Other towns rely on robins or melting snow to tell them when spring has truly arrived. Washington, D.C. has cherry blossoms. Each year at the end of March or the beginning of April, the whole of the Tidal Basin gets a pink-and-white coating as the thousands of cherry trees ringing the water all bloom at once. Hundreds of thousands of people come to see the spectacle.
The trees first arrived at the Tidal Basin in 1912 as a gift from the people of Japan to the people of the United States. It’s only fitting, then, that the two-week National Cherry Blossom Festival has a distinctly Japanese flavor. The Japanese embassy shows Japanese movies and displays traditional art. The National Sushi Society holds a sake and sushi tasting. The Smithsonian sponsors a kite festival on the mall. It all peaks in a massive Japanese street fair featuring martial arts demonstrations, origami, koto players and rock bands, food from 20 different restaurants, sake, beer, and much more. There’s even a parade running down Constitution Avenue.
The Cherry Blossom Festival offers plenty of non-culturally-aligned events too. There are paddleboat rides, bike rides, and photo safaris; river cruises and guided tours; a soccer tournament, a rugby tournament, and a regatta. In short, the festival is Washington, D.C.’s excuse to get back outdoors after a long cold winter.
The 2016 National Cherry Blossom Festival will run from March 20 – April 17, 2016, with the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on Saturday, April 16, 2016. For a full calendar of events, visit www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org. This event brings plenty of tourists to DC, so it’s a good idea to book a hotel reservation as early as possible.
National Cherry Blossom Festival 2016 Signature Events and programs include:
- March 18, 2016: Pink Tie Party fundraiser at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
- March 26, 2016: Opening Ceremony at the Warner Theatre
- March 26, 2016: Family Day at the National Building Museum
- April 2, 2016: Blossom Kite Festival on the Washington Monument grounds
- April 9, 2016: Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival
- April 16, 2016: National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade along Constitution Avenue
- April 16, 2016: Sakura Matsuri—Japanese Street Festival
- April 16, 2016: Cherry Blast at Carnegie Library
The National Park Service has predicted the 2016 Peak Bloom to begin March 23-24. (This is the 2nd time that the National Park Service has changed the peak bloom dates, so check their web site for the most up to date prediction.)
Photos of the Washington DC Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossom Festival
Admission: Most events are free.
Parking: There is free parking available in lots all along East Potomac Park, with free shuttle service from there to the Tidal Basin. Shuttles run every 20 to 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the festival.
Metrorail: Blue and Orange Line stops for Smithsonian.