5 Special Ways to Enjoy the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC
Opening Day for the Nationals.
Paddling on the Potomac.
Officially packing your puffy coat away in the back of the closet (for real this time!).
Many things signify the start of spring in Washington, DC. But nothing does it so well --- or so famously --- as the annual blooming of the cherry blossoms. The tradition stems from a 1912 gift of over 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo. The first trees were planted on the north bank of the Tidal Basin by First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, on March 27, 1912. Since then, we’ve commemorated the occasion in a variety of ways. From special sweet treats to the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade®, the entire city becomes entranced by those beautiful blooms.
With so many ways to celebrate, it’s tough to decide where to start. Get your family into the spirit of springtime with these 5 unique tips.
Step outside of the Tidal Basin
The Tidal Basin is the most well-known location for strolling along and enjoying the cherry blossoms. However, they do grow in multiple National Park Service locations, so why not try out a new view? In addition the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, the trees can also be enjoyed in East Potomac Park at Hains Point, and on the Washington Monument grounds.
Up for a scavenger hunt? Visit the National Arboretum and keep an eye out for the Okami cherry tree. It blooms early in the season and can be identified by its flowers completely saturated in a rich pink.
Don’t stress about the peak bloom date
On average, the cherry trees bloom around April 4th, but Mother Nature is notorious for sidestepping her seasonal responsibilities to do whatever she wants whenever she feels like it. The National Park Service horticulturists can’t even make an accurate prediction more than 10 days prior to the peak bloom date, so don’t sweat it if you don’t schedule your visit right on the nose.
This year, the predicted peak bloom of the cherry blossoms is March 27 – March 31. You’re sure to see something beautiful if you hover your visit around these dates.
If you’re hoping to avoid the crowds, the least busy time to visit the cherry blossoms is in the early morning or early evening.
Show yourself off
This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade® will take place on Saturday, April 4th, and always draws a major crowd. Why not steal your share of the spotlight?
Your child’s youth choir can take part in performing with hundreds of vocalists on the steps of the National Archives as well as in special performance that will be broadcast on TV. The dancers in your family can leap and twirl with hundreds of others in front of the National Archives, dance and wave their way down Constitution Avenue, and perform once more near the White House.
Sure, the cherry blossoms are the stars of the show, but we bet they’re willing to make room on nature’s stage for you.
Put some petals on your palate
If you thought you were the only one psyched about cherry blossom season, you need to pay a visit to some area restaurants who share your enthusiasm for all things pink. Select restaurants participate in the Cherry Picks program, featuring cherry blossom- and spring-inspired food and beverages on their menus and in their decorations.
Enjoy a cherry-themed breakfast at Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken. Their Cherry Blossom Doughnut displays a deliciously tart cherry jam inside with a beautiful cherry blossom design on top. It’s almost too gorgeous to eat. Almost. At the Cherry Blossom Pop-Up Bar, you'll find one room completely covered in faux blooms and paper cranes. In the other, you can view a street scene from 1950s Tokyo, complete with an homage to Godzilla. Of course, a themed cocktail is in order, and you can’t go wrong with either the Calpico Fizz (vodka, blanc vermouth, strawberry grenadine, Calpico, and sparkling water) or Cherry Blossom G&T (Tanqueray and cherry blossom tonic).
And FYI: Cherry blossom petals are edible. They can be salted and added to cookies, cakes, and jellies, pickled and used as a garnish, or brewed into traditional Japanese sakura tea. That being said, please do not scavenge for ingredients by climbing the trees or picking branches during your visit.
Take advantage of other DC specialties
You’ve already trekked into the city from the suburbs, so you might as well make the most of your time spent on 66.
The Smithsonian’s Air and Space and Natural History Museums are classic choices, but might be just as crowded as the Tidal Basin itself. Check out newer exhibits, like the Obamas' official portraits at the National Portrait Gallery (on display 11:30 am-7 pm every day). You can also interact with Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s “The Utopian Projects” exhibit at the Hirshhorn, where the lights, sounds, and motion models are activated by your presence.
Should it be a little too chilly or rainy during your visit, these are great options that still make the most of the day.
Whether you take the traditional approach to viewing the pretty petals with a river cruise, a guided tour, or simply alone on foot, or opt for one of the more out-of-the-box activities above, there’s simply no better way to welcome spring than with a visit to the cherry blossoms. Cue up your photo ops and get ready to see the City in Bloom!
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