Every spring ushers in not only warm weather, but the pink blossoms of cherry trees that are sprinkled throughout Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin area (nearby some of D.C.’s most iconic sites). The festival celebrates the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to Washington, D.C. in 1912, as well as the relationship between the United States and Japan. With more than 1.5 million people visiting D.C. to see the trees in bloom and participate in the festival’s diverse events each year, D.C.'s biggest spring celebration has grown since its humble beginnings. Even many D.C. restaurants join in celebration by serving many cherry-themed dishes to their menus!
How to Get There: Since parking will be a hassle due to crowds, D.C.’s public transportation system, the Metro, is a good bet. Visitors will want to get off at the Smithsonian or L’Enfant Plaza station stops and walk over to the Tidal Basin from there. To view Metro maps and schedules, visit wmata.com.
When to Visit: The festival runs from March 20 to April 14, but when to visit depends on what you would like to see and do. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade is on April 13, but the National Park Service is currently predicting peak bloom (when 70 percent of the blossoms on the trees will be open) from April 3 to 6. For more information on the bloom watch, visit nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/about/bloom-watch.
What to Do: The options really are endless, but visitors can take cruises or go on photo safaris to help make lasting memories of the festival. The festival’s liveliest event, the parade on April 13 from 10 a.m. to noon (rain or shine), features giant helium balloons, floats, marching bands from across the country, and performers that will fill Constitution Avenue. Tickets to the parade are available here.
What to Eat: Many D.C.-area restaurants participate in the "Cherry Picks" program by including blossom-inspired dishes on their menus. 2100 Prime will serve a cherry lambic cobbler, made out of sour cherries, dark cherries, and lambic beer, during the festival. Nick’s Riverside Grill will be dishing out cherry chipotle barbecue ribs and a cherry soda and vanilla ice cream float. The Hamilton will be pouring a Washington’s Cherry Temple cocktail (a libation made with vodka, cherry juice, Maraschino liqueur, and vanilla syrup) and a sour cherry Pavlova, a dessert made with Amaretto sour cherries, pistachio meringue, and almond cream. Click here to view a complete list of the participating restaurants.
Teresa Tobat is the Washington, D.C. Travel city editor for The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @ttobat88. View her website at teresaktobat.com.