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Guide to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in DC

Spring is a favorite time of year for many, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Washington DC. For our nation’s capital, spring signifies the arrival of more than just milder weather. This season marks the blooming of the magnificent cherry blossom trees, creating a vibrant spectacle of gorgeous pink flowers. If you’re planning a visit to DC in the springtime, you’ll be vacationing at just the right time to witness the beauty of the cherry blossoms and participate in the many events surrounding their arrival.

Continue reading for a brief history and details about what’s in store for the 2021 National Cherry Blossom Festival.

tidal basin in washington dc

History of the Festival

Humble Beginnings, 1912

As an annual celebration, the Cherry Blossom Festival began from humble beginnings. Small ceremonies took place to commemorate the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. The first ceremony, which took place on March 27, 1912, was simply the planting of the first two trees from Japan by then First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador. Each year since, the United States and Japan have exchanged gifts, including flowering dogwood trees from the US to the people of Japan in 1915.

The First Lady’s Involvement

Every year since First Lady Taft’s involvement, it has been a tradition for the First Lady to be involved in the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. All First Ladies have been proponents of the festival, serving as honorary chairs, taking part in planting ceremonies and greeting guests at opening ceremonies.

  • 1927:  DC school children re-enacted the initial planting and other activities, holding the first real festival.
  • 1935:  DC civic groups helped to expand the festivities.
  • 1994:  The Cherry Blossom Festival expanded to a two week event to accommodate the ever changing blooming schedule of the cherry trees.
  • 2012:  The 100th year anniversary of the original gift from Japan was celebrated with a 5 week celebration.

Today, the Cherry Blossom Festival encompasses four weekends and draws more than 1.5 million people.

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BEST PLACES TO SEE & SNAP CHERRY BLOSSOMS

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Jefferson Memorial

16 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242 GET DIRECTIONS

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20003 GET DIRECTIONS

Japanese Lantern

9810 Kutz Bridge, Washington, DC 20024 GET DIRECTIONS

Tidal Basin Paddle-boats

1501 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024 GET DIRECTIONS

Jefferson Memorial

16 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242 GET DIRECTIONS

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20003 GET DIRECTIONS

Japanese Lantern

9810 Kutz Bridge, Washington, DC 20024 GET DIRECTIONS

Tidal Basin Paddle-boats

1501 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024 GET DIRECTIONS
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    • Cherry Blossoms at Jefferson Memorial
      Jefferson Memorial
      Just across the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial provides an ideal vantage point to view and photograph the beautiful flowers.
      CLICK TO VIEW 360˚ Close
    • Cherry Blossoms at MLK Memorial
      Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
      Surrounded by some of the newest cherry blossom trees that were planted in 2011, this striking monument is not only a sight you shouldn’t miss while in DC, it’s perfect for capturing the gorgeous pink blossoms.
      CLICK TO VIEW 360˚ Close
    • Cherry Blossoms
      Japanese Lantern
      An iconic lantern that was carved to honor the Third Shogun of the Tokugawa period, the Japanese Lantern is lit each year by the Cherry Blossom Princess who represents the Embassy of Japan. This is a perfect spot to photograph the blossoms and this unique site.
      CLICK TO VIEW 360˚ Close
    • Cherry Blossoms at Jefferson Memorial
      Tidal Basin Paddle-boats
      The perfect way to enjoy the Tidal Basin and the magnificent cherry trees! Rent a two or four person paddle-boat and pedal out for panoramic views and awesome pictures.
      CLICK TO VIEW 360˚ Close

Festival Events

A City in Celebration

The annual Cherry Blossom Festival takes place every year throughout the city of Washington DC. A celebration of the gift of the cherry trees and our country’s friendship with Japan, the festival features hundreds of events and activities that span two weeks and includes parades, concerts, art and much more.

2021: This year, you can participate in the Cherry Blossom Festival through both virtual and personal experiences.

The Opening Ceremony

This year’s kick-off to the Cherry Blossom Festival will be live streamed on Saturday, March 20, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. where world-famous performers will entertain guests. Tickets are free, but require online registrations.

Blossom Kite Festival

One of the festival’s most popular events, the Kite Festival celebrates spring and 51 years of kite flying. It’s a great opportunity to partake in this long standing tradition and share your experience with your family and friends. Those who register before March 27th, 2021 will receive first access to virtual workshops and demos. Guests are invited to fly their own kites in the safety of their backyard or neighborhood park.
Register by: March 27, 2021.
When: March 27-28, 2021.

Tidal Basin Virtual Tours

Experience the blooming Cherry Blossoms with this year’s ‘Bloom Cam’, an exclusive video tour from a National Park Service Ranger who shares the history of this iconic landmark.

PETAL PORCH PARADE AND PROCESSIONAL

Bring the Cherry Blossom Festival to your porch and your neighbors! Decorate your home in celebration of the festival. The National Cherry Blossom Festival will launch a virtual map indicating Petal Porches that registered to participate, so you can view their decorations and share the celebration of spring. On April 10th & 11th, 2021, the Petal Procession will drive through select Petal Porch Parade D.C neighborhoods.
Register by: March 15th, 2021.
Petal Porch Parade and Processional: March 20, 2021 until April 10 & 11, 2021.

Pink Tie Party

Join this virtual party hosted by: Tommy McFly and Kelly Collis of Real.Fun.DC. This party includes special guests and experts in a variety of related topics. All Pink Tie Party tickets include three-course carryout dinners from your choice of popular nearby restaurants. Tickets can be purchased online.
When: March 26, 2021.

The 2021 National Cherry Blossom Festival

Getting Around the City

There is so much to see, do and participate in during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. It’s a good idea to take advantage of the convenience of the Old Town Trolley. While on the trolley tour, you’ll be transported all over the city, including some of the spots where the festivities will be taking place. The trolley tour also eliminates the need for driving around the city and trying to find parking. Book your tour in advance to secure a seat during this busy time of year.
The annual Cherry Blossom Festival brings joy and excitement to the city unlike any other event all year. For those visiting during this time period, there are many activities, parties and events to enjoy. For more information about the festival, including dates, times and ticket information, visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s website.

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