Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. We’ve “sprung forward” (in the U.S.), giving us an extra hour of daylight, and the temperature is (usually) mild. It also means its time for one of my favorite annual events: the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Even though I’ve been a DC area resident practically my entire life, I still go see them every Spring.
If you live in the DMV (DC/MD/VA) area, you’ve probably seen the cherry blossoms at least once and experienced their visual beauty, their scent, and all that they represent.
If you’re not an area resident (or you are but somehow still haven’t seen them), you probably don’t know much about them.
= FAQs: THE NATIONAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL =
Where did DC’s cherry blossom trees come from?
The mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gave 3,000 cherry trees to Washington, DC as a gift in 1912. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival honors this gift and the long lasting friendship between Japan and the United States.
When did DC start holding a Cherry Blossom Festival?
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been taking place every year since Japan gifted the trees to the U.S., making this the 106th anniversary of this popular annual event. Amazing!
How long does the National Cherry Blossom Festival last?
The festival typically runs for about 30 days. The 2018 Cherry Blossom Festival runs from March 20th – April 15th.
When will the cherry blossoms be at full bloom?
Figuring out when the cherry blossoms will be at full bloom can be difficult since there are a lot of factors to consider, but there are some resources you can refer to.
- To find out the estimated peak bloom date, click here.
- To get a visual of the current status of the cherry blossoms, check out the Cherry Blossom Cam.
What’s the best way to get downtown this year?
The best option is the Metro train. Get off at the Smithsonian stop on the ORANGE, BLUE, or SILVER lines. This will put you in a central location which is just a short walk to The National Mall, the Washington Monument, and the Tidal Basin,
Driving is an option, but I would advise against it (especially on the day of the parade since many roads are closed). If you decide to drive anyway, you can search for and reserve parking in advance by using Parking Panda. This can save you a LOT of time driving around, giving you more time to enjoy the cherry blossoms.
What’s the best way to get around once I’m downtown?
There are several ways to get around DC:
- On Foot
- By Bike – Your own or Capital Bikeshares
- By Subway – Metro
- By Bus – Hop On/Hop Off bus
- Other Transportation Options (Cab/Ridesharing – Uber/Lyft)
I prefer to walk if I can so I can combine my sightseeing with exercise. Plus, its easier to make your way through a crowd on foot than on a bike. Of course, you can decide what works best for you.
What’s there to do during the Cherry Blossom Festival?
There’s something for everyone! Many events are free, some require tickets.
- Opening ceremony (March 24th) at the Warner Theater
- Blossom Kite Festival (March 31st) around the grounds of the Washington Monument (17th Street NW & Constitution Avenue) – Check out the variety of colorful kites that are flown as part of the competition or just for fun!
- National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (April 14th) – Arrive early to get a good spot along the parade route (Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th streets, NW) and enjoy the lavish floats, giant helium balloons, marching bands, and family entertainment
- Additional events
- Cherry Blossoms (located along The Mall, the Tidal Basin, and Hains Point) – Take a leisurely walk around and enjoy the gorgeous blossoms, people-watching, and picture taking (my favorite activity!)
Is there anything I shouldn’t miss while I’m down there?
There are a lot of great things to do and see around The Mall and Tidal Basin, all within walking distance (see the map above for locations). If you have time, be sure to check out one or more of the following sites:
Are restrooms available during the National Cherry Blossom Festival?
Yes, there are restrooms in several locations including near the Washington Monument and by the Tidal Basin (Port-A-Johns). The map above shows all of the restroom locations.
= PHOTOS FROM PAST CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVALS =
= A FEW SUGGESTIONS FOR BEFORE YOU GO =
- Dress appropriately. Comfortable shoes are a must, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Be sure to check the weather the night before or day of your visit, as forecasts can change.
- Bring your own food. There are plenty of food trucks around the area, but they can be expensive, especially if you are feeding several people.
- I like to bring a few bottles of water and some fruit or other snacks so I can save money (and to make sure I can eat healthy on-the-go).
- If you want to buy food from a food truck, be sure to have cash on hand as many of them do not accept credit cards.
- Time your visit. If you want to avoid crowds, the best time to go is during the week, especially in the early morning or late evening. Weekends are really crowded, especially on the day of the parade.
- Be patient. If you go during a peak time, you’ll have to wait in lines for food (unless you bring your own), restrooms, the metro, etc. Don’t let impatience ruin your trip.
- Enjoy yourself! Try to live in the moment and enjoy the experience.
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