FAQ: What you need to know about the 2024 National Cherry Blossom Festival

The cherished cherry blossom trees around the District’s Tidal Basin are expected to reach peak bloom in late March. Here’s what you need to know about the festivities planned around the famed flowers’ arrival.

The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. sprouts on March 20 and lasts through April 14 this year.

  • Q: What is the Cherry Blossom Festival?
  • The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual event that honors the gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees from Tokyo’s mayor to D.C. in 1912. It also celebrates the relationship between the U.S. and Japan, according to the festival’s website.

    The Japanese Embassy remains heavily involved in the annual festival and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will make an official visit to Washington this year during the festival on April 10.

    Its organizers expect more than 1.5 million people will come to D.C. to participate in the festival and to enjoy the iconic cherry trees.

  • Q: When is “peak bloom?”
  • The National Park Service has said trees are expected to hit “peak bloom” between March 23 and March 26 — which is around two weeks ahead of the tree’s average timing.

    Peak bloom is defined as the point when 70% of the blossoms on the 3,700 Yoshino cherry trees around the Tidal Basin and National Mall are open.

    Depending on the weather, the trees can peak for up to 10 days.

    As far as the accuracy of the The National Park Service’s prediction goes, NPS has only been correct in its initial guess once (which actually happened last year). But normally, the prediction is within a day or two of when peak bloom ends up happening.

  • Q: Where is the best place to see the blossoms?
  • Most of the famous cherry blossom trees are around the Tidal Basin in downtown D.C., right by the National Mall.

    If you don’t want to brave the crowds by land — consider viewing the trees from the water on a City Cruise or boat tour.

    Viewers can watch the blossoms bloom in real-time from home through a live feed by the Trust for the National Mall.

  • Q: When is the best time to see the blossoms?
  • The Tidal Basin will likely be a bit quieter if you head out on a weekday in the early morning to avoid crowds.

    But if you’re looking for prime time for photos, you could also try for golden hour pics around sunset.

    Ultimately during peak bloom, plan to be one of many visitors along the waterfront. Crowds tend to be especially heavy during that period and over the weekends.

  • Q: How do I get there?
  • To avoid the headache of parking near the National Mall, public transit might be your best bet.

    Metro has made some adjustments to try to prevent slowdowns for those on a quest to see the cherry blossoms — it won’t perform any track work during the daytime or the evenings for five weeks this spring, according to a news release from the transit agency.

    The changes are expected to last from Monday, March 18, through Friday, April 19. But Metro said it may shift the dates depending on when the flowers end up blooming.

    Metro is also bumping up its staffing and it could adjust bus service, if needed. Depending on when you ride, you might catch one of Metro’s cherry blossom themed trains or buses — which are scheduled to debut in mid-March.

    Metro recommends that visitors who are looking to avoid busy times travel outside of the normal commuter hours (10 a.m.- 3 p.m. and after 7 p.m.) on weekdays or travel in the early morning or early evening on weekends. The Smithsonian Station is the closest station — and also the busiest. L’Enfant Plaza or Federal Triangle are alternative options. The Tidal Basin is accessible from these lines: A9, W9, 30N, 30S, 32, 33, 34 and 36.

    The DC Circulator’s National Mall route has stops nearby the flowers at the Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials.

  • Q: How can I help take care of the trees?
  • Event organizers have asked that those admiring the flowers avoid climbing, sitting or pulling on the trees. Even walking on the trees roots can cause damage.

    Of course, they also want you to pick up after yourself to keep the area looking pink and pristine.

  • Q: What are some of the festival’s events?
  • Here’s a peek at what’s on the agenda.

    • Pink Tie Party on Friday, March 15: Partygoers show up looking pretty in pink to walk the runway and enjoy tasty bites and cocktails from D.C.-area restaurants. Tickets cost $250.
    • Blossom Kite Festival on Saturday, March 30: Kite flyers of all levels are invited to participate in the free event which features live performances and a kitemaking competition.
    • Petalpalooza on Saturday, April 6: The free celebration has performances at outdoor stages, art installations, free drinks and activities. The day is topped off with a firework show at 8:30 p.m.
  • Q: What about the opening ceremony and parade?
  • The opening ceremony celebrating the treasured blossoms is scheduled for Saturday, March 23, at the Warner Theatre. The ceremony’s performances will feature artists from the U.S. and Japan.

    Folk singer Naotaro Moriyama, dancer Jo Kanamori and instrumentalist Kaoru Watanabe are all performing at the theater. The Washington Ballet will also be dancing in the show.

    The dazzling pink parade that’s scheduled for Saturday, April 13, runs 10 blocks along Constitution Avenue. Some of the entertainers include “The Sugar Hill Gang” — with Wonder Mike, Master Gee and HenDogg featuring DJ T Dynasty — and American Idol 2023 finalist Colin Stough. Like any classic parade, there will be floats, marching bands and massive helium balloons.

    You can buy tickets online for $25-40 (plus fees) but you can stand and watch the parade for free in some areas.

  • Q: Who else is performing?
  • There are more than 100 scheduled performances on the ANA Stage at the Tidal Basin welcome area, which the festival said will “celebrate the longstanding friendship between the U.S. and Japan with a dynamic, cross-cultural mix of American, Japanese, and other performing arts.”

    Performances begin March 23 with JBE Band, The Midnight Anthem and Jill Fulton, among others. The final performances will take place April 7 with DCFlutes, Natalie Redd, Barry Moton and more set to take the stage.

    For a full schedule of performances among the cherry blossoms, visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival website.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up