WASHINGTON - Weighty issues like the presidential inauguration and the economic stimulus package are pending, but the first order of business for President-elect Barack Obama's family is to get settled in Washington quickly to prepare for the start of school for his two daughters.
The family will settle into an exclusive hotel near the White House as their temporary home when they move to the capital this weekend.
Daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, begin classes Monday at the private Sidwell Friends School. The Obamas asked about Blair House, the government official guest residence across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, where presidents-elect sometimes stay before taking the oath of office.
But it's unavailable, booked solidly through Jan. 15, the Bush administration said. Obama's inauguration is Jan. 20.
So after Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their daughters wrap up an extended family vacation at a $9 million rental home in his native Hawaii on Thursday, they will trade their house in Chicago for a suite at the historic Hay-Adams hotel.
Opened in 1928, the hotel sits across Lafayette Square from the White House, Obama's eventual work place and home. Its name comes from two historical figures who lived on the site: John Hay, the private assistant to President Abraham Lincoln and later secretary of state, and Henry Adams, an author and descendant of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
The Hay-Adams has 145 rooms and suites, featuring marble bathrooms, intricately carved plaster ceilings and ornamental fireplaces and balconies - with views of the White House, Lafayette Square and St. John's Church - in certain rooms.
Room amenities include custom Italian bed linens and towels, goose down duvets and pillows (hypoallergenic pillows are available; Malia has allergies), plush microfiber bathrobes and slippers for adults and kids, Bose CD music systems with assorted CDs, exclusive Etro toiletries, complimentary Fiji bottled water and a nightly turndown service.
After throwing open its doors, the hotel quickly attracted prominent Washingtonians and other elites, including aviators Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, author Sinclair Lewis and actress Ethel Barrymore. Its restaurant is a top destination for "power dining" and is a regular meeting place for White House officials.
Obama largely has avoided setting foot in Washington since winning the election on Nov. 4. He has spent most of his time during the transition in his Chicago hometown, and has been on holiday in Hawaii since Dec. 20.
His last appearance in Washington was Nov. 10, when he met at the White House with President George W. Bush.
The first day at a new school for Obama's daughters isn't the only Washington agenda item this week.
Tuesday brings the swearing-in of a new Congress, one with bigger Democratic majorities that Obama hopes will help to swiftly pass the economic recovery package he wants to sign soon after taking office.
And on Wednesday, Bush has scheduled a White House lunch for Obama and the former presidents.