National Cherry Blossom Festival opens this weekend, pacing well for local tourism

The cherry trees bloom every year, including during the pandemic, but this year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival will be celebrated by both visitors and the Washington, D.C.-area tourism industry.

The cherry blossom festival opens Saturday, March 18, and runs through Sunday, April 16.

This year’s festival will be the closest to pre-pandemic normalcy; the 2020 festival was canceled nine days before its was scheduled to begin, with 2021 and 2022 festivals making-do based on public safety and gathering restrictions.

“Saturday, with the National Park Service, we will open up the Tidal Basin Welcome Area,” said Diana Mayhew, president of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Visitors can find the “Welcome Area” between the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

The area includes the ANA Stage.

“Live performances start at noon each day, and continue until six o’clock. There’s concessions, a beer garden, lots of amenities, and activities for the kids,” said Mayhew. It’s a beautiful way to take in the blossoms, that are starting to peek out there, this weekend.

Visitors can also check on the appearance of the trees through the livestreamed #BloomCam provided by the Trust for the National Mall.

While activities begin this weekend, the festival really kicks into high gear next weekend.

“Next weekend the traditional blossom kite festival will be on the grounds of the Washington Monument, starting at 10 a.m. Then, following that at the Warner Theatre will be our opening ceremony,” said Mayhew.

Hospitality industry hopeful millions ‘going to come back’

Approximately three years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayhew said local businesses are optimistic.

“The Cherry Blossom Festival typically draws about 1.5 million visitors each year, and we feel like that number is going to come back,” said Mayhew.

While most of the events during the festival are free, some, such as the parade on April 15, also have premium tickets for sale.

“We’re pacing much further ahead with those grandstand tickets, the website visitation is high, the hotels are booking,” said Mayhew. “Generally, I think all of the hospitality and attractions in the city are seeing some good prior bookings.”

Mayhew suggests taking Metro, which has expanded service for cherry blossom events. Starting Monday, March 20, the travel agency is offering inducements, as an alternative to drivers flooding downtown.

“On weekends, fares are a flat $2 for any one-way trip, no matter how far you travel and parking is free at all Metro owned parking garages and lots all day,” according to Metro.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly contained a quote noting the Tidal Basin Welcome Area was between the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial is on Theodore Roosevelt Island, on the Potomac River.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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