Washington DC’s National Cherry Blossom Festival

Washington Monument, Cherry Blossom Festival.

It’s that time again, DC’s best festival is about to start. Every year at the end of March through the beginning of April Washington, DC, USA celebrates the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

DC’s best festival is about to begin, and the predictions are already in. Each year you can check the National Park Services website to obtain the dates of peak cherry blossom blooms.

Viewing the Cherry Blossoms:

When: Check out the National Park Services website for peak bloom dates and tips on how to tell when the cherry blossoms are about to bloom

Where: The majority of cherry blossom trees are located around DC’s Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, East Potomac Park and around the Washington Monument

Get there via: Smithsonian” via Blue/Orange/Silver lines

When the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, they are a beautiful site. Full bloom is considered 70% or more of the trees flowering at the same time. Not all the trees bloom during this time. If you aren’t able to make it during the estimated full bloom, don’t fear. There are still a few trees that bloom early and some that bloom late. For me, the bloom marks spring has officially put winter to rest. As you walk the 2.1-mile ring around the Tidal Basin, don’t miss the Floral Library at about 17th Street and Independence. It is a huge garden containing hundreds of colorful flowers. Just in case, all the flowers aren’t enough for you, be sure to visit the monuments.The steps at the Jefferson Memorial provide an above the crowd view and a resting spot all in one. If you are looking for a different perspective or escape from the crowd, rent one of the available paddle boats and tool around on top of the water. My favorite times to visit are sunrise and sunset for obvious reasons, but high noon is ideal for those perfectly lit photos. Weekends and midday are busiest.

Washington Monument, Cherry Blossom Festival.

Washington Monument, Cherry Blossom Festival.

Cherry Blossoms, Cherry Blossom Festival.

Cherry Blossoms, Cherry Blossom Festival.

Glinda amidst the Cherry Blossoms.

Heather amidst the Cherry Blossoms.

Events:

Opening Ceremony

When: March 25, 2017: 5 – 6:30 pm

Where: The Warner Theatre – 513 13th Street, NW

Get there via: “Federal Triangle” via Blue/Orange/Silver lines

If you are one of the few who have already snagged a free ticket to the opening ceremony – congrats. If you haven’t gotten one of the few tickets but still want to go, you still have a chance. At around 4:45 pm if they need to replace “no shows” they will allow people in on a first come first serve basis. Line up early but keep in mind there is no way to know if or how many “no shows” there may be for the event.

Blossom Kite Festival

When: April 01, 2017: 10 am – 4:30 pm

Where: Washington Monument grounds – Constitution Avenue & 17th Street, NW

Get there via: “Smithsonian” via Blue/Orange/Silver lines

This is my favorite event of the entire festival. It is such a fun relaxing day to spend outdoors. Bring a blanket, food, and plenty of water. Don’t forget your kite. Just past the Washington Monument, you will find the demonstrations and competitions. The kite battles were particularly fun to watch. Be sure to walk the entire mall area to see all the different kites and take part in flying your own kite if that tickles your fancy.

Dragon kite, Kite Festival.

Dragon kite, Kite Festival.

Kite Festival, National Mall.

Kite Festival, National Mall.

Girl with Kites.

Girl with Kites.

Kite Festival, Washington Monument.

Kite Festival, Washington Monument.

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival

When: April 15, 2017: 2 pm – 9:30 pm (Evening; Fireworks start at 8:30 pm *weather permitting)

Where: Southwest Waterfront – 600-900 Water Street, SW

Get there via: “Waterfront-SEU” via Green line; “L’Enfant Plaza” via Blue/Green/Orange/Silver/Yellow lines

Live entertainment, food and activities throughout the afternoon. With it all ending with a spectacular fireworks show. Best viewing is at the Southwest Waterfront Promenade or East Potomac Park on the South side of the Tidal Basin.

Official Japanese Stone Lantern Lighting Ceremony

When: April 02, 2017: 3 pm – 4:30 pm

Where: Japanese Stone Lantern at the Tidal Basin at Independence Avenue and 17th Street, SW

Get there via:Smithsonian” via Blue/Orange/Silver Lines

The ceremony itself is ok. It can be a bit long, but seeing the fired lantern and princesses in their kimonos is beautiful. If you aren’t interested in the formalities, plan to arrive toward the end. You will still have ample time for photos of the lantern and the princesses.

Japaneses Lantern, Cherry Blossom Festival.

Japanese Lantern, Cherry Blossom Festival.

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade

When: April 08, 2017: 10 am – Noon

Where: Constitution Avenue – From 7th to 17th Streets, NW

Get there via: “Federal Triangle” via Blue/Orange/Silver Lines

There is limited grandstand seating if you want to pay, but I don’t recommend it. There are lots of great places along Constitution Ave to view the parade for free. Along the south side of Constitution, there are several short retaining walls that can be used for seats or to stand on above the crowd. Unfortunately, the steps of The Archives building are blocked off during the parade. It is pretty crowded over by the White House, but if you get there early, you can get a good spot. If you can’t get there early don’t worry, you will find a spot it just might not be that perfect place.

Band Cherry Blossom Parade.

Band Cherry Blossom Parade.

Band Cherry Blossom Parade.

Band Cherry Blossom Parade.

Sakura Matsuri – Japanese Street Festival

When: April 08, 2017: 10:30 am – 6 pm

Where: M Street and New Jersey Avenue, SE in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. Cost: $10 day of, children 12 and under free. $8 online. I suggest purchasing online because not only do you save $2 you also have a separate entrance line that goes a bit faster.

Get there via: “Federal Triangle” via Blue/Orange/Silver lines; “Metro Center” via Blue/Orange/Red/Silver lines.

The Matsuri Festival offers Japanese drumming, dancing, and music; Cosplay fashion show; martial arts demonstrations and delicious street food. The festival gets extremely crowded as the parade comes to an end. The entrance line and the food lines can be long around lunchtime. I recommend waiting to enter until after 3 pm or so. Also, keep track of the weather. If it is a warm day, the large crowd and lack of shaded areas can make feel sweltering fast.

Drumming demo, Matsuri Festival.

Drumming demo, Matsuri Festival.

Fighting demo, Matsuri Festival.

Fighting demo, Matsuri Festival.

Dragon, Matsuri Festival.

Dragon, Matsuri Festival.

Musical demo, Matsuri Festival.

Musical demo, Matsuri Festival.

Helpful Links:

[Maynard’s Photo Advice]

  1. As far as the Cherry Blossoms go, think of the trees as big umbrellas, so you want to be photographing in the morning of the evening so the sunlight will be at an angle.  Also, remember to have Fun with the blossoms!
  2. The Parade primarily heads east to west, which in it of itself means nothing, but it also means the sun will be at the backs of the participants.  That being the case it’s harder to get a good shot, the best advice would be to line up on the north side of the street and then shoot at a 45 degree towards the parade.
Fun with Cherry Blossoms.

Fun with Cherry Blossoms.

YUM! Fun with Cherry Blossoms.

YUM! Fun with Cherry Blossoms.

Hobee was getting in on the blossom fun too.

Hobee was getting in on the blossom fun too.

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  1. What fun. I had never heard of the Cherry Blossom festival earlier but now thanks to this post have. Love the colors of the festival. Reminds me of the Kitefestival that we have in India

  2. My goodness, I had no idea, the cherry blossom festival was such a big thing – seems like quite the celebration! When I think cherry blossom, I always think Japan, so good to know about something other global spots that celebrate this fab display of nature 🙂

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