The Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival is a treasured event that occurs each spring in the nation’s capital. It’s a multi-week fest that celebrates the region’s famous cherry blossoms. At least 70% of the flowers are open at this time, making them a spectacular sight. Typically, the flowers are at their peak during early April, but they have been known to bloom as early as mid-March and as late as mid-April.
Each year, millions of people gather to see the light pink trees in bloom along the waterfront. Over the course of four weeks, the festival hosts all kinds of events—from parades to parties—in celebration of the big bloom. Because there is so much to see and do during this springtime festival, we’ve created a helpful guide to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. Check out our tips and tricks to ensure you experience all the flower-focused fun in 2020.
What You Need to Know
Officially named the National Cherry Blossom Festival, this springtime event honors the gift of friendship between Japan and the United States. In 1912, Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo sent 3,000 cherry blossom trees to Washington, D.C. as a token of international goodwill.
The actual festival itself began in 1934. It started as a small, three-day affair to celebrate the flowering of the trees. Today, more than 1.5 million people from around the world visit the nation’s capital for the super bloom during the month-long event. Now there’s even a parade!
When is the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C.?
The festival begins around when the cherry blossoms usually bloom and lasts for several weeks. Sometimes the trees will blossom at different times depending on the weather, but the festival events will remain the same regardless. For 2020, the Cherry Blossom Festival D.C. dates are March 20 to April 12.
Where is the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C.?
To see the blossoms, make your way to the shoreline at East Potomac Park near the Tidal Basin. The events take place all around the District, including the National Mall, Constitution Avenue, and The Yards.
What time is the Cherry Blossom Parade in D.C.?
The parade begins at 10 a.m. and runs until noon. Arrive early to get a good spot along Constitution Avenue.
What to Do During the Celebrations
Although admiring and photographing the delicate flowers are certainly some of the best things to do during the festival, there are more than 50 events and programs that take place during the celebration. From kite festivals and live music to art shows and parades, be sure to mark your calendar for some of these popular events:
- Pink Tie Party: This party kicks off the festival with an evening of cocktails, music, and entertainment. The 21-and-up party is on March 20, from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets costs $180 until December 31, 2019, and then they increase to $225 up until the event.
- Opening Ceremony: Join some of the world’s most celebrated performers as they take the stage at the historic Warner Theatre. The performance is on March 21 from 5-6:30 p.m.
- Blossom Kite Festival: On March 28, 2020, thousands of kites will take to the sky above the National Monument. This family-friendly event invites you to fly your own kite and watch the professionals engage in Rokkaku Battles and the Hot Tricks Showdown. There’s even a station where kids can make their own kites. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade®: Marvel at elaborate floats, marching bands, and entertainers as they make their way down Constitution Avenue for this spectacular parade on April 4, 2020. Beginning at 10 a.m., the procession, complete with music and balloons, will march from 7th to 17th St. NW. It’s free to watch from the street, but you can purchase tickets for the Grandstand Seating, too.
- National Cherry Blossom Festival Petalpalooza®: Don’t miss this all-day event on April 11, from 1-9 p.m. Petalpalooza takes place at The Yards and features art shows, live music, and family-friendly activities. Stick around for the fireworks show at the end of the evening.
Getting There and Getting Around
If you’re booking flights to Washington, D.C., you have your choice of flying into several different airports. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will place you just a few miles from the festival, while Dulles International Airport is roughly 30 miles east of the District. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is another option, but it’s located a little further away (33 miles northeast of the festival.)
When you’re getting around D.C., you’ll find that the region has a great public transportation system. The Metrorail and Metrobus both service the festival, making it easy for you to attend all the events. Purchase a SmarTrip® card in advance to ride the Metro and visit all the local attractions while you’re in town.
Where to stay for the Cherry Blossom Festival
When it comes to finding hotels in Washington, D.C., you’ll come across options all over town. To help narrow down your options, check out some of these neighborhoods:
- Downtown D.C.: This area will place you right next to the National Mall, where the best museums are located. You’ll also find yourself just a stone’s throw from many of the festival events.
- Dupont Circle: This LGBT-friendly ’hood has it all. From shops and cafes to bars and restaurants, there are plenty of things to do in this area.
- Adams Morgan: This hip neighborhood is known for its nightlife. Stay in this area if you want easy access to bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and more.
Springtime is certainly a special time to visit the nation’s capital. For more advice on what to see and do while you’re in town, check out our guide to spending a weekend in D.C. And when hunger strikes, dig into our list of the best cheap eats in the city. Now pack your bags and get ready to see those blossoms bloom!