Spring has finally arrived, and in D.C., that means it’s time to celebrate the Tidal Basin’s iconic cherry blossom trees, which just hit peak bloom Thursday.
The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival is taking place in D.C. through April 16. This year’s theme is “Spring It On!”
See a preview of this year’s events and performances:
What is the Cherry Blossom Festival?
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year in D.C. to commemorate the gifting of over 3,000 cherry blossom trees from the Mayor of Tokyo to the District in 1912, and honors the relationship between the U.S. and Japan.
Thousands come into the city to witness the beautiful flowers line the waterfront daily. Organizers expect more than one million visitors over the weeks of the festival.
When is “peak bloom?”
Peak bloom is when 70% of the Yoshino blossoms — the most common cherry blossom found around the Tidal Basin, according to the National Park Service — are expected to open.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the National Park Service had announced that this year, the trees would reach peak bloom between March 22 and 25. The trees ended up reaching peak bloom March 23.
The cherry blossoms are considered in bloom from the time 20% of the blossoms are open until the petals fall.
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The Trust for the National Mall organization that helps the National Park Service care for the trees has created a live viewing of the Tidal Basin so viewers can see when the blossoms will bloom in real-time.
Where is the best place to see the blossoms?
The best place to visit the cherry blossoms is at the Tidal Basin in downtown D.C. near the National Mall.
The festival is also recommending festivalgoers try a City Cruise or boat tour to have a more relaxed viewing of the blossoms away from the crowds.
When is the best time to see the blossoms?
Any time is great, pretty much, but we recommend going during the early mornings of the weekdays when there are less crowds or around sunset if you want to get those “Insta-worthy” pics.
How do I get there?
WMATA Metro is expecting ridership to double during the three weeks of the festival and peak bloom season.
The Tidal Basin is accessible from the Arlington Cemetery, Smithsonian, Federal Triangle and L’Enfant Plaza stations and Metrobus lines A9, W9, 30N, 30S, 32, 33, 34 and 36.
Metrorail will run more trains to increase weekend service, with fares ranging from $2 to $6.
There is free parking at all Metro station parking garages and lots.
The DC Circulator’s National Mall route also makes direct stops at the Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials, as well as in front of the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do — Bring a friend.
Don’t — Come while sick. If you feel like you may have symptoms of the flu or COVID-19, refrain from being among big crowds.
Do — Pick up after yourself.
Don’t — Leave trash or litter.
Do — Take cute pictures.
Don’t — Climb, sit, pull or step on the trees.
What are some of the festival’s events?
Leading up the main festival, there are eight events to warm up the area for the spring festivities.
The Petal Porches event began March 20, with those who register being able to decorate their homes in the iconic pink flowers and win a prize for best-decorated block, best-decorated porch and most popular porch.
The Cherry Blossom 5k and 10-mile run will happen April 1 and April 2, respectively. Thousands are expected to participate in both races.
Many of the events are free and family (and pet) friendly, but some require tickets and other purchases. More details about all the events are available on the website.
What about the opening ceremony and parade?
Oh, don’t you worry!
The opening ceremony, copresented with the Japan Foundation, kicks off the festival on Saturday, March 25, at 5 p.m.
There will be performances by J-pop boyband Travis Japan, the musical stylings of Anna Sato and Toshiyuki Sasaki, jazz marimbist Mika Stoltzman, and classical duo PETÆL with Miray Ito and Benedict Kloeckners.
The festival’s parade returned last year after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
The Nation’s Springtime Parade on Saturday, April 15, will close out the festival and see a long list of celebrity guests including grand marshals Minnie and Mickey Mouse from Walt Disney World, Silver Spring native and Abbott Elementary star Lisa Ann Walter as an honorary marshal, and performances by 90s contemporary music group C+C Music Factory and TV personality Carson Kressley.
Tickets are on sale for the parade starting at $25, but some portions of the parade from Constitution Avenue between 9th and 15th Streets are free to the public.