Washington: Barack Obama and first lady Michelle twice stepped from of their limousine Tuesday and out onto Pennsylvania Avenue to walk down the route taking them to the White House.
They were greeted by chilly but otherwise perfect, sky-blue weather, and thousands of wildly cheering and waving wellwishers who lined both sides of the broad avenue behind metal barricades for a glimpse of their first African-American commander in chief.
Obama, clad in a sleek black overcoat and maroon scarf, and his wife, wearing a glittering gold dress, matching coat and green gloves, walked hand in hand well in front of their limousine, but with Secret Service agents just steps behind and military and police lining the route.
Their open-air promenade lasted about eight minutes and a few hundred yards, as they walked past federal buildings, offices and downtown plazas before ducking back into their heavily armored Cadillac.
Several minutes later they emerged again to walk the final few yards to the reviewing stand.
New Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife Jill also stepped out of their car to walk for several minutes after the Obamas, and were seen smiling broadly and spinning around on their heels to wave at the crowds behind them.
Earlier, after reviewing soldiers marching past the US Capitol, the Obamas stepped into the new, armored presidential limousine -- with a US flag flying to the right of the hood and the presidential seal on the door for the first time -- and began a slow-roll motorcade towards 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Flanked by walking Secret Service agents, the limousine left the grounds of the Capitol -- where Obama took the oath of office to become the 44th president -- and turned west onto Constitution Avenue, as large crowds lining the 2.7-kilometre parade route erupted in screams and cheers.
Dozens of white police motorcycles with sidecars led and trailed the limousine in V formation at the pace of a slow walk in downtown Washington.
Ever since Thomas Jefferson more than 200 years ago, most US presidents have walked up at least part of Pennsylvania Avenue for their first trip to the White House as commander-in-chief.
Obama, already an hour behind schedule, is expected to reach the White House and then enter an enclosed viewing area from which he and Vice President Joseph Biden will review the inaugural parade.
City officials have estimated some 350,000 people would line the parade route. A reported two million people jammed the National Mall to witness Obama take the oath of office.