Introduction to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington

Cherry blossom trees with the washington monument in the background
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One of the best things about the coming of spring is that the plants and wildlife around a particular area start to come back into life, and in Washington, there is a series of parks and gardens where you can see the cherry trees start to bloom. The most famous cherry blossom festival of all is held in the spring in Japan, and this festival does have a strong connection with the natural home of the cherry trees that have made their way to Washington.

If you are thinking of taking a trip to the capital of the United States to see some of the superb monuments and the political heart of the country, then combining this with a trip to enjoy this festival is a great idea.

The Gift That Started the Festival

The cherry trees that come into blossom were actually a gift from the leaders of Japan, and while an original gift in 1910 had to be destroyed due to pests and disease in the trees, the current generation of trees originate from those planted in Washington in 1912. Helen Taft, the First Lady and wife of President Howard Taft was key to the adoption of the trees, as she became involved in a plan to plant an avenue of trees in the city. When this was discussed with the Japanese Embassy, they decided that they would make a gift of the trees to the United States. While the cherry trees grew and matured they became a part of the scenery, and the first festival was held by local civic groups in 1935 to celebrate their success.

The Cherry Trees in Bloom

The original trees that were gifted to the city were of twelve different varieties, but it is the Yoshino and Kwanzan varieties of the trees that now dominate the areas where they have been planted in the Tidal Basin and the East Potomac Park. The trees are truly a sight to behold during the spring, and when they are close to their peak blooming season, the treeline is filled with white and pink blossoms that make for a spectacular sight.

The Main Events at the Festival

The festival itself has events spread throughout a two week period, and these start with a grand opening ceremony with music and entertainment that is held in late March. One of the fun events that is great for families is the Blossom Kite Festival, which sees hundreds of people flying kites on the National Mall so that the colors of the kites contrast with the blossoms. The culmination of the popular festival is a huge parade, where pink is definitely the theme and includes floats and huge helium balloons, along with some great music too.

The Peak Bloom Date

Depending on the conditions in the weeks and months leading up to the festival, the best time to visit to enjoy the spectacle of the trees in bloom can vary, with the peak bloom date usually sometime between late March and mid-April. However, planning your trip in the first week of April is usually a pretty good bet if you are looking to see the area in full bloom, but look for dates that coincide with festival events too.

Traveling to Washington for the Festival

Those flying into the city will usually arrive into Ronald Reagan Airport or Dulles Airport, and both of these have public transport connections to the city center.

Travel from within the United States is also very good, as the capital is connected with routes from the Amtrak network and also has good road connections, although parking in the city is difficult to find. Once in Washington, there is a good bus network, but as it is quite a compact city center, getting around on foot or by cycling are both very popular.