If you’re near the nation’s capital this spring, take advantage of the blooming pink and white cherry blossom trees sparking festivals, pop-up bars and Japanese inspired fare during the month-long National Cherry Blossom Festival, which lasts until April 16. During this time, the city welcomes more than 1.5 million people who enjoy diverse programming during this annual event that began in 1934 and happens every spring.
Visitors should be sure to visit the lushest locations for viewing the trees, the Tidal Basin—where the sea of pink blossoms provides beautiful photo opportunities around the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial—and along the shoreline of East Potomac Park, extending all the way to Hains Point. And, just a train ride away is the new Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, perched on Baltimore’s historic Recreation Pier in the center of the vibrant waterfront Fell’s Point neighborhood.
The Festival, which celebrates the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries, commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. In a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.
Over the years, gifts have been exchanged between the two countries and in 1981, the cycle of giving came full circle when Japanese horticulturists were given cuttings from the trees to replace some cherry trees in Japan which had been destroyed in a flood.
Since First Lady Taft’s involvement, the nation’s first ladies have been proponents of the Festival. All first ladies in recent years have served as Honorary Chair, many participating as well. In 1999, First Lady Hillary Clinton took part in a tree planting ceremony. In 2001, First Lady Laura Bush greeted guests with remarks at the Opening Ceremony. Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama was involved in 2012 as well, planting a cherry tree in West Potomac Park among dignitaries and guests.
• The Cherry Blossom PUB (which stands for pop-up bar) is now open in two locations, thanks to Drink Company—which runs four bars in the area. A pair of the company’s spaces in DC’s Shaw neighborhood, Southern Efficiency and Mockingbird Hill, have been transformed into Japanese-inspired watering holes with menus to match.
• April 1 on the grounds of the Washington Monument from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. is the seventh annual Blossom Kite Festival, showcasing the creativity of kite makers and their skillful fliers from across the US and other countries through a variety of competitions and demonstrations. Bring your own kites or children can make a kite at an activity station (while supplies last) to fly on the Public Field.
• On April 8, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade runs for 10 blocks along iconic Constitution Avenue from the National Archives to the Washington Monument from 10 a.m. to noon. One of DC’s largest spectator events, the energy-filled parade fills the streets with giant colorful helium balloons, elaborate floats, marching bands from across the country, celebrity entertainers, and performers.
• As part of the Festival, through April 9, there are free daily live performances around D.C.’s Tidal Basin.
• On April 15, fireworks will be going off most of the evening at District Wharf and on Water Street Titanic Memorial in Waterfront Park. From 2 p.m. on there will be live music, a beer garden, food trucks, all ages hands-on activities, and more.
For more information: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org