Cherry blossom season is one of the best times of the year to be in DC. Not only is the city at its prettiest when the iconic flowers are in bloom, there usually are loads of special events and activities to celebrate it all. It’s also when I share my tips for viewing the famous flowers, an annual post that I love and have been updating since 2011 that others seem to enjoy as well (it’s always very highly viewed and shared).
For obvious reasons, so much about cherry blossom season is different this year. It still remains to be seen what kind of access to the Tidal Basin the National Park Service will allow to see the peak bloom, which is predicted to occur April 2-5. Big, beloved in-person events like the Kite Festival, National Cherry Blossom Parade, and Sakura Matsuri have been cancelled along with museum programs that used to be IRL. And my annual viewing tips… well, much of them apply to seeing them at the Tidal Basin, so they may not get a redux this spring.
However, there still are some fantastic ways to celebrate cherry blossom season! The National Cherry Blossom Festival (NCBF), running March 20 – April 11, has reimagined many of its events as at-home or virtual activities to present them safely for Covid. And even though we may not be able to experience the bloom at its best near the National Mall, there are other spots to enjoy the pink and white brilliance around the area. I’ve highlighted the best of all of it for families to help you plan for a peak experience. Happy Spring!
Peak bloom in Stanton Park
Cherry Blossom Viewing
Where: Around the DMV
When: Late March – Early April
Viewing the cherry blossoms is the top thing to do during the season. As we’re still awaiting guidelines for viewing at the Tidal Basin this year, here’s a tip that comes straight from my annual post from previous years: Seek out other spots to see the bloom. Several places around the DC-Metro area are well known for their annual cherry blossom displays. The National Arboretum also has a nice collection of the trees and offers a beautiful, peaceful environment in which to enjoy them. National Harbor has 200 trees planted on it grounds. Stanton Park on Capitol Hill flourishes with pick and white come spring. Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, has a lovely collection of cherry trees. In Northern Virginia, Green Spring Gardens and Meadowlark Botanical Gardens have some of the pretty trees to see, too. (Thinking I should just put together a whole post about viewing sites…) In the meantime, check out these scenes from a peak bloom past.
Where: ARTECHOUSE | Southwest DC
When: March 15 – September 6
Admission: $24/adult, $17/age 4-15, free/under 4
ARTECHOUSE introduces a new exhibit every season, and spring is always inspired by the cherry blossoms in some way. Here’s the description of year’s show, Renewal 2121: “Transporting us 100 years into the future, it immerses us in an industrial city where nature fights to survive amid an overdeveloped metropolis. This is a future that will arrive if humanity continues unchecked at its current pace. However, there is a hopeful message to be discovered as blossoms are seen peeking through the plastic, concrete and neon lights, ready to renew the season with the help of those willing to take action.”
National Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony
When: March 20, 6pm
The Festival’s signature Opening Ceremony, an artistic celebration of the 1912 gift of trees from Tokyo to DC is also an annual tribute to the longstanding friendship between Japan and the United States. Watch a livestream of the event that will feature special performances from acclaimed artists with ties to both countries.
Petal Porch Parade
Where: At home & around the DC area
When: March 20 – April 11
Since we can’t have a big parade, locals are invited to get creative and show their cherry blossom spirit by decorating their porches, yards, or windows — and spread joy to neighbors and connect communities across the region! The National Cherry Blossom Festival will produce a virtual map with locations of all registered Petal Porches, so you can plan a walk or drive to see and share in the celebration of spring. On the weekend of April 10-11, a Petal Procession will drive through select Petal Porch Parade neighborhoods in and around DC. So, get your neighbors to register and join in the springtime celebration to increase your chances of having the Petal Procession cruise through your ‘hood!
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: March 20 – April 11
Celebrate spring and the blossoms at the The Wharf. Bloomaroo will bring nearly a month of cherry blossom-themed art installations, and specialty cocktails. Anime Movie Days will have 13 anime movie screenings, including the newest Sonic the Hedgehog movie, from March 26 through April 11 — all films will be dubbed in English. Check out a special mural created by ARTECHOUSE, too. Restaurants at the waterfront destination will have cherry blossom-inspired menus, and keep an eye out for special samplings, beer dinners, and more. Ride the Wharf Jitney or hop on the Water Taxi for an up-close look at DC’s favorite landmarks — the cherry trees. For more about The Wharf, see this KFDC post.
Book Hill in Bloom
Where: Book Hill Community | Georgetown, DC
When: March 20 – April 11
Georgetown is celebrating cherry blossom season at its Book Hill community. More than 25 small businesses on upper Wisconsin Avenue are participating by decorating their storefronts with pink and cherry blossom-themed decorations, offering special promotions, and donating prizes for an enter-to-win drawing.
Art in Bloom on Capitol Hill
Art in Bloom
Where: Around the DC area
When: March 20-31
This visual arts exhibition spanning all eight wards of DC, plus a few areas in Maryland and Virginia, radiates the spirit of spring! Go on a Blossom Hunt to find 26 oversized cherry blossom statues painted by local artists and share on Instagram or Twitter with the #artinbloom tag. The NCB will randomly select winners of Festival prize packages.
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: Sundays during the Festival
With in-person Sakura Matsuri, the annual Japanese street fair presented during the Festival, off this year, National Harbor is stepping in. Free cultural activities, including Japanese inspired art creations, culinary classes, in person or virtual, and much more will be offered there. See what else will be at National Harbor during the season.
Virtual Cherry Blossom Celebration
Where: American Art Museum | Online
When: March 20, 10am
Join the Smithsonian American Art Museum for a virtual program full of springtime fun for the whole family. Enjoy a lively performance of traditional Japanese Taiko drumming by the group Nen Daiko. Then learn more as the group demonstrates how they plan their performances and design their own instruments. Explore art, nature, and color with SAAM‘s docents in the new virtual edition of our popular Art Cart series. For more activities, check out their ongoing Family Zone for seasonal crafts, coloring pages, videos, and more. Register here.
Where: Alley off 7th St NW (btwn H & G) | Gallery Place, DC
When: March 20 – April 30
Visit DowntownDC’s ChalkWalk to step into an immersive spring art experience. It will be a unique, Instagrammy, and cherry blossom-inspired 3D art installation backdrop to celebrate spring in the city. Share your photos using the hashtag #ChalkWalkDC for a chance to win prizes from the DowntownDC BID.
Pop-Up Street Theater
Where: Locales around Arlington, VA
When: March 21 & 28 April 4 & 11 | 11am – 2pm
Synetic Theatre, which presents some of the most innovative shows around, will be clowning around with pop-up performances all around Arlington during the Festival. To work with these social distancing times, they are bringing back street theater as a pair of improv actors make appearances at the Art Wall in Virginia Highlands Park, the Crystal City Water Park, and the Long Bridge Park Esplanade.
Blossom Kite Fly
Where: Your backyard or local park
When: March 27-28
The annual Kite Festival on the Mall — one of the best events of the NCBF (& anytime in DC, for that matter) — is not happening this year. Instead, the Festival encourages all to take part in the kite-flying tradition on their own — but with the help of workshops and demos. Find more information about registering here.
Celebrating Cherry Blossoms
Where: National Museum of Asian Art | Online
When: March 27, 10-10:45am
Just in time for peak bloom, ring in the arrival of spring with the art doctors in this online Art & Me Preservation Family Workshop. From paintings to Japanese tea bowls, discover how Smithsonian conservators preserve these colorful artworks. Then try your hand at making your own cherry blossom-inspired creation. Designed for ages 3-8 and caretakers. Register in advance, one per family, and a Zoom link and list of suggested materials will be sent to participants 24–48 hours in advance of the workshop.
Blossoms & Baseball Drive-in
Where: Akridge Lot | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: April 2 & 3, 7pm
The Capitol Riverfront BID is welcoming the spring season back to the neighborhood during MLB Opening Day Weekend with cherry blossom cheer and baseball-themed movies featuring 42: The True Story of an American Legend and A League of Their Own.
Kimono for Kids
Where: GWU & Textile Museum | Online
When: April 3, 11am – 1pm
Kids can enjoy an interactive discussion of Japanese traditional clothing, plus a simple craft project made from materials found at home and inspired by Japanese textiles in this program led by staff from the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. Be sure to register to get the program link.
Virtual Sakura Matsuri
When: April 3, 12-3pm
Join Japan-America Society of Washington DC for the Sakura Matsuri – Virtual Community Gathering. Enjoy stage performances and the opportunity to interact live with many of your favorite Sakura Matsuri exhibitors, vendors and participants.
* Do you know of a great cherry blossom event that’s not listed here? Let us all know in the comments!