The National Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the largest celebrations of the year in the United States. Heralding the arrival of spring, it celebrates the friendship between the peoples of Japan and the United States. It is held in Washington, DC. Most events are free.
Japan is rightfully famous for its cherry blossoms in spring, but the Land of the Rising Sun isn’t the only place in the world to enjoy cherry blossoms.
The US capital also puts on a pretty spectacular floral display of its own – thanks to the friendship and generosity of the Japanese people more than 100 years ago.
The Tidal Basin of Washington, DC – home to the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial – has 3,000 cherry trees, which were given the United States in 1912.
Development of Buds
Buds start to form in winter, erupting into an explosion of pink and white petals each spring, attracting visitors from across the nation and around the world.
Blooms are usually at the peak of their splendour on 4 April, but it is impossible to give an accurate forecast more than 10 days before blooming starts.
Just as the Japanese Meteorological Agency tracks the Cherry Blossom Front in Japan as it moves north, the U.S. National Park Service monitors the development of buds in five stages, giving periodic updates and forecasts.
The peak blooming period can vary wildly from year to year.
Blossoms have been known to reach their peak as early as 15 March and as late as 18 April! The peak blooming period starts when 20% of the blossoms have opened and continues until the petals have fallen off and leaves start appearing.
It can last as long as two weeks, but frost, unseasonably warm temperatures, strong winds, and/or rain can cut the blooming season short.
Best Spots to Take Selfies …
The best spots to view cherry blossoms – and, by extension, to take selfies – are along the shores of the Tidal Basin, which is where most of the city’s numerous national monuments and memorials are located.
The mall offers many cherry blossom viewing opportunities as well as countless opportunities for taking dramatic selfies!
107th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival
The 107th annual National Cherry Blossom Festival begins in Washington, DC, this year on Wednesday 20 March, the first day of spring, a.k.a. the Spring Equinox. It will run for three weeks over four weekends through 15 April. A full programme of events is planned.
Returning this year will be Blossoms and Baseball with the Washington Nationals on Wednesday 3 April.
Other highlights will include the North American debut of the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon at the Opening Ceremony on 23 March 23 and an inaugural picnic at Oxon Run Park in Ward 8, home to the largest grove of cherry blossom trees in DC outside of the Tidal Basin.
As always, the focus will be on gardens, green spaces, parks, and trees. Here is a short list of some of the key celebrations.
Schedule of Events
Admission to the followings events is free unless otherwise noted.
Pink Tie Party Fundraiser
Friday 22 March
Celebrate the blossoms in style at the Pink Tie Party Fundraiser, one of the biggest social events of the year! Wear your finest “Pink Tie” cocktail attire and enjoy a fabulous evening filled with delicious cuisine, cocktails, live music, dancing, and much more. At the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Tickets necessary.
Saturday 23 March
Welcome springtime to Washington, DC, and celebrate the anniversary of the gift of trees from Japan to the United States. There will be traditional and contemporary performances. At the historic Warner Theatre at 513 – 13th Street.
Blossom Kite Festival
Saturday 30 March
Kite flying demonstrations and competitions. At the Washington Monument grounds (Constitution Avenue and 17th Street).
Saturday 6 April.
A full day of live music on multiple stages, a beer garden, and various other activities, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display at 8.30 pm. At the Wharf.
National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Saturday 13 April
Giant colorful helium balloons, elaborate floats, marching bands, celebrity entertainers, and performers will march down Constitution Avenue at the most colourful spring time parade in the United States. Viewing along the parade route is free. Tickets are needed to sit in the grandstand. On Constitution Avenue between 9th and 15th streets.
Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival
Saturday 13 April
A lively street festival put on by the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C.
Anacostia River Festival
Sunday 14 April
A lively street festival produced at the 11th Street Bridge Park.
How to Get Around
If you are staying downtown, it is easy to get around on foot.
The DC Circulator links most the tourist attractions in central Washington. There are six routes …
- RS-DP: Dupont Circle — Rosslyn — Georgetown — Rosslyn
- GT-US: Georgetown — Union Station
- EM-LP: Eastern Market — L’Enfant Plaza
- WP-AM: Woodley Park — Adams Morgan — McPherson Square Metro
- CH-US: Congress Heights — Union Station
- NM: National Mall Route
Buses runs about every 10 minutes The fare is US$1 per ride.
Washington is also served by Metrorail, a rapid transit system, and an extensive bus network, with 325 routes.
You can also hail a cab or rent a bike.
Where to Stay in Washington, DC.
The following hotels are located within walking distance of most ofWashington’s most important tourist attractions.
Click on links for more information and rooms rates.
- Washington Marriott at Metro Center – a 13 minute walk of the Smithsonian Museum of American History on the National Mall.
- Holiday Inn Capitol – a one minute walk to the Smithsonian Air and Space on the National Mall.
- JW Marriott Washington, DC – an eight minute walk to the White House.
- Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington DC – a 12 minute walk to the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall.
- W Washington DC – a six minute walk to the White House.
- InterContinental The Willard Washington DC – a seven minute walk to the White House.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Washington – a 14 minute walk from the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall.
- Kimpton George Hotel – an 11 minute walk from the United States Capitol.
- Moxy Washington, DC Downtown – a 14 minute walk from the White House.
- The St. Regis Washington, DC – a five minute walk to the White House.
Where to Stay in Alexandria
The following hotel is located across the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia.
- Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel – across from Arlington Cemetery, offers a free shuttle to and from Ronald Reagan National Airport.
Root for the Washington Nationals!
If baseball is the national pastime, what better way to pass the time than root for the Nationals in the Nation’s Capital?
And what better time root for the Nationals than in early spring, when the skies are clear and the temps are mild?
Washington, DC, is home of the Washington Nationals, a professional men’s baseball team.
The team competes in the National League East of Major League Baseball (MLB).
The Nationals plays home games at Nationals Park in Southeastern Washington in an area called Capital Riverfront, a mixed use development next to the Naval Yard.
- Monday 25 March – 5.05 pm – exhibition game vs. New York Yankees.
- Thursday 28 March – home opener against the New York Mets.
- Saturday 30 March – National vs. New York Mets.
- Sunday 31 March – Nationals vs. New York Mets.
- Tuesday 2 April – Patriotic Series vs. Philadelphia
- Wednesday 3 April – Blossoms and Baseball vs. Philadephia
- Friday 12 April – Juan Soto Bobblehead day vs. Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Saturday 13 April – Foundation Day vs. Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Sunday 14 April – Nationals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Tuesay 16 April – Nationals Jackie Robinson and Black Heritage vs. San Francisco Giants.
- Wednesday 17 April – Nationals vs. San Francisco Giants.
- Thursday 18 April – National vs. San Francisco Giants.
- Friday 26 April – fireworks Friday vs. San Diego Padres.
- Saturday 27 April – National vs. San Diego Padres.
- Sunday 28 April – kids watch vs. San Diego Padres.
- Monday 29 April – Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
- Tuesday 30 April – Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals.
- Wednesday 1 May – Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
- Thursday 2 May – Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals.
- Tuesday 14 May – Nationals vs. New York Mets
- Wednesday 15 May – Nationals vs. New York Mets.
- Thursday 16 May – Nationals vs. New York Mets.
- Friday 17 May – Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs.
- Saturday 18 May – Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs.
- Sunday 19 May – Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs.
- Friday 24 May – Nationals vs. Miami Marlins.
- Saturday 15 May – Nationals vs. Miami Marlins.
- Sunday 26 May – Nationals vs. Miami Marlins.
- Monday 27 May – Nationals vs. Miami Marlins
All home baseball games are played at Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
Where to Stay
The following hotel is a short walk from the ballpark.
- Courtyard Washington Capitol Hill/Navy Yard – an eight minute walk from Nationals Park.
Don’t Forget the Washington Wizards!
Just as spring signals the beginning of baseball season in the United States, it signifies the culmination of basketball season.
- Sunday 3 March – Wizards vs. Minnesota Timberwolves.
- Wednesday – 6 March – Wizards vs. Dallas Mavericks.
- Monday – 11 March – Wizards vs. Sacramento Kings.
- Wednesday 13 March – Wizards vs. Orlando Magic.
- Friday 15 March – Wizards vs. Charlotte Hornets.
- Saturday 16 March – Wizards vs. Memphis Grizzles.
- Monday 18 March – Wizards vs. Utah Jazz.
- Thursday 21 March – Wizards vs. Denver Nuggets
- Saturday 23 March – Wizards vs. Miami Heat
- Wednesday 3 April – Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls.
- Friday 5 April – Wizards vs. San Antonio Spurs.
- Tuesday 9 April – Wizards vs. Boston Celtics.
The regular season for the Wizards will end on 9 April. If they make it to the NBA Playoffs, however, play will commence on 14 April.
The Washington Wizards play home games at Capital One Arena.
Where to Stay
The following hotel is located a short walk from the arena
- Fairfield Inn & Suites Washington, DC/Downtown – a five minute walk to Capitol One Arena.
What’s Up in May …
If Washington has a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), it is that almost all of the city’s museums, monuments, and memorials don’t charge admission.
A public tour of the White House is free of charge, but it must be submitted through a member of Congress. Foreign visitors should contact their embassy.
Requests should be made 21 days to three months in advance.
Visits to the Capitol are also free of charge, and open to both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.
Advance reservations are advised, but not mandatory. They can be made on line up to 90 days in advance.
Same day passes are available, but during spring, summer, and some holidays passes might be limited.
Special this May …
1 to 31 May
Passport DC is a month-long celebration of international cultures. As the nation’s capital, Washington is home to more than 170 embassies, and many of them will throw open their doors o visitors on the first two Saturdays of May.
DC Bike Ride
Saturday 18 May
Ride along through Washington along 20 miles of car-free streets on DC Bike Ride, which takes place on Saturday 18 May.
Washington is situated within the northernmost reaches of the subtropics, with a humid climate.
Winters can be chilly with occasional snow, and summers are hot and humid.
March to May, however, is considered one of the best times of the year to visit Washington, with temperatures warming to comfortable levels.
- March – average high of 56 degrees Fahrenheit, with an average low of 35 degrees and six days of rain;
- April – average high of 67 degree Fahrenheit, with an average low of 44 degrees and eight days of rain;
- May – average high of 76 degrees Fahrenheit, with an average low 54 degrees and nine days of rain.
How to Get There …
Unless you’re planning to drive, most visitors to Washington go by either plane or train.
By Plane …
Three airports serve the Washington/Baltimore metropolitan area.
- Ronald Reagan National Airport – closest to Downtown Washington, DCA is the smallest of the three, but it is also the most convenient. It is served by eight airlines with flights to more than 90 domestic destinations and three cities in Canada: Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto.
- Washington Dulles International Airport – located 26 miles south of DC, Dulles is by far the largest airport. Served by 40 airlines, the facility has flights to nearly 140 domestic and international destinations.
- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport – located 32 miles to the north of DC, BWI offers flights to more than 90 domestic and international destinations.
By Train …
Amtrak serves Washington with approximately 85 trains a day, mostly operating along the Northeast Corridor.
Trains run from Washington to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston, making intermediate stops.
This spring travel guide to Washington, DC, contains affiliate links.