The National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off today in Washington D.C., running through April 12, 2015. You already know you’ll witness the spring blossoms of hundreds of cherry trees, but what exactly takes place during the 24-day festival? Here’s a guide to all you’ll need to know when you visit Washintgon D.C..
Why Do We Celebrate the Blooming of Cherry Blossoms?
Washington D.C. received 3,000 cherry trees as a gift from Japan in 1912. The annual celebration celebrates the friendship between the nations and serves as a symbol of the arrival of spring.
Where Are the Cherry Blossoms?
Cherry blossom trees line Washington’s Tidal Basin and the waterway paths of East and West Potomac Park. One of the most beautiful walks follows the Tidal Basin from the welcome center to the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to the Roosevelt Memorial, and continues across a bridge to the Jefferson Memorial. A longer path follows the Washington Channel and Potomac River and encompasses the entire East Potomac Park. One of the best ways to enjoy the blossoms and the Tidal Basin is on paddleboats, which are $15 per hour for two people and $24 per hour for four people.
When Will the Blossoms Peak?
Because of this year’s harsh weather, the blossoms are expected to come late this year. Typically, the average peak bloom date is April 4. This year, the National Park Service is predicting April 11 to 14 for the peak bloom, during the festival’s final weekend. The National Park Service offers a Blossom Cam to keep watch over the blossoms.
What Are the Key Events?
While events begin today, the annual event officially kicks off with an opening ceremony tomorrow, Saturday March 21. Performers from Japan and other areas of the world descend upon Warner Theatre for a special evening performance.
Next Saturday, March 28, the annual Blossom Kite Festival takes place on the National Mall near the Washington Monument. The event includes kite flying demonstrations, competitions, tricks and a family Open Fly from 3 to 4:30 p.m.
On Saturday, April 4, the Waterfront Fireworks Festival is an eight-hour celebration at the Southwest Waterfront. Throughout the day, live music, cultural events, family-friendly activities and food tents are available before the fireworks finale at 8:30 p.m.
During the final weekend, visitors flock to the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, taking place on Saturday, April 11. From 10 a.m. to noon, the parade extends 10 blocks down Constitution Avenue with marching bands, dancers, floats, balloons and elaborate costumes. Grandstand seating is available between 15th and 17th Streets.
For a full list of events, visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival website.
How Do We Get Around During the Festival?
The festival attracts millions of visitors from around the world, especially on the weekends. You can arrive in D.C. by plane, train or automobile. When visiting Washington D.C., parking will be extremely tight and it’s best to use public transportation. The Metro is D.C.’s subway system and it’s clean, easy to use and offers a main stop at the National Mall. Consider a One-Day Metro Pass ($14.50) if you are planning to bop around for a full day. Water taxis are also a great way to reach the Tidal Basin, especially if you choose to stay in nearby Arlington or Alexandria, Virginia, just over the Potomac River.
Where Should We Stay?
Check out Family Vacation Critic’s list of family-friendly hotels in Washington D.C. The list has been curated to only include top-reviewed properties that families love, so no matter which you choose, you’ll feel comfortable staying with kids.
– Lissa Poirot