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 2018 National Cherry Blossom Festival will run from March 20 – April 15, 2018, with the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on Saturday, April 14, 2018. 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 2017 events and programs include:
- Thursday, March 15, 2018: Pink Tie Party fundraiser at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (click here for tickets)
- Saturday, March 24, 2018: SAAM Cherry Blossom Celebration at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
- Sunday, March 25, 2018: Opening Ceremony at the Warner Theatre (new date)
- Saturday, March 31, 2018: Blossom Kite Festival on the Washington Monument grounds
- Saturday, April 7, 2018: Petalpalooza at the Wharf
- Saturday, April 14, 2018: National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade along Constitution Avenue (click here for tickets)
- Saturday, April 14, 2018: Sakura Matsuri—Japanese Street Festival on Pennsylvania Avenue (click here for tickets)
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.