Washington, DC is a great family destination, blooming with history and culture. The city is always beautiful, but it’s never so beautiful as it is in early spring when the cherry trees are in full bloom. For over 100 years the cherry blossoms have made springtime magical in Washington, DC.
2019 National Cherry Blossom Festival –
March 20th– April 13th
The History of the Cherry Blossom Festival
In 1912, the people of Japan sent 3,020 cherry trees to the United States as a gift of enduring friendship. First Lady Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two cherry trees on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin. These two original trees are still standing today. Workmen planted the remainder of the trees around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park.
The Cherry Blossom Festival Today
Each year in celebration of this event, the nation’s capital hosts the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Today’s National Cherry Blossom Festival has grown into the nation’s greatest springtime celebration. It spans four weekends and welcomes more than 1.5 million people. Over the years, millions have participated in the annual event that heralds spring in the nation’s capital. Cherry trees – both in Japan and the U.S. – have always symbolized birth and renewal.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival includes more than 200 special events and performances each year. The festival brings people together to participate in a wide range of activities, celebrating the season and Japanese culture. During the weeks of the festival, activities that promote the arts and culture, community spirit and education are featured. Many of these (like most of Washington’s museums) are free and open to the public.
Here are the highlights of the most popular events:
Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony includes a variety of live entertainment. FREE; Advance ticketing required. There will be a $5 registration fee when tickets are claimed. Based on capacity, a limited number of walk-ins will be allowed beginning at 4:45 p.m. on the day of the event.
Date: March 23, 2019.
Time: 5 – 6:30 p.m.
Location: Warner Theatre, 513 13th Street NW
Blossom Kite Festival
Celebrating 50 years of kite flying on the National Mall! Kite flying competition, special demonstrations and kite making for children.
Date: March 30, 2019
Time: 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Location: National Mall – Constitution Avenue & 17th Streets, NW
Petalpalooza will feature live music on multiple outdoor stages, a beer garden, all-ages activities, product giveaways, a spectacular fireworks show by Pyrotecnico, and much more along the piers of the Southwest Waterfront. Take in the half-mile-long stretch of The Wharf’s shops and restaurants as the National Cherry Blossom Festival transforms the waterfront community into a one-day-only springtime spectacle!
Date: April 6, 2019
Entertainment begins at 12 p.m.
Fireworks Time: 8:30 p.m.
Location: 600 Water Street, SW Southwest Waterfront
2019 Parade of the National Cherry Blossom Festival
Enjoy this long-standing Washington tradition featuring lavish floats, dance troops, giant helium balloons, marching bands, and family entertainment, and special celebrity guests.
Date: April 13th, 2018
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Location: Constitution Avenue, NW from 7th to 17th Streets
For more information on these events, check out the event page.
When will the first cherry blossom blooms show?
There’s no real way of predicting when the blooming period will begin. The officials running the National Cherry Blossom Festival try their best to make the events coincide with the blooming of the trees. Their dates are usually right, which means you can expect to see those delicate white blooms between March 20 and April 13 this year. And even if nature is not cooperating, there will be plenty of things to do to keep you busy and engaged during the festival!
Things to do during the Cherry Blossom Festival:
• Walk and Picnic – Enjoy the breathtaking views and be sure to take the opportunity to take some great photos. The best time to walk around and avoid the crowds is early morning. The East side of the Tidal Basin (between the National Mall and the Jefferson Memorial) tends to get the most congested. There are lots of places to picnic so bring your own lunch.
• Paddle Boating – Rent a paddle boat for 2 to 4 passengers and enjoy the views of the Jefferson Memorial and Japanese Cherry Trees from the water. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Advanced reservations are recommended as this is a busy time of year.
• Free Cherry Blossom Walking Tours – Take a free tour with a National Park Service Ranger and learn about the history of the cherry blossom trees and more. Tours available are Cherry Talks/Walks, Junior Ranger Programs, and Lantern Tours.
• Cherry Blossom Cruises – Enjoy spectacular views of the cherry blossoms from a boat cruise. Excursions range from a 45-minute sightseeing tour to a 2.5 hour dinner cruise.
• Blossoms by Bike Tour – Take a two-hour ride specifically designed for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Ride past Potomac Park, the Jefferson Memorial, Hains Point, Japanese lantern, and more.
• Visit the Jefferson Memorial – This is the most beautiful time of year to see the Jefferson Memorial and it’s free. Learn about the life and contributions of our third president and writer of the Declaration of Independence.
• Guided City Tours – See Washington DC’s top sights on a guided trolley tour, walking tour, by Segway, by DC Duck and more.
• Enjoy a special meal at one of Washington’s Cherry Picks – Restaurants around Washington, DC add cherries to many of their recipes during the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Washington, DC is a great place to explore with kids. Whether you live in the area or are visiting from out of town, a visit during cherry blossom time is magical.
Another great Springtime event for families is the annual Easter Egg Roll. Find out how to get your ticket here.