Monday, March 14, 2016

Everything you wanted to know about the National Cherry Blossom Festival

Each year Washington D.C. hosts the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. The festival lasts a few weeks and is one of Washington D.C.'s most popular spring events. Every year millions of visitors flock to the Capital City to see the blossoms. The festival usually begins around the end of March and continues for two weeks. Although in previous years, dates and length of the festival have sometimes varied.

History of the National Cherry Blossom Festival

The event is one that offers a tribute to the commemoration of 3,000 cherry trees gifted to the United states from Toyko's Mayor Yukio Ozaki in 1912. This exquisite gift offered just after the turn of the 20th century was given as a way to honor the ongoing friendship between the U.S. and Japan. Today's annual festival serves as a memento and celebration to the continued alliance and closeness between the two nations.

About the festival

Visitors to the city can admire and take pictures of the pink blossoms scattered along the Potomac River and throughout the grassy areas around the perimeter of the National Mall. The sight of the thousands of blossoms is nothing short of extraordinary and the striking view of these budding flowers on the trees is breathtakingly beautiful. As you walk through the Tidal Basin, there is often a pink blanket of petals on the water that is beautiful too.

During the course of the festival there are daily events, performances and activities presented; the daily schedule includes fun for the whole family (for the kids there are usually crafts too). Each year the festival features a parade on one weekend, and the following weekend the festival concludes with a display of fireworks.

The cherry blossom festival is an event that has developed into a top tourist attraction as millions of people a year come to see these amazing blossoms. If you do plan to visit Washington D.C. during the weeks of the Cherry Blossom Festival, you should be aware, there is usually a big crowd and you should plan accordingly.

Planning your trip

Being it is a busy time to visit, due to the crowds, you'll want to book your accommodations and any tours ahead of time to ensure you get the reservations you want. Additionally, since so many people are in town, the museums tend to be packed more than usual (and usual is pretty crowded on weekends for the more popular museums!). As you plan your itinerary, you may want to plan some of your attraction visits for earlier in the day before it gets too crowded and you spend most of your day in lines.

Getting around Washington D.C.

During the Cherry Blossom Festival, parking may be difficult and the Metro is typically packed during the festival weeks. The trains often have standing room only, but the good news is the Metro moves swiftly and is almost always on schedule; they seem to plan well for big events such as the National Cherry Blossom Festival, adding extended hours, etc.

If you drive into Washington D.C., while chances are parking is slim pickings, if any at all, near the festival area, you may be able to find parking over at Union Station (which will cost you). This is a hike from the Cherry Blossom festivities, but a short Metro trip from Union Station (take the Red Line to the Orange Line and get off at the Smithsonian Station) will get you down within walking distance to the Cherry Blossom Festival. Or you can check out Panda Parking to see what's available - haven't used it yet, but this is a service I'm looking to try out in the near future.

The locals tend to avoid the weekend festivities and head into D.C. on the weekdays to appreciate the cherry blossoms. If you are staying in Maryland or Northern Virginia, you may want to consider weekdays as a possible option if you don't like the heavy crowds. I have been doing this myself the last few years - it's still pretty busy, but not as hectic as it is on the weekends. Last year I went down later in the afternoon on a weekday and caught the sun beginning to set over the Tidal Basin as I completed my walk around.

The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival is a great event. If you happen to be in the area, or even if you live in the DC Metro area, the blossoms are worthy of a visit at least once. For more information on the Cherry Blossom Festival, you can visit the official website for more information.

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