After what feels like months of being bathed in gray, the D.C. area is ready to turn pink. The annual cherry blossom blooms usher in spring, warmth and all things good, and this year will be no different. The experts expect peak bloom in late March/early April, and the official National Cherry Blossom Festival is slated for March 23-April 14 this year. It commemorates the close bond between the United States and Japan as exemplified in 1912, when Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki gave the District more than 3,000 cherry trees. Learn about Japanese culture or the trees themselves, or just delight in their beauty at any of the following 12 family-friendly activities.
Cherry Blossom Walking Tours with National Park Service Rangers
There are several tours to choose from, but the little ones will be most interested in the Junior Ranger Activity Zone, where they can pick up a booklet to complete activities that will earn them a Junior Ranger badge and certificate. Other special programs during the festival include a 1.8-mile, two-hour Lantern Walk (March 23, 24, 30, 31 and April 6, 7, 13, 14 at 8 pm) among the Tidal Basin trees and a Pups ’n’ Petals Dog Walk (March 23 and 30, April 6 and 13 at 4 pm) that includes four-legged friends on leashes.
Smithsonian American Art Museum Cherry Blossom Celebration
To celebrate Japanese culture on the opening day of the festival, the museum will offer a taiko drumming performance and other Japanese music and dance performances, face painting, and cherry blossom-themed crafts such as making a tatebanko, a Japanese paper diorama. There will also be a scavenger hunt for spring-themed artwork and cherry blossom treats for sale in the Courtyard Café.
Japanese Culture Day at the Library of Congress
Geared toward children in kindergarten through 12th grades, this special event gives them – and their grown-ups! – a chance to learn about Japanese culture through reading, writing and crafts with Japanese cultural and linguistic professionals. Activities include origami, kimono-wearing and a book reading with author Tad Hills.
Blossoms by Bike Tour
Provided by Bike and Roll, the two-hour ride winds 4 miles around the Potomac Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park. The only official bike tour of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, it departs daily from the National Mall during the festival dates.
Kids can bring or make their own kites at this beloved annual event near the Washington Monument on the National Mall. Besides running free – or as free as you can surrounded by hundreds of kite flyers – watch battles between Rokkaku kites, a six-sided Japanese fighter kite, and the Hot Tricks Showdown.
Formerly known as the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival, this event happens at The Wharf, a new waterfront area with shops, restaurants and activities. Special to Petalpalooza are interactive art installations, games, live music and a beer garden – all of which caps off with a fireworks show. For extra fun, take a wharf jitney or water taxi to the festivities.
Where: Independence Avenue at 12th Street SW
When: April 6, 10 am-noon
How much: Free
Where: 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria
When: April 6, 1-2 pm
How much: $15
Cherry Blossom STEM Day at the Children’s Science Center
Attendees will do a cherry blossom-themed experiment and learn about petal pigmentation. At the Experiment Bar, they can press or run petals among a variety of flowers into a coffee filter to see what happens. This is included in the price of admission, so stick around to check out other interactive exhibits here.
Where: 11948 Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax
When: April 6, 10 am-6 pm
How much: $13
Growing Community at the National Building Museum
Take a break from the beauty outside to check out the grandeur inside this much-loved D.C. museum. Children can participate in hands-on activities as they learn how landscape design can encourage outdoor play.
Where: 401 F St. NW
When: April 7, 11 am-2 pm
How much: Free
National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Cherry blossoms won’t be the only thing lining D.C. streets during the festival. Spectators gather along Constitution Avenue between 9th and 15th streets NW to watch giant balloons, floats, marching bands, performers and celebrities make their way down the street. This year’s honorary grand marshal is Anthony Anderson of “black-ish.” Other performers include A1 Chops, Baltimore drummers who appeared on “The Ellen Show,” and contestants from “The Voice,” “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent.”
Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival
The largest one-day celebration of Japanese culture in the country, according to its website, this event, presented by the Japan-America Society of Washington, offers more than 30 hours of live musical and dance performances by artists from the United States and Japan, food vendors, and sections dedicated to various aspects of Japanese life. There’s the Arts and Culture-Artisan area, where visitors can make and buy crafts, a Ginza area with Japanese goods for sale, and Japan Now, a tribute to modern Japan, including anime and video games.
Where: Pennsylvania Avenue NW, between 3rd and 7th streets NW
When: April 13, 10:30 am-6 pm
How much: $10-50