In 1912, Japan donated cherry trees to Washington DC as a sign of unity. In the years since then, these have grown to be a landmark for the people of Washington DC and the United States. The first Cherry Blossom festival was in 1935 and has run annually since 1947. The festival runs 2 weeks and is full of events to keep everyone happy.
There are 3 main locations where the cherry blossom trees are located:
- Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park
- East Potomac Park (Hains Point)
- The Washington Monument grounds
For specifics on tree types, check the National Park Service map.
The festival itself runs March 26-April 10, 2011. Chief Horticulturist Rob DeFeo has predicted the best dates for blooms to be from March 29-April 3, 2011, right in the middle of the festival. Warmer weather might speed things up while cooler air might slow them down.
- March 26: Family Day 10 AM – 3:30 PM at the National Building Museum and Opening Day ceremonies at 4 PM
- March 27: Blossom Kite Festival 10 AM to 4 PM
- April 2: Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival from 1-8:30 PM, Fireworks 8:30-9:00 PM; Cherry Blast Dance Party 8 PM-1 AM
- April 3: 10K run at 7:40 AM; Nationals game at 1:35 PM; Lantern Lighting Ceremony from 3-5 PM
- April 9: Parade 10 AM to 12 PM; Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival 11 AM-6 PM; Petal Fest from 12-6 PM
- April 10: Family bike rally and ride 11 AM to 3 PM
- Tidal Basin Paddle Boat Rides: 10 AM -5 PM Daily; Get on board at 1501 Maine Avenue, SW; $12/hour for 2-passenger boat; $19/hour for 4-passenger boat
- Ranger-Led Cherry Talks: 11 AM, 1 PM, 3 PM, and 5 PM Daily; Meet at the Jefferson Memorial parking lot & Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial steps to the Tidal Basin; FREE
- Lantern Walks: March 26, 27, April 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, and 10 at 8 PM; Meet at the NPS Welcome Tent at the Tidal Basin Welcome Area; FREE
- River Cruises: Book through Entertainment Cruises or DC Cruises
- While you can drive and park in the city, I don’t really suggest it. The best option would be to take a metro train from your hotel or residence into the city. The festival is near these metro stops:
- Another option would be to stay in a hotel near the festival so you can walk to events. Remember, places will be crowded so keep the slower traffic to the right and let locals pass on the left.
Our tip: Stay at the Americana Hotel in Arlington. Not only do they offer superb service and great communication on their facebook and twitter pages, they’re offering a hotel discount for the cherry blossom festival. Click that link there, book 2+ nights, enter code CBF10 and you’ll save 10%. They’re right by the Crystal City Metro station as well so no need to fight traffic.
Many local restaurants teamed up with the festival to create Cherry Picks or menus and menu items inspired by cherries, the blossoms, or the festival. Inspired dishes include Cherries and Bourbon Cocktail, Cherry Cola BBQ Glazed Salmon with cheddar cheese grits, and Chicory Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with cherry and balsamic demi-glace. These will be popular so you’ll want to book a reservation ahead of time.
Want to enjoy the cherry blossoms but low on cash? See how we budgeted a DC trip for 4 for just $500.