It’s the time of year when our nation’s capitol thinks pink. It’s all because of a bright spot on the calendar: The National Cherry Blossom Festival, happening March 26 through April 10. The city blooms with hundreds of activities, including street fairs, live music and dance performances, art exhibitions, lectures, riverboat teas, and of course gorgeous pink trees.
The annual event celebrates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees to Washington DC from the Japanese government, made in an effort to enhance the growing friendship between the U.S. and Japan. The trees were presented to First Lady Helen Herron Taft and planted around the Tidal Basin, a partially manmade reservoir between the Potamac River and Washington Channel. Today there are close to 4,000 trees in 16 dazzling varieties at the Tidal Basin, East Potomac Park, and the Washington Monument Grounds, plus other locations across the city.
If you’re in the DC area, you can soak up the blooms by foot, car, bike, or paddleboat. Diehards rise at dawn to watch the rising sun dance on the blossoms, but they’re breathtaking all day and you can even take ranger-led evening Lantern Walks and catch them bathing in an ethereal moonlight glow.
The festival opens with a ceremony and Family Day at National Building Museum, where there are crafts, interactive presentations, and kid-friendly performances by groups like the Washington Ballet and Shizumi Kodomo Dance Troupe. The buzz around the opening event is rivaled only by a fireworks show on April 2 and parade on April 9.
Carve away a few hours for the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, the largest Japanese culture festival in the U.S. and a beloved tradition. It features J-Pop performers, tributes to Japanese fashion, sake tastings, and a market with Japanese snacks and collectibles. For another arty scene, watch the multimedia displays at Cherry Blast: Art + Music Dance Party, put on by local arts group Pink Line Project.
Along with old favorites, this year’s fest offers new experiences, too, like the first-annual Blossom Kite Festival. Held below the Washington Monument, it turns attention skyward as families learn to make kites, watch high-flying competitions, and glean tips from pros.
For a different spin on things, duck into restaurants and bars offering creative floral-inspired menu items. At Poste Moderne Brasserie, nestled in the courtyard of Hotel Monaco, they’re serving Plums Blossom cocktails made from cherry-infused sake, botanical spirits, and plum soda. Across the Potomac River in Old Town Alexandria, Jackson 20 tavern and the Grille at Morrison House tempt with cherry pie cupcakes.
Chances are, you’ll find yourself back downtown in Dupont Circle, where you can sip a Cherry Blossom cocktail at Urbana restaurant and wine bar, adjacent to Hotel Palomar. The specialty drink is made from vanilla, cherry-infused Maker’s Mark, and sour mix, and is playfully topped with cotton candy.
We dare you not to be tickled pink.
For more information on the National Cherry Blossom Festival, call 877-442-5666 or visit nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.
Story written by Annie Lou Berman