Springtime always reminds me of living in Washington, DC. To this day, I’ve never seen a spring so beautiful as cherry blossom season in DC. And every year thousands flock to the city to enjoy the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The History of the Festival
I know we’re all super wrapped up in making America great again, but a lot of amazing things come from other countries. And DC’s beautiful spring flowers, we owe to Japan. The gorgeous cherry blossoms that adorn the nation’s capital were gifted by Japan (probably the only place with a more beautiful spring) as a token of goodwill in 1912. Since then, the trees have been maintained by the National Park Service.
So the festival, aside from coinciding with peak blooming season celebrates our ties to Japan and serves as something of a cultural heritage festival. Many different events take place over the month-long Cherry Blossom Festival, many of which are free to attend.
The Cherry Blossom Festival vs. cherry blossom season
The dates for the Cherry Blossom Festival are set far in advance; years, in fact. You can see the dates of the festival all the way up to 2021. But that doesn’t mean the cherry blossoms will be in bloom on those exact dates or for the entire length of the festival. Peak bloom depends on weather and usually lasts about two weeks. Factors such as rain or frost and high temperatures can shorten the period. The Cherry Blossom Festival is planned to coincide with the peak bloom, which typically happens the first week of April. But Mother Nature cannot be scheduled, so there is no guarantee.
Your chances of seeing the cherry blossoms in full bloom vary, but are highest if you come around the first week of April. If your travel plans are flexible, more accurate predictions are available by early March. It might be a good reason to take a cheap last minute flight or a commuter bus from a nearby state.
Where to see the cherry blossoms?
Though there are cherry blossom trees all over DC, the largest density of trees will be around the monuments and parks near the National Mall. Of course, you can expect the area to be busy during the festival. And though I wouldn’t normally suggest spending time exercising on vacation, taking an early morning run around the Tidal Basin is a particularly excellent way to see the cherry blossoms. The area won’t be too packed early in the morning, and at this time of year, the weather is great for a jog. While you’re there you can visit the Jefferson Memorial, which gives you a great view of the trees and the Washington Monument.
What is there to do besides see the cherry blossoms?
No doubt, the blossoms are the main event, but there is plenty to do during the month-long Cherry Blossom Festival. If you’re in DC for the start of the festival, you can attend the opening ceremony, which is taking place at the Warner Theater this year and includes a variety of performers from the US and Japan. But most people prefer to enjoy the festivities outdoors among the trees. For the first two weeks of the festival, there is a welcome area by the Tidal Basin and a stage with daily performances.
Other events that are part of the festival are the Kite Festival, the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, and the Waterfront Fireworks which takes place at the end of the festival. For more information on dates and ticketing for these events, check out the official National Cherry Blossom Festival website.
If you can find a quiet park, the best thing to do is to sit outside under the trees and enjoy their beauty.