Washington, D.C.,l seemed far too quiet Thursday for a city on the brink of what's supposed to be a big street-jamming people party that happens every four years when a president is sworn into office. President Obama will take the oath of office Monday on Capitol Hill and dance at two inaugural balls in the evening. But the excitement and crowds have yet to materialize.
The National Gallery of Art's east and west wings were empty Thursday afternoon, as were the Renwick Gallery opposite the White House and the American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery too. The temporary White House Visitor Center at the Ellipse, just steps from the president's home, had three visitors around 2 p.m. And no one seemed to be grabbing up presidential trinkets from street vendors either.
Where's the giddiness and excitement that four years ago burst from every corner of the city? Barack Obama made history in 2009 by being sworn in as the nation's first black president -- and the 1.8 million people who came to watch made history too as the biggest crowd assembled on the Mall.
History might not repeat itself in terms of visitor numbers, but that's good news for last-minute travelers still looking for a hotel room. Washington tourism officials say hotels aren't seeing the boost they did in 2009 during the time leading up to the inauguration, according to U.S. News & World Report's Washington Whispters blog. That means prices are down, and minimum stay requirements have been eased.
Online travel website Hotwire reports that hotel reservations made for the period Jan. 18 to 22 averaged about $190 a night the week of Jan. 7, $156 a night the week of Jan. 14 and $82 a night this week.
Booking.com on Thursday showed room rates for a two-night stay Sunday and Monday nights at these centrally located hotels:
-- an average of $289 a night for a room with a queen bed at the Embassy Row Hotel in Dupont Circle;
-- an average of $259 a night for a junior suite at the River Inn in the Foggy Bottom area; and
-- an average of $249 a night for a room with two double beds at the Holiday Inn Washington-Georgetown.
Destination DC, the city's tourism organization, also has a tab on its website with hotel availability during the inauguration. As of Friday, the Residence Inn by Marriott was showing prices of $299 a night for the Monday-Tuesday night stay.
And for those who might come on a whim, Monday is a holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so there's no need to take extra time off from work off either.