7 Ways to Enjoy the National Cherry Blossom Festival
2019 National Cherry Blossom Festival Dates are March 20 – April 14.
Washington, D.C. welcomes the arrival of spring with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a tradition that showcases the beautiful gift of 3,000 cherry trees that the city of Tokyo gave to our nation’s capital in 1912. The annual multi-week, city-wide event features more than 200 international cultural performances and more than 90 other special events. From arts and exhibits to cuisine and sports, there is something for everyone to enjoy!
The blossoming cherry trees symbolize the arrival of spring and brighten the area surrounding the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin with their vibrant pale pink and white flowers. The National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off the busy tourist season in Washington, D.C. and includes many special activities near the monuments and the museums on the National Mall.
If you are visiting from out of town, it is a good idea to make hotel reservations as early as possible. This Guide to Washington, D.C. Hotels provides advice on places to stay.
Getting to the Cherry Blossom Festival
Getting around the city during this popular event can be challenging, especially on the weekends. Parking is limited in the city, so the best way to get to the Tidal Basin and the National Mall is by public transportation. For tips on getting to the cherry blossoms and festival events, see a Cherry Blossom Festival Transportation Guide.
Cherry Blossom season is Washington, D.C.’s most beautiful time of year and there are plenty of things to do to enjoy the season.
Explore the Cherry Trees Around the Tidal Basin
The cherry trees on the Tidal Basin are the main attraction during Washington, D.C.'s National Cherry Blossom Festival. Take a stroll along the Basin and enjoy the breathtaking views of the trees and the city's most iconic landmarks. Be sure to take the opportunity to sharpen your photography skills so you can 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.
Visit the Memorials on the Tidal Basin
Cherry Blossom season is the most beautiful time of year to see the Memorials on the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The Jefferson Memorial sits at a prime spot on the Basin. Learn about the life and contributions of our third president and writer of the Declaration of Independence. Sit on the steps of the Memorial and you will see some great views of the National Mall. You can even see a view of the White House if you look directly ahead.
Take a walk over to the FDR Memorial and you will include the park-like atmosphere with its waterfalls and bronze statues that honor President Roosevelt. Follow the Tidal Basin around further and you will come across the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Be sure to read some of the quotes and honor the contributions of America’s most recognized Civil Rights leader. All of the memorials have National Park Service programs that provide insight and history about the historic sites.
Go Paddle Boating on The Tidal Basin
You can rent a paddle boat for 2 to 4 passengers and enjoy spectacular views of the cherry trees and the monuments from the water. Advanced reservations are recommended during the National Cherry Blossom Festival as this is a busy time of year. This is a fun activity for all ages and a good way to entertain kids while attending the festival.
Take a Guided Sightseeing Tour
During the National Cherry Blossom Festival, guided tours are very popular so it is a good idea to plan ahead and book your tour in advance. You can enjoy a wide range of excursions.
- Guided City Tours - See Washington, D.C.'s top sights on a guided trolley tour, walking tour, by bicycle, by Segway, by DC Duck and more. Learn about the best sightseeing tours in the nation's capital.
- 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.
Try Some Cherry-Infused Food and Drink
Enjoy a special meal at one of Washington's Cherry Picks restaurant program. Restaurants around Washington, DC add cherries to many of their recipes during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in everything from entrees to cocktails and desserts. Past dishes have included brie and prosciutto crostini with cherry chutney, Atlantic salmon couscous pistachio, and dried cherries, spiced pearl onion, lemon and cilantro relish, pork belly confit with cherry sauce or sherry cherry crispy goat cheese salad.
Enjoy some specialty cocktails like Black Cherry Punch, featuring Jim Beam Red Stagg Black Cherry infused Bourbon, Combier Cherry Liqueur, club soda and simple syrup or Pisco Macerado, a twist on the classic Pisco Sour with dried sour cherries soaked in Pisco.
Enjoy Free Cultural Performances
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a celebration of spring but also a cultural event that honors the Japanese culture. Nearly 100 cultural performances and demonstrations are held during the three-week festival featuring traditional and contemporary music, dance, song, and martial arts demonstrations.
The stage is located at the Festival Welcome Center near the paddle boats. Daily performances will run from noon to 6 p.m. The line-up will include a wide variety of cultural offerings including vocalists, bands, dancers, drum performances, exhibitions and more. For specific times, you may call the festival hotline at (877) 44-BLOOM. Live entertainment is also a big part of many of the special events that are held throughout the festival.
Attend the Special Events
A wide variety of events are associated with the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The most popular events include the Cherry Blossom Family Days, the Blossom Kite Festival, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, the Sakura Matsuri-Japanese Street Festival and the fireworks display on the Southwest Waterfront.
The 2019 National Cherry Blossom Festival Signature Events include:
• Saturday, March 23: Opening Ceremony at the Warner Theatre
• Saturday, March 30: Blossom Kite Festival on the Washington Monument grounds • April 6: Petalpalooza at the Wharf
• Saturday, April 13: National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
The 2019 National Cherry Blossom Festival Premier Events include:
• Saturday, March 23: SAAM Cherry Blossom Celebration
• Saturday, April 13: Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival
• Saturday, April 14: Anacostia River Festival