Please note that the Cherry Blossom Festival will look a little different in 2021 due to covid restrictions. The annual parade is canceled, but the Festival organizers are working hard to establish a safe and socially-distanced lineup of events. The festival dates will be March 20 to April 11, even though this year’s activities will be significantly reduced.
The Cherry Blossom Festival
It’s back! Spring is such an exciting time to be in DC because it means things are warming up, there’s activities to do outside, and of course, the return of the Cherry Blossoms. The Cherry Blossom trees were a gift of good will from Japan to the United States in 1912 to represent a budding relationship between our two countries. Since then, the Cherry Blossoms have excited millions of people who have visited them throughout the years. If you are coming to DC this spring or maybe some day soon, we got some tips to help you navigate this huge festival.
1. The Cherry Blossom’s are fickle.
The trees may be the most watched trees in the world. The National Park Service has an entire web page dedicated to watching them in particular when they are supposed to bloom. There have been years where a freak warm spell in early March has coaxed them into blooming. There’s other years where its been colder for longer and the peak bloom isn’t until the very last week of the Cherry Blossom Festival (this year’s festival will be from March 20-April 11 due to the limited activities). When they do bloom, they are at their peak for only 3 days and one strong windy day can send many of the blossoms flying. That said, when they are out in full force, there is nothing more spectacular in the city. So, when visiting, be ready for anything. If you miss the peak bloom, don’t worry there are a million things to do in the city outside of the Cherry Trees.
2. There really is a Cherry Blossom Festival
It’s not just all looking at trees this time of year. Since 1935, scores of people have celebrated the trees and Japanese-American friendship with a series of events in late March and early April. This year’s festival runs from March 20th to April 11th. The Cherry Blossom Festival usually features tons of events including the Cherry Blossom Kite Festival, the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival, the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, and the grand finale, the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. We will unfortunately need to wait until 2022 for all of these activities to be reinstated, but there will be plenty of other, pandemic-safe events happening during the festival. You can find a round up from our friends over at Destination DC.
3. Take a Chance to Experience some Cherry Blossom inspired cuisine
You’ll work up an appetite with all these activities. Last year, the Cherry Blossom Festival featured Cherry Picks, where dozens of participating restaurants throughout the city created menu’s inspired by the Cherry Blossoms. Some of our favorite restaurants created exciting dishes like Farmers Fishers and Bakers Blossom Sushi Tasting Plate, Jaleo’s Sakura DC Cherry Blossom Cocktail, Cherry Lemonade Poptarts at Ted’s Bulletin, and Cherry Empanadas washed down with a Cherry Wheat Bear at Georgia Brown’s. While Cherry Picks may be on hold for 2021, you can check out these restaurants to see what they have to satisfy your Cherry Blossom-fueled appetite.
4. Cherry Blossoms are not just along the Tidal Basin
Sure, some of the most iconic pictures of the blossoms come from the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial. But, it’s also the busiest, and potentially not the best place to be if you want a crowd-free experience. Cherry Blossoms are all over the city. In fact, the Japanese originally donated the trees in 1910 but some were infected and many died off, but the original trees were planted on Hain’s Point two years before our official donation took root along the Tidal Basin. You can also find scores of Cherry Trees at the National Arboretum, Anacostia Park, Stanton Park, and, our favorite, Foxhall Village near Georgetown.
5. It may be less crowded this year
Most years, over a million people visit the Cherry Trees, but 2021 could be a great year to see them with a slightly smaller audience. We recommend not driving to the trees but walking or biking. Parking can be nonexistent around the Mall. Keep things casual. Pack a picnic (maybe with some Cherry Blossom cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake?) and maybe jump onto the paddle boats in the Tidal Basin for crowd free fun in the heart of the trees.
Need some more?
Don’t forget about our Cherry Blossom Segway Tour! We are gliding to the memorials to get you shots of these iconic trees, and we are happy to be your personal photographers! This tour will running all throughout the Cherry Blossom season. You can also get some more ideas of places to see the blossoms at Fodors as well as more visiting tips for getting around during the festival from the Washington Post.