Delicate petals of pink and white softly blanket your view in every direction. The Tidal Basin, covered with cherry blossoms, is awash in color for a week or two each spring. Calculating the exact bloom time is a little bit science and a little bit luck. Typically they bloom between the last week of March and the first week of April, but that has everything to do with the weather.
In 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gifted the city of Washington, D.C., 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees. These trees, with their spectacular blooms, are celebrated with the Cherry Blossom Festival held each spring.
This year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival begins March 20 and ends April 12, 2020, offering many outstanding events. Pack your pink outfits now!
1. Support The Kickoff Party
The Pink Tie Party on March 20, 2020, is the premier spring event, kicking off the season with a big formal bash. Held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the Pink Tie Party is an evening filled with cuisine samples from local establishments, great music, and a silent auction. This event is really all about the clothes. Guests are draped in pink, over-the-top creations and when viewed from the balcony are reminiscent of the cherry blossoms themselves.
The proceeds from the event support the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
2. Go Fly A Kite
The Blossom Kite Festival is scheduled for March 28, 2020, on the grounds of the Washington Monument from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Watch kite flyers show off their skills during the competitions and demonstrations.
There are two competition fields, one for adults and one for children under 16 years old. The competitions are open to anyone and are free. You do have to register for the adult competition and kites must be homemade, reflect the stated theme, and be flown by the maker. Youth competitions are family friendly with practical tips and advice offered from kite experts.
Demonstrations from experienced flyers include kite ballet, trick kite flying, and a masters rokkaku battle, meaning you can have a wonderful time spectating even if you decide not to fly a kite.
3. Watch The Parade On Constitution Avenue
The highlight of the season is the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 4, 2020. Choose your spot on Constitution Avenue between 9th and 15th Streets NW early. The parade runs from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and is free (grandstand seats are $20). Children of all ages will enjoy the fun helium balloons, floats, entertainers, and marching bands as they thrill onlookers.
This is a huge event and parking can be difficult. It is best to take the Metro if you are not within walking distance of the parade route.
4. Join The Petalpalooza Fun
The National Cherry Blossom Festival Petalpalooza on April 11, 2020, will be a full day of music and festivities. The free event runs from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Yards in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. Featuring multiple stages with live music, a beer garden, and numerous activities, Petalpalooza ends with a musically inspired fireworks display celebrating all things pink!
5. Book A Tour
To educate yourself on the history of the cherry trees and surrounding D.C. area, book a cherry blossom tour.
A different and unique perspective on viewing the trees is the Cherry Blossom Festival Dining Cruise. Dinner, dancing, and delightful views await you as you cruise the Potomac, or you can opt for a brunch or plated-lunch cruise. Dates for the cruise are March 20 through April 13, 2020. Cruising the Potomac River in the glass-enclosed boat will allow you to have a sweeping view of the beautiful trees.
If you like to ride, getting around D.C. on a bike is a great way to see the city up close in a short period of time. This Cherry Blossom Bike Tour takes you through the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park, where you can admire the exquisite blooms up close. This tour is available March 23 through April 14, 2020.
A walking tour is a more traditional way to view the beautiful blossoms, and this one takes you through the Tidal Basin and the Martin Luther King, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson memorials.
6. Enjoy Two Chances For Cherry Blooms
Did you know there are two cherry blooms in Washington, D.C.?
The Yoshino cherry trees bloom first. They line the Tidal Basin and are the main event during the Cherry Blossom Festival.
About two weeks after the Yoshinos bloom, the Kwanzan cherry trees bloom. You can find these lovely, dark pink blooms scattered throughout the city. There is a large cluster of the Kwanzan cherry trees in East Potomac Park. They are a more common cherry tree, and you will spot them frequently when you are in the D.C. area.
7. Use The Cherry Blossom Watch Website
The Cherry Blossom Watch website posts detailed information regarding the impending blooming time of the Yoshino cherry blossoms. Check the website daily around the end of March to get a sense of what’s happening with the blossoms.
8. Visit During The Week
When the cherry trees are blooming, the already crowded National Mall is jam-packed with locals and tourists. Planning to visit during a weekday will help you avoid the heavier weekend crowds. Also, schedule your visit for early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or early in the evening when the throngs are elsewhere.
9. Where To Get The Best Photos
There are many places to take great photos of the cherry blossoms. A stroll down the banks of the Tidal Basin is the perfect spot for an up-close, artistic shot.
Of course, the stone Japanese lantern in West Potomac Park adjacent to the Tidal Basin is the quintessential spot for a shot with the gorgeous blooms.
The National Arboretum is a stop most visitors don’t think about since it is in Northeast D.C. The arboretum offers a quieter place to view the cherry blossoms, affording more photographic control. Home to many different varieties of cherry trees, the National Arboretum has an extended bloom window.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Roman Catholic church in North America, is another great place to spot cherry blossoms. Located away from the National Mall, it draws smaller crowds. If you are looking for that photo without random people in it, this might be the place for you. Additionally, the beautiful basilica offers a dramatic stone backdrop when juxtaposed against the delicate blossoms.
10. Choose Accommodations Close To The Mall
Staying close to the National Mall may be more expensive, but it will alleviate the necessity to drive and park in the heavy D.C. traffic.
Local hotels fill up quickly, and you need to make an educated guess to reserve ahead of time for cherry blossom season. If you want a room for the festival activities, you need to book early. You may want to consider a booking that is reschedulable or refundable as the date of the blooms get closer and you can nail down an optimum viewing time.
If you want to stay near the Tidal Basin, try the Mandarin Oriental. This five-star hotel is the perfect spot to access the Cherry Blossom Festival activities, and you can even get a room with a cherry blossom view. But book early -- it fills up quickly.
You can find several small Airbnb and Vbro apartments within walking distance of the National Mall. These however, may have less wiggle room for date changing during the Cherry Blossom Festival.
The Cherry Blossom Festival marks the passage of winter and the celebration of spring for Washington, D.C., locals and visitors. The parade of pink extends far beyond the blossoms as revelers try to outdo mother nature’s perfection. Pack your pink and get ready to party in D.C. style.