The Hot Spots to Hit When in the Nation's Capital

New York City, Los Angeles, Miami's South Beach. These are the places where you expect to find happening parties and other hot spots. When you're dreaming of dancing on tables in glamorous getup, Washington, D.C., just isn't the first locale that comes to mind.

Every four years, however, the nation's capital becomes the place to be, at least for one night. Maybe there won't be sightings of Paris Hilton or the Olsen twins, but come Thursday night, the most powerful and influential leaders in the United States will partying down at inauguration bashes all over town.

There are two types of inauguration parties: the official and the unofficial. The official balls and parties are organized and hosted by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The unofficial parties are thrown by lobbyists and other groups.

The committee has organized a slew of events -- some star-studded and some not. The hardest tickets to get were those for the committee's Commander in Chief Ball. Invitees are men and women of the armed forces and their families. Pentagon and White House officials came up with a list designed to reflect all branches, said committee spokesman Kevin Sheridan.

President and Mrs. Bush plan to attend the Commander in Chief Ball, as well as the committee-organized Texas-Wyoming Ball, Liberty Ball, Independence Ball, Stars and Stripes Ball, Patriot Ball, and Democracy Ball. All of these will be housed in the Washington Convention Center and the president and first lady are expected to spend about 20 minutes at each.

There are events scheduled all week. Sheridan said the committee "reached out to dozens of acts, dealt with many different performers, and came up with a lineup that's diverse and will reflect the mood of the week -- celebratory, but respectful of the fact that we are a nation at war."

The inauguration plans have attracted some criticism from those who believe extravagant celebrations are inappropriate during wartime and in the aftermath of the South Asian tsunami.

All official events are financed by donations to the committee. Top donors listed on the group's Web site include Time Warner, Wachovia, Home Depot, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. and Pfizer Inc., at $250,000 each.

The Unofficial Balls Will Be Hot Spots Too

The two hottest "unofficial" tickets in town the night of the inauguration will be the Creative Coalition's The Ball After the Balls, beginning at 10 p.m. at the Ronald Reagan Building Atrium, and the Recording Industry Association of America's bash at the upscale nightclub H2O.

Recording artist Macy Gray is the headliner at the Creative Coalition's party. Other expected guests include Dennis Hopper, Joe Piscopo, Joe Pantoliano, Susan Lucci and Matthew Modine -- as well as various senators and congressman. Tickets for the event cost $1,000 a head. The event is sold out, but maybe those hoping for a glimpse of the famous partygoers can find a good spot outside to catch a glimpse.

The RIAA bash begins at 10 p.m. and will feature musical guest 3 Doors Down.

The annual Black Tie and Boots Ball, thrown by the Texas State Society of Washington, will be held tonight. It became a big deal four years ago when a Texan won the presidency. Tickets for the event went on sale Nov. 10. All 10,000 tickets sold out.

The event features performances by ZZ Top, Ted Nugent and Lyle Lovett and more and will be at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Northwest Washington.