
Red state or blue state resident, Republican or Democrat, if you want to get a slice of American history, there may be no better time to be in Washington, D.C..
You'll also get a lesson in American capitalism. Many Washington hotels have four-night minimums for stays on or near Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. There are also lavish inauguration packages, up to $200,500 per couple (at the Mandarin Oriental), that provide such perks as mink coats, private jets and chauffeured-car service along with your room.
Rates for the more budget-minded vary. At the Hotel Monaco, you can book a $5,050, four-night "Inaugural Indulgence" package that includes in-room appetizers and Champagne, transportation to and from the inaugural ball and a bottle of Kentucky bourbon blended for the historic day.
If you want just a room, the Monaco plans to charge its published 2005 rates, which start at $409 a night, said Jorge Treviño, the general manager. There is a four-night minimum during the inauguration.
Expect many places in the capital to charge premium rates, Bill Hanbury, chief executive of the capital's tourism corporation, said. He expects the inauguration crowds to rival those at the May dedication of the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, which drew an estimated 150,000.
If you're shut out of D.C. hotels, he suggested, try Arlington or Alexandria, Va., which have good transportation into the capital. He said he expected his organization to post inauguration information in the next couple of weeks on its website, http://www.washington.org .
Visitors who want to attend the inauguration ceremony in the morning or reserve seats for the parade that follows need to contact their senator or representative; traditionally, each gets an allotment of event tickets to distribute to constituents.
For more information, visit http://www.inaugural.senate.gov , the website of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. (The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which oversees the event, was expected to set up shop last week with a website and phone, but neither was available as of the Travel section's Tuesday press deadline.)
You can watch the inaugural parade for free as a standee. Hanbury suggested using public transportation to get to the parade. Ask your hotel for the nearest subway or bus stop.