If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, you know exactly what to expect in these next two weeks. It may be the busiest time of the year here, when, after the calendar hits spring, one of the best sights in this entire country blooms.
Literally. Thousands upon thousands of trees around this city will flower and cherry blossoms will overtake the Tidal Basin and several other spots in town.
This year has proved tricky to predict the actual bloom, with our warmer than average winter followed by this recent cold front. Original forecasts had them flowering in late March, but right now, the prediction is that they will have peaked by April 4-6th, which doesn’t seem to have happened.
For those who are unfamiliar, the cherry blossoms planted throughout the District were a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo in 1912, a demonstration of the cooperation between the two national capitals. Ever since, they’ve been commemorated with an annual festival, and have become one of the most popular reasons to visit Washington, D.C.
Without a doubt, the best spot to catch the cherry blossoms is around the Tidal Basin. This inlet of the Potomac has by far the largest collection of trees, and the beautiful pinkish hues of the cherry blossoms dazzle against the brilliant white of Washington’s many monuments. A stroll around the Tidal Basin is a flat two miles, and along the way, you can catch such popular sites as the Jefferson, FDR and Martin Luther King Memorials.
If you are looking to avoid the crowds there, any good local knows that during a weekday is the best time to go, and the middle of the day is always the least crowded. Any other time, and especially this coming weekend, you’ll be certain to encounter lots of people.
The Tidal Basin, though, isn’t the only place these popular trees were planted around Washington. If you are interested in going off the beaten path, you can catch the cherry blossoms at Dumbarton Oaks, a research library in the northern part of Georgetown. Outside the building is a nearly 50-acre garden that has its own collection of cherry blossoms, and rarely collects the kind of crowds that inundate the National Mall. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children.
While this week is when the blossoms will be in their bright bloom, that doesn’t mean it is the end of the celebration. This upcoming weekend, is actually the highlight of the festivities, with the annual Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. On Saturday, April 13th, ten blocks of Constitution Avenue will close down as D.C.’s biggest parade this side of inauguration takes place. Dances, performers, and marching bands will all walk down D.C.’s main road.
The parade goes from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and takes place rain or shine. Grandstand seats are $20, but it is free for anyone wanting to watch along the parade route.
Much like the Tidal Basin, true locals know that if you want a real and less crowded experience, you should skip the parade. Instead, head to Sakura Matsuri, the Japanese Street Festival. It goes on the same day, from 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. There, you’ll see sights you won’t catch in any parade. Not only is there an overwhelming amount of authentic Japanese cuisine to try, there will be plenty of Kirin Ichiban and sake. To go alongside the drinks, there are over 4,000 performers scheduled to take the stage over the course of the day. From pop stars to dancers to martial arts experts, nearly every aspect of Japanese culture will being showcased and celebrated.
Best of all, tickets for Sakura Matsuri are only $5, which you can buy online in advance or pay at the entrance. And gives you another different, and inexpensive ways to enjoy the next two weeks.
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