Howard and Shonda Santos missed President Obama's first inauguration in 2009. So when Obama won re-election on Nov. 6, the North Carolina couple didn't waste time planning a trip to D.C. with their two young daughters for his second swearing-in.

"We decided by Nov. 7," Howard Santos said with a laugh. "It's just a great opportunity for our daughters. When they get older, I hope they look back and cherish it."

Spectators packed the National Mall from the Capitol to nearly the Washington Monument to witness the 57th inauguration of a president. Some, like the Santos family, were first timers, while others were hoping to relive the magic of four years ago.

Most were bundled in winter gear and danced in place to keep the feeling in their feet as overcast skies overtook a once-warming sun. Many waved an American flag enthusiastically as the dignitaries, the first family and celebrities like Beyonce were introduced over the loudspeaker.

Though well shy of the 1.8 million that turned out in 2009, the crowd, which appeared to match officials' predictions of 600,000 to 700,000, was loud and responsive, particularly during Obama's address, when his pitch for gay rights and gender and race equality reverberated among his most ardent supporters.

When reflecting on the day, Charleston, S.C., resident Felicia Veasey, who was in D.C. for the last inauguration, said: "Not as crowded. Not as cold. But the spirit is still here."

Still, there was a wait-and-see attitude for some Obama's backers, who want their president to be more assertive in fighting for the Democratic principles he recommitted to in his speech.

"There's more of a sense of, 'Yes, but do it. Take the lead,' " said Rebecca Ratner, a professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Many in the crowd's large black population remarked that Obama's second inauguration was perhaps even a greater vindication for African-Americans than his 2008 victory. Arlington native James Teal said it was more validating that Obama will leave office as the country's first two-term black president.

For the most part, the quadrennial celebration went off without any major hitches. Travel was relatively smooth, and moving from the Mall to the parade route was manageable. Children faced the greatest adversity trying to see over adults to catch a glimpse of Kelly Clarkson singing, but most found refuge on the shoulders of parents.

Not the granddaughter of Camille Ford, though, who was snuggled up in a stroller. But her presence meant four generations of Ford's family were on hand for the historic day.

"When we walked on the Mall, they were all making fun of me, but I was crying," said Ford's daughter Tiffany Young, a Fairfax teacher. "It's just so inspiring and makes you want to be a better American."