Obama: Washington's Man About Town

New president has taken some time to have a little fun outside of the office.

Jan. 27, 2009— -- President Obama started his presidency at a full sprint, but in the weeks leading up to Inauguration Day he took some time to have a little fun outside of the office.

In fact, since arriving in Washington on Jan. 4, Obama may already be more visible around town than former President George W. Bush was in his eight years in the White House.

Some recent Obama outings:

Bobby Van's Steakhouse for a cocktail reception for new members of Congress and the Chicago press corps

Dinner at Equinox restaurant for wife Michelle's 45th birthday

A pickup basketball game at the Marie Reed Recreation Center in the Adams Morgan section of Washington

Dinner with conservative pundits and columnists at George Will's house in Chevy Chase, Md.

A half-smoke with Mayor Adrian Fenty at Ben's Chili Bowl, a D.C. landmark on U Street

A nighttime visit to the Lincoln Memorial with Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha

A brief cameo and remarks at a party for campaign, transition and inaugural staff at the DC Armory that featured Jay Z and Arcade Fire as entertainment

The president and his wife frequently dined out in their hometown of Chicago and even had a regular Friday night date until the rigors of the campaign kicked in.

"The Obamas are a young, urban family, and urban families tend to feel right at home in D.C.  It's great to see them out and about, getting to know our neighborhoods and restaurants already," said Bill Hanbury, CEO of Destination DC, the official convention and tourism corporation for the district.

The first couple have indicated that they plan to get involved in their new city and not just live behind the wrought-iron fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

"[W]e are neighborhood people," Obama said last week at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, a first of its kind event where a portion of the tickets were set aside for Washington, D.C., residents, some at no charge. "[I]f you think about it, the word 'neighborhood' starts with the word 'neighbor' because it indicates a sense that we as Americans are bound together. That what we have in common is more important than what drives us apart."

Obama's new neighborhood is a city with a black population of more than 50 percent.

"This is a very liberal, African-American city and the Obamas really symbolize something special to people here," said Sommer Mathis, editor of DCist.com, a blog dedicated to local news, entertainment and culture in the nation's capital. "I think it means a lot for the residents here, not just because he's a Democrat. This is a majority black city. People weren't pouring out into the streets after Bill Clinton won but there were celebrations in the streets here until 4 a.m. [on Election Night]."

Not the Bush White House Anymore

Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, were never staples on the D.C. social scene and rarely went out to dinner in Washington. The early-to-bed/early-to-rise president's penchant for quiet evenings at home provided his wife with material for a comedic turn at a 2005 press dinner.

"I am married to the president of the United States, and here's our typical evening: Nine o'clock, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep, and I'm watching 'Desperate Housewives' -- with Lynne Cheney. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife," Laura Bush said jokingly.

The Bushes preferred to entertain at the White House, hosting movie screenings and smaller dinners for friends. In his eight years in the White House, Bush hosted six state dinners for foreign leaders, far less than his predecessors.

There were more than 30 state dinners during the eight years of the Clinton administration. President George H. W. Bush hosted more than 20 state dinners while President Reagan hosted more than 50.

According to CBS News' Mark Knoller, the unofficial record keeper in the White House press corps, Bush spent all or part of 487 days at Camp David and all or part of 490 days at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Combined that adds up to about one-third of his presidency.

Obama does not have a vacation home and with two young daughters attending school in Washington, D.C., it may be difficult for the family to get out of town for long weekends or extended summer vacations.

Exerciser in Chief

They may not share the same urge to socialize, but one thing Obama has in common with his predecessor is a firm commitment to a daily workout, something the president squeezed in even with a hectic campaign schedule.

Obama is an avid basketball player, an inherently more social hobby than Bush's fondness for mountain biking. Obama frequently got together with friends and staff for pickup games in Chicago or out on the campaign trail.

Earlier this month Obama stopped by the Marie Reed Recreation Center in the Adams Morgan neighborhood for a 45-minute basketball game at an indoor court.

Last week Obama told reporters that a new basketball net had been installed on the tennis court on the White House grounds but that he had not played there yet because it was too cold outside.

One local gym is eager to provide the president an indoor court to keep his shot from getting rusty.

Gonzalo Perez, the general manager of the Washington Sports Club in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, said his staff plans to reach out to Obama's staff to encourage him to make use of the gym's new indoor basketball court.

Obama has worked out at Perez's gym. In June the then-senator stopped in for an early morning workout dressed in gym clothes, with his security entourage in tow.

The visit made headlines when the front desk attendant did not recognize Obama and asked to see his gym ID.

Perez said Obama would be welcomed back to the gym with open arms.

"We are one of the few clubs that has an indoor basketball court. ? He could come by during off hours and take advantage of our facilities," Perez said.

Obama Effect? Washington Basks in Obama Patronage

Perez said that his club received considerable publicity from the visit and that it was able to do a marketing promotion with all of the media attention.

Since Obama made a stop, with the press, at Ben's Chili Bowl, the restaurant has garnered attention from local and national media and seen a boom in business, especially during inauguration week when the lines snaked out the door and down the block as out-of-town tourists came to check out the famed local delicacy.

DCist's Mathis wondered when the madness at the U Street landmark would end.

"I can't go and get a half-smoke after a night out at the bars because the line is so long."

The Obama family has not even eaten at hot spot Marvin, but tourists still flocked to the restaurant last week to snap pictures of the Obama mural by artist Shepard Fairey on the outside of the building.

In the fall, Fairey installed a version of his iconic "Obama/HOPE" painting on the outside wall of the restaurant on the U Street corridor, named in honor of D.C. native and soul legend Marvin Gaye.

Even local churches reportedly are trying to woo the first family, which has not settled on a place to worship yet. On the Sunday before the inauguration, the Obamas attended services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, one of the city's oldest historically black churches.

On Inauguration Day they stuck with tradition and attended services at St. John's Church across Lafayette Park from White House. Dubbed the "church of presidents," this is where the Bushes occasionally attended services when they were in Washington on the weekends.

Could the Obamas spark a surge in interest at local eateries and tourist sites, similar to the "Oprah effect"?

Washington tourism officials certainly hope so and liken it to the lure of celebrity sightings in Hollywood.

"The possibility of spotting the Obama family out and about can only add to D.C.'s appeal as a tourism destination," said Hanbury of Destination DC.

Where Should Obamas Go Next?

As they settle into their new home and city there is no shortage of suggestions for where the Obamas should go next. Local newspapers and blogs have come up with lists of must-see restaurants and cultural sites. Local sports fans are hoping that Obama shows up to a game to root on the home team -- as long as they are not playing a team from Chicago.

Perhaps a Georgetown men's basketball game is on the president's future schedule? Hoyas' head coach John Thompson III is a Princeton grad, like Michelle and her brother Craig Robinson.

At Ben's Chili Bowl, Obama was asked the key question: Georgetown or Maryland hoops? He demurred, saying on that issue he's neutral.

The Obamas remained inside the White House on their first weekend in their new home, no doubt disappointing restaurant and shop owners who were hoping for a surprise visit.

"I think it's great. It's hard to say how long that will continue. When President Clinton was sworn in the first time, he made a big show of going to Georgia Avenue and then wasn't as involved in the city after that. If you talk to people living here then, they were ultimately disappointed," DCist's Mathis said. "There is good reason to hope that the Obamas will continue to be visible."

"They said they will bridge the gap between the city and people who live here and more formal Washington. There's good reason to think that they might."

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.