A Guide to Washington, D.C.'s Cherry Blossom Festival

by  Maryrose Mullen | Apr 2, 2013
Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C.
Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C. / BackyardProduction/iStock

The saying goes "April showers bring May flowers," but in Washington, D.C., it’s April that’s blossoming. Spring has sprung in our nation’s capital, and as warm weather and sunshine returns to the region, so too do the city’s famous cherry blossoms.

Now through April 14, locals and tourists gather hoping to get a glimpse of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival’s beautiful trees. The cherry blossoms scattered throughout the city were a gift to the United States from Japan over 100 years ago (in 1912), and symbolize the friendship between the two nations. But, unlike the enduring relationship between America and Japan, the cherry blossoms don’t stick around for long – the season only lasts a few weeks, if the weather cooperates. Peak bloom time for the trees is early April, and with forecasts predicting pleasant weather in the 50s and 60s this season, now is the ideal time to make the trip to D.C.

Obviously, the main draw of the festival is the flowers themselves, so taking a stroll around the Tidal Basin, through East Potomac Park, or exploring the grounds of the Washington Monument – where the trees are planted – is always a safe bet. For those who need a hand scoping out the most photogenic spots, there are a number of cherry blossom tour options. Since D.C. is one of the top 10 bike cities, it’s no surprise cycle enthusiasts can pedal through the petals with a Bike and Roll tour; maybe you’ll snag some prime shots from the road! DC The Blossoms! Tour is the official bus outing of the festival, while cruise tours such as The Odyssey offer unique views from the water.

As the Cherry Blossom Festival is a celebration of U.S./Japanese relations, now is a wonderful chance to learn more about Japanese culture and customs. (After all, you’ll need something else to do once you’ve seen your fair share of flowers after an entire day of strolling through the trees.) The 53rd annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival is on Saturday, April 13, and promises musical performances, martial arts demonstrations, art displays, and more than two dozen food vendors. The Freer|Sackler galleries (The Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art) will also present a number of Japanese-centric events and activities. Learn to make your own Japanese book, catch the anime marathon, or take a look at a number of Japanese art exhibits. Whatever your preference, Washington D.C. is sure to have fun in full bloom.

Will you be attending the festival this year? Have you been before? Tell us in the comments!

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