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Monday, February 2, 2015

Tips for planning a spring trip to Washington

The U.S. Capital is a fabulous destination to travel to in the spring. It's my favorite time of year. During the spring months the temperatures have usually warmed and the humidity the region sometimes experiences in the summer has not yet set in. The climate is perfect for exploring things to do outdoors in Washington, D.C.


From the year-round tourist attractions to special events, there is much to see and do during a spring journey to Washington, which includes perennial and annual favorites located in this grand city:

Cherry Blossom Festival


One of the biggest spring events in Washington, D.C. is the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. Millions of visitors flock to the city to gaze upon the almost overwhelming beauty of the pink and white budded trees located along the Potomac and throughout the grassy areas positioned near the National Mall.

Every spring, dates, the city pays tribute to the commemoration of a gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Japan's Mayor Yukio Ozaki. This gift's intention was to honor the ongoing friendship between the United States and Japan. Every year the nation's Capital celebrates this continued close relationship by hosting the National Cherry Blossom Festival.


The festival usually kicks off around the end of March and continues for the two weeks with daily events, performances and activities. One of the weekends features a parade and the festival usually culminates with fireworks the following weekend. Even if you don't like crowds, the blossoms are worth seeing, at least once. Absolutely breathtaking and stunning. Hands down one of my favorite times of the year.

[Related reading on this blog: Guide to the National Cherry Blossom Festival


White House Easter Egg Roll


Every Easter Monday the White House hosts an Easter Egg event for the kids. This has been an annual tradition since 1878 and is a very popular event in the District. Like the Garden Tours, the event is free and tickets for this event are required in advance. 

It used to be you had to get there to stand in line, however, it appears this has changed and today tickets are distributed through an online lottery. Visitors will go through security your family can enjoy the events and festivities associated with the egg hunt and egg roll. Last year, according to the White House, over 30,000 people attended.


White House Garden Tour


Each April the White House hosts a weekend where the gardens at the First House are opened to the public. The tour is free, but tickets are necessary in order to be admitted to the event. Tickets have previously been offered beginning at 8 a.m. the morning of the tour and the tickets are given on a first come, first-serve basis. 

In the past, when you received your ticket, it designated what time your tour will be given. Your tour will take you through the special gardens and commemorations located on the White House grounds. I don't see any dates listed on the White House website, so this is one to stay tuned as I'm not sure what may have changed.

The White House

Paddle Boats


A fun activity is to rent a paddle boat and pedal your way along the Potomac River bordering the city. The rentals open up shop sometime in March and run through the fall; a perfect spring activity to indulge in! Especially during the aforementioned cherry blossom season.

National Mall


While the National Mall is open year round, the springtime is wonderful because it is pleasant to tour the monuments and walk the surrounding areas in the warmer temperatures. The sharp cold winds of winter are gone and it is pleasant to enjoy the monuments and memorials located in the vicinity.

Additionally, wildlife comes back out to play during this blossoming of spring. In addition to the cherry blossoms, the tulips are also something to see (maintained by the National Park Service).

The Mall is an ideal place to go for a walk, job or to simply stroll and sight-see, even if you've seen it a dozen times before. Even when there are lots of people, I often find there is still a sense of tranquility as you wander the Mall area.

Ford's Theatre


A great evening (or day) activity is to take in a show at Ford's Theatre. This famous theatre, where President Lincoln was assassinated, is now a working theatre with a museum. The shows put on are very professional and many of the shows are historically themed which is a perfect fit being it is located in the heart of Washington, D.C.

Presidential Box as it looks today

The theatre season usually wraps up a season in May, so chances are if you're visiting in the spring this is a good time to visit. You can purchase tickets to your chosen show through Ticketmaster; there is a link on the Ford's Theatre official website for more information about the shows offered and show dates/times. I recommend doing this ahead of time so you can ensure you get tickets for the show you want.


National Zoo


The National Zoo is a part of the Smithsonian Museum organization and is open year round. However, the spring is a great time, again due to the pleasant temperatures. With approximately 2,000 animals representing more than 400 different species, the zoo, despite not being very large (hey, I grew up near New York City's Bronx Zoo!) truly represents diversity. The population includes everything from insects to Gorillas, and represents habitation from rain forests to the woodlands. 

In addition to the above events and attractions, there are always the various monuments, museums and buildings to explore. 

Spring is an ideal time to visit the District, but keep in mind, it is also a very busy one and there are likely to be crowds, especially in late March through April. This is due to spring break and the special events happening, so there may be some wait times involved. It's a good idea to check with the organizations on your itinerary the time frames involved so you don't miss out on the events or sites you might want to see.

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