The National Cherry Blossom Festival: Washington, DC’s Spring Fling

March 18, 2016
Cherry Blossom Festival

Washington DC’s Tidal Basin in bloom. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Washington, DC’s National Cherry Blossom Festival is the nation’s grandest springtime celebration. In addition to its dazzling cherry trees, the nation’s capital gets decked out in pink and white and hosts three weeks of events and entertainment. Japanese cultural programs, parades, fireworks, concerts, exhibitions and great food are all part of the festivities.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. The gift and annual celebration honor the friendship between the United States and Japan. Each year more than 1.5 million people flock to Washington, DC to marvel at the spectacular blossoms and enjoy the events.

Cherry Blossoms, Washington DC

Cherry trees ablaze in Washington, DC. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

There are approximately 3,750 cherry blossom trees of 16 varieties in DC’s parks. The stages of bloom on the trees vary from vivid pink as the buds are about to burst, the softer pink of the blossoms, and snowy white as the petals begin falling off the trees. The trees grow in three locations: around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park (Hains Point), and on the Washington Monument grounds. For information about varieties of cherry blossom trees and a map, see the National Park Service cherry blossom page.

The date when the Yoshino cherry blossoms reach peak bloom varies from year to year, depending on weather conditions. An accurate prediction cannot be made more than 10 days prior. The blooming period starts several days before the Peak Bloom Date and can last as long as 14 days – but frost or high temperatures combined with wind and/or rain can shorten this period. To check to status of the blossoms, see 2016 Bloom Watch. There’s even a live-streaming Blossom Cam.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place March 20 – April 16, 2017.

Cherry Blossom Festival Parade

The colorful Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. Photo: National Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival Events

March 19 – April 3, 2016: The ANA Performance Stage at the Tidal Basin Welcome Area will offers over 100 free daily cultural performances.

March 26, 2016: The festival’s Opening Ceremony features performances by world-class talent from the U.S. and Japan. The event is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required online. There is a $5 processing fee per ticket.

March 26, 2016: Family Day – a day of activities and games focused on parks, landscape design and architecture. Activities include folding origami, constructing a tatebanko diorama and trying on traditional Japanese clothing.

April 2, 2016: Blossom Kite Festival – celebrating 50 years of kite flying on the National Mall, this festival showcases creative kites, while skilled fliers from across the US and other countries compete in a variety of competitions. Bring your own kites or children can make a kite at an activity station.

Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony of the Cherry Blossom Fest, just one of hundreds of free performances. Photo: National Cherry Blossom Festival

April 9. 2016: Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival – this daylong festival offers free music, Dragon Boat excursions, cultural experiences, live entertainment and delectable treats from Food Trucks at several outdoor venues at the Southwest Waterfront. See here for complete details.

April 16, 2016: The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade – The colorful parade marches down Constitution Avenue and features musical performances, celebrity appearances, marching bands, dance troupes, lavish floats, and giant helium balloons. Standing on the Parade route from Constitution Avenue between 9th and 15th streets, NW is free, or you can buy tickets for Grandstand seating.

April 16, 2016: The Sakura Matsuri—Japanese Street Festival – the largest one-day celebration of Japanese culture in the U.S. Sakura Matsuri features more than 80 cultural groups, arts vendors and food booths, including performances on four stages. Click here for complete information and to purchase tickets.

April 16, 2016: Cherry Blast – this event celebrates Japanese pop culture with activities including manga and gaming competitions, creative cosplay contests and exhibits of Japanese fashion trends. Foodies can enjoy Tokyo street food, sake tastings and sushi workshops. There’s even a Japanese-inspired dance party. For complete information and to purchase tickets, click here.

For a complete roster of events and performances, see the Festival’s website.

Cherry Blossoms, Washington DC

Beautiful blooms. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Cherry Blossom Festival Offers

During the festival, special bus and ferry service will bring visitors directly to the blossoms. Check here for festival transit options.

During the City in Bloom campaign, iconic buildings and transportation hubs light in pink to celebrate the Festival and area businesses bear bright pink blossom decals.

Tours – The National Park Service and the National Cherry Blossom Festival publish a self-guided tour. This map can be picked up at the Information Stations located on the north side of the Tidal Basin (grounds of the Washington Monument) and the south side of the Tidal Basin (adjacent to the Jefferson Memorial).

Local tour providers offer multiple ways to tour the blossoms, including walking, by bike or boat. There are also photo safaris and food and cocktail-focused tours. Click here for a complete list of cherry blossom-specific tours.

The Festival partners with numerous hotels that are located both within the District and the surrounding areas to provide numerous options and deals. View the list of participating hotels.

To compliment the festivities, local restaurants offer creative spring menus. A listing of “Cherry Pick” restaurants can be found here.

Cherry Blossoms, Washington DC

DC’s cherry trees dripping blossoms. Photos: Jeff Dobbins

Visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival

In Washington, DC, visit Festival headquarters at Union Station, open March 14-April 19, for free information about events and programs. The Tidal Basin Welcome Center is located near the paddle boats at the Tidal Basin. There is a Welcome Area located on the southern grounds of the Washington Monument, and Information Kiosk located on the west side of the Jefferson Memorial.

Visitor information can be found on the National Cherry Blossom Festival website. You can also call 877.44.BLOOM for more information and check the festival’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds.

National Cherry Blossom Festival

The gorgeous Tidal Basin. Photo: National Cherry Blossom Festival

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