The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a unique two-week Washington event that will take place March 26 through April 10, 2011.
It celebrates the 3,000 cherry blossom trees given to Washington, D.C. in 1912 by the city of Tokyo. The festival is always scheduled around the time that the trees, which surround the Tidal Basin, are in full bloom.
This year the peak bloom period is predicted to be March 29 through April 3, according to Rob DeFeo, chief horticulturalist of the National Park Service. Peak blooming is when 70 percent of the blossoms are open. On average, the peak bloom date has been April 4.
Here are some of the events that have been planned so far:
Family Day & Opening Ceremony
WHEN: Saturday, March 26, 2011 - 10 AM to 3:30 PM
Opening ceremony: 4 PM – 5:30 PM
WHERE: National Building Museum
Visitors of all ages can enjoy a day of fun and participate in various activities, as well as see interesting displays, demonstrations and performances. The end of the day will be the official ceremonial kick-off, featuring remarks by Washington officials, as well as entertainment. The National Building Museum is at 401 F St., NW, between 4th Street and 5 Street. On-street parking is limited but there are parking garages nearby. The closest Metro stop is Judiciary Square.
The Blossom Secrets Stroll
WHEN: Saturday, March 26, 2011 - 2 PM to 4 PM
WHERE: Meet outside Smithsonian Metro station’s Independence Avenue exit – 12th Street and Independence Avenue, SW
COST:$15/person; Children 3 and under are free
A walking tour recounting the story and sites of how the Japanese cherry trees came to Washington. For more information, contact Washington Walks at (202) 484-1565.
Stand With Japan
WHEN: March 24, 2011 at 6:30 PM
WHERE: Meet at the Sylvan Theater at 15th and Independence Avenues, SW
COST: None; Donations to the Red Cross are welcome.
Stand With Japan is a public gathering that includes a walk around the Tidal Basin and a public gathering at the Washington Monument to show solidarity and support for Japan after its devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Cherry Blossom Kite Festival
WHEN:Sunday, April 10, 2011 - 10 AM to 4 PM
WHERE:Washington Monument grounds – Constitution Avenue & 17th Street, NW
The kite festival showcases the creativity of kite makers and the skill of kite fliers from across the United States and other countries through a variety of competitions and demonstrations, including the popular Hot Tricks Showdown and the Rokkaku Battle. Hand-made kites are welcome and there will be stations to build your own. The event will also have kites on sale. The Cherry Blossom Kite Festival includes five areas to explore: the Competition Field, Demonstration Field, Kite Club Display Area, Activity Tents and Public Field.
Sustainable Sushi Tasting
WHEN: March 30, 2011 - 7 PM to 9 PM
WHERE: National Geographic Museum
COST: $100 per person
Sushi expert, Casson Trenor, will be preparing a multiple-course tasting-dinner of sustainable sushi. Tickets go on sale in mid-January. Stay tuned for details on how to buy tickets. The National Geographic Museum is at 1145 17th St., NW. On-street is limited and paid parking garages are nearby. The museum is Metro accessible through Farragut North.
WHEN: April 2, 2011 at 5 PM
WHERE: Southwest Waterfront at 600 Water St., SW
The fifth annual Prelude to the Fireworks is a three-hour festival of family entertainment.
Lantern Lighting Ceremony
WHEN: April 3, 2011, 3 PM – 5 PM
WHERE: Tidal Basin at Independence Avenue and 17th Street, SW
The 360-year-old stone lantern is lit in a formal ceremony featuring traditional Japanese performers, Washington dignitaries and the Cherry Blossom princesses, who represent the U.S. State Societies. You can get to the event by Metro’s Smithsonian stop. Parking is limited around the Tidal Basin.
National Cherry Blossom Festival Gala Dinner Cruise
WHEN: April 7, 2011, 6 PM – 10 PM
WHERE: Board the boat at Gangplank Marina, Southwest Waterfront, 600 Water St., SW
COST: Tickets are required and they cost $125 per person.
The Odyssey, a dinner cruise ship that goes around the Potomac River, is offering a four-course dinner, open bar and dancing with live bands. Proceeds help support festival activities. Cocktail attire is recommended and reservations are required.
National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
WHEN: April 9, 2011 at 10 AM – 12 PM
WHERE: Parade runs along Constitution Avenue from 7th Street, NW to 17th Street, NW
COST: Grandstand seating, located along Constitution between 15th Street, NW and 16th Street, NW, costs $17 each plus a service charge. Tickets can be purchased on the festival’s website. Standing along the parade route is free.
Giant colorful balloons, decorative floats, military units, marching bands and performers will march down Constitution Avenue in celebration of the Cherry Blossoms. The parade, which draws 100,000 people, is Metro accessible through the Navy Memorial and Federal Triangle stops. Parade organizers recommend that people get to the parade route by 9 AM.