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An Arlington, Virginia Guide to the 2021 Presidential Inauguration

Every four years on Inauguration Day all eyes turn to the U.S. Capitol, and this January will be no exception. The 59th Inaugural Ceremonies will be held on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, Official public events and activities are greatly curtailed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and safety concerns, but there are still ways you can take part in this historic event.

Health and Safety Measures

Due to the unique circumstances surrounding the 59th Presidential Inauguration, the Virginia and Maryland Governors have joined the Mayor of Washington, D.C. in taking the extraordinary step of encouraging Americans not to come to Washington, D.C. and to instead participate virtually. Additionally, the National Mall is reported to be closed to visitors on that day. If you are planning to be at one of Arlington's 40 hotels on Inauguration Day, you can view the event on television and online.

Additionally, be sure to register for Arlington Alert to get free emergency alerts and other important information from Arlington County. Washington, D.C.'s ALERT DC notifications are available by texting INAUG2021 to 888-777.

The Arlington County Police Department's (ACPD) top priority is the safety and security of the residents, visitors and businesses of the national capital region. Learn more about ACPD's deployment of increased police resources in Arlington County, including both visible and non-visible assets, leading up to and during Inauguration Day.

As you plan, it’s important for you to know the many ways Arlington and its businesses are addressing health, safety, cleanliness and sanitation during your stay, and what to expect while you’re here. Be sure to check Arlington's Travel Updates and Health & Safety pages for the very latest information. Also, since you'll almost certainly be spending time in Washington, D.C., you should familiarize yourself with the latest DC Health guidance regarding travelers from states that are at high risk for COVID-19.

Schedule of Events

The 2021 Inauguration will look very different than those in years past. The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies plans and executes the Inaugural Ceremonies of the President-elect and Vice President-elect of the United States, with a theme this year of “Our Determined Democracy: Forging a More Perfect Union.” The ceremonies will be widely available online and on national televised broadcasts. 

President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration will include a “virtual parade across America” consistent with crowd limits during the coronavirus era. Following the swearing-in ceremony on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, Biden and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, will join Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband in participating in a socially distanced Pass in Review on the Capitol’s opposite front side. The virtual parade will be designed to let people across the nation participate.

Inaugural Events

President-elect Biden is planning a lighting ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to honor those killed by the coronavirus the evening of Jan. 19. The Presidential Inaugural Committee called it the “first-ever lighting around the Reflecting Pool to memorialize American lives lost.” It is also inviting communities around the country to join Washington in lighting up buildings and ringing church bells at 5:30 p.m. in “a national moment of unity and remembrance.”

The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) also announced that it will join the National Day of Service on January 18 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and encourage Americans across the country to volunteer in service to their communities ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. The PIC will partner with service leaders, community members, and local, state, and national organizations across the country to organize events that unite Americans around service in their communities. Events will focus on COVID-19 relief and address challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, such as poverty, hunger, racial injustice, homelessness, mental health, and educational disparities.

Traditional inaugural parties and balls have been canceled this year because of the pandemic. However, plans may emerge for in-person celebrations later in the year as safety permits. 

Dining & Nightlife

Due to changing circumstances surrounding this year's Inauguration events, it is best to check with your selected Arlington dining establishment to confirm their availability and offerings. These may include takeout, delivery or outdoor dining.

Keep checking here, and we’ll keep you updated on the latest information surrounding the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies.

Updated January 15, 2021

Author: Cara O'Donnell