There are two seasons in D.C. that people are always aware of. Coincidentally, they always collide. And while tax season leaves people scrambling, the blooming of the cherry blossoms provides a much more serene experience.
The cherry blossoms are a Washington institution, much like Congress or traffic. You can’t think of this city without thinking of these beautiful early flowering trees.
Given to the United States as a gift from Japan in 1912, the cherry blossoms’ peak season, when they are in full splendor, almost always comes in late March/early April. This year, they are almost ready to hit their peak, which should come during the middle of next week.
There are two ways to experience the cherry blossoms: on your own, or with the crowds during the numerous events that take place as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
To avoid the crowds, try taking in the trees on a weekday after work. With Daylight’s Saving Time’s extra hour of light, the sun stays up until well past seven, giving you plenty of time to wander.
Though there are trees throughout the city, the best and most well known collection of blossoms are around the Tidal Basin, the 107-acre reservoir in Southwest D.C.
For those that have never been for a walk around the Tidal Basin, it is one of the most calming spots in the city. The trees naturally grow toward the water, and their gnarled and knotty branches constantly overhang the path, making walkers duck and dodge to avoid the limbs.
Additionally, the Tidal Basin is home to a great number of monuments that are often ignored. In the nearly two-mile stroll around the water, you will pass by the massive Thomas Jefferson memorial, with its giant Ionic columns; the low-slung FDR memorial, with its sandstone walls and tumbling waterfalls; and the soon to be completed MLK memorial, that while still under construction, looks majestic.
If a weekday evening trip isn’t to your liking, or if you would like to visit the city when it is fully hustling and bustling, then this Saturday is perfect for a trip to see the trees. Saturday is the celebration’s opening festival, National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day, a kickoff party at the National Building Museum at 4th and F. It’s free to attend, and goes on both inside and outside the museum, featuring an array of dancers and performers from around the world. Be careful heading into the city this weekend, though, because along with the festival is the National Marathon, which will feature numerous street closures and clogged routes.
Two weeks from this Saturday is the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, the biggest event associated with the blooming. On April 9th, the parade will kick off at 10 a.m., beginning at the corner of 7th and Constitution, and will travel ten blocks, to 17th Street. The parade features massive floats, marching bands and performers. It is a spectacle that rivals the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as one of the best in the nation. Grandstand seats cost $17 a person this year, but if you’ve never attended, you’ll want to, because it’s something that everyone who lives in this city should see in person at least once.
Just don’t forget to do your taxes before you head out — they are due only six days later!
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