The cherry blossoms are coming, the cherry blossoms are coming! About as finicky as a bunch of toddlers at lunchtime, these fluttering pink flowers are an often fleeting, but highly anticipated rite of Spring for Washingtonians of all ages. A gift to our city from the Mayor of Tokyo in 1912, three thousand cherry trees surround the National Mall’s Tidal Basin, a spectacular backdrop to the Japanese tradition of Hanami, or picnicking under the elegant canopy of the much revered blossoms. Coinciding this year with the National Park Service’s peak bloom prediction, the month-long National Cherry Blossom Festival opens March 17. Celebrate the little sakura in your life with free daily performances at the Tidal Basin through April 1, and an array of other activities highlighted below, including alternative photo-ops for families looking to avoid big crowds, from Alexandria’s Green Spring Gardens, to Kenwood in Chevy Chase.

Photo: Artechouse

Indoors at the Museums
Ultimate family-friendly museum destinations, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) and the National Building Museum each host free events including arts and crafts, and exploration of green space designs for the littles. Drop in also at the Freer and Sackler Galleries for two blossom and family-friendly Open Studios, or head to the Hirshorn‘s Storytime series for Under the Cherry Blossom Tree, read under Yoko Ono’s dogwood tree. One of D.C.’s newest art galleries, Artechouse, showcases digital art, featuring Sakura Yume//Cherry Blossom Dream, an interactive exhibit of larger than life blossom petals floating, and koi fish swimming.

Artechouse
Mar. 15 – May 6
10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Online: artechouse.com

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Mar. 24
11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Online: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

National Building Museum
Mar. 31
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Online: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

Freer and Sackler
Mar. 31 and Apr. 7
10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Online: freersackler.si.edu

Hirshorn
Apr. 11
10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Online: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

Photo: Mark H. Rooney

Drum Loud, Drum Often
Bring your little pot-bangers to the Tidal Basin to meet their match at the Sakura Taiko Take Over hosted by Maryland Taiko instructor, Mark H. Rooney. The popular family-friendly performances are loud and proud, celebrating Japanese cultural and artistic traditions.

Mar. 25
12 p.m.-6 p.m.
Online: markhrooney.com

Photo: National Cherry Blossom Festival

Fly a Kite at the Washington Monument
Harness the wind on the Family Field at the Blossom Kite Festival where you will also find music and magic performances along with kite building and flying competitions for youths and adults, a Hot Tricks Showdown and more, featuring fliers from the US and other countries.

Mar. 31
10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Online: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

Photo: National Cherry Blossom Festival

Party in the Garden
Suburban neighborhoods and gardens around the beltway offer quiet strolls and blossom photo ops for families, minus the big crowds. Try the ancient art of Sumi-e brush painting at Green Spring Garden, or relax by the Japanese pagoda at Wheaton’s Brookside Gardens, home to 30 cherry trees. Other recommended blossom respites include the National Arboretum or the Bishops Garden at the National Cathedral, and the neighborhoods of Wiehle Avenue in Reston, or Kenwood in Chevy Chase, where there is also a playground and small picnicking area.

Apr. 7
1 p.m.-2: 30 p.m.
Online: fxva.com

Photo: National Cherry Blossom Festival

Petalpalooza at the Wharf
The Cherry Blossom Festival coins a new word, Petalpalooza, a debut event at one of D.C.‘s newest outdoor venues, The Wharf. With kid friendly activities like T-shirt painting, performances on three stages throughout the day, and wait for it—a roller rink with free skating, topped off by a fireworks display, we say bring it on.

Apr. 7
1 p.m.- 9:30 p.m.
Online: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

Photo: National Cherry Blossom Festival

Parade Down Constitution Avenue
The National Cherry Blossom Parade marks the end of the Festival, this year featuring contestants from The Voice among other performances, and giant balloon likenesses of Peppa Pig, Smurfette and more marching down Constitution Ave. If it’s not yet naptime, after the parade head to the nearby Sakura Matsuri Street Festival , a ticketed event with three stages, martial art and cooking demos, arts vendors and food. Free for kids 12 and under.

Apr. 14
10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Online: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

What are your Cherry Blossom Festival plans? Tell us in the comments section below. 

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—Carolyn Ross