Cherry blossom season is almost upon us, and it’s time to start getting ready for it! Because not only is the city at its prettiest when the beloved flowers are in bloom, there also are loads of special events and activities to celebrate it all. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, running March 20 – April 13 this year, presents all kinds of fun and enriching activities over several weeks, plus there are even more blossom-inspired happenings that aren’t part of the official festivities. I’ve picked the best of them for families to help you plan for a peak experience. And for viewing the blossoms, check out these KFDC tips. Happy Spring!
In Peak Bloom
Where: ARTECHOUSE | Southwest DC
When: March 20 – May 27
Admission: $16-20/adult, $8-10/child
ARTECHOUSE is bringing cherry blossoms to a digital realm, celebrating spring, renewal, and the cherry blossom season with this art experience. In Peak Bloom will feature interactive and immersive digital art installations inspired by the fragile beauty and ephemeral nature of the cherry blossom. The cherry blossom’s distinctive short life span is closely tied to its cultural significance — reminding us of how precious and fleeting life is — and also part of what makes its blooming period such a cherished spectacle.
Where: Tidal Basin Welcome Area
When: Weekends, March 23 – April 14
Catch live entertainment as you take in views of the blossoms! On weekends during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, there will be music and dance performances on a special stage set up at the Tidal Basin Welcome Area. A highlight will be the Sakura Takio Takeover on March 30 from 11am – 5pm!
Cherry Blossom Family Festival
Where: American Art Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: March 23, 11:30am – 3pm
Join the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Cherry Blossom Festival for a celebration of Japanese culture. Kick off the day with a taiko drumming performance outside of the museum at the F Street entrance. Enjoy face painting, make cherry blossom crafts, listen to Japanese music, and go on a spring-themed scavenger hunt through the museum’s galleries.
Japanese Culture Day
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: March 23, 10am – 3pm
Children of all ages and their families can learn about Japanese culture through reading, writing, and craft-making with Japanese cultural and linguistic professionals. Japanese-related books will be on display, and a special highlight of the day is “Japan-In-A-Suitcase,” an inspiring program about Japanese life and culture. Other activities include Japanese drum music and dance performances, instructions on the art of tiara-making by former Cherry Blossom princesses, origami artwork lessons, decorative Konobori coloring, and the kimono dress-up experience. Children can also explore the Library’s Young Readers Center, which is full of current and classic children’s literature – read more about it here.
Go with the Flow
Where: Local waterways
When: Starting mid-March
Admission: Rates vary
Get a new perspective of the blossom and enjoy a fun activity on a paddling excursion. Many boathouses will open around the same time the National Cherry Blossom Festival begins, offering canoe, kayak, and other rentals to take you out on the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and Tidal Bason, where you can see the blooming cherry trees from the water. This KFDC post has more information on where to go with the flow around DC.
Where: Local waterways
Admission: Varies by tour operator
Enjoy blossom filled scenery from the comfort of a cruise on the Potomac. Several companies offer boat rides along the river, many of them specifically for the season when the cherry trees are in bloom. Right now you can find great deals with Boomerang Boat Tours and National Ferry Fleet. Capitol River Cruises, Potomac Riverboat Company, and DC Water Taxi are a few more to check out.
STORYTIME: Call Me Tree
Where: Hirshhorn Museum | National Mall, DC
When: March 27, 10-11am
Join the Hirshhorn for a special STORYTIME, their regular program for littles, and take a trip to the depths of the earth and discover what can grow from it. Visit the round bronze sculptures Spatial Concept: Nature by Lucio Fontana, hear a reading of Call Me Tree by Maya Christina González, then do a related hands-on activity.
Blossom Kite Festival
Where: Washington Monument Grounds | National Mall, DC
When: March 30, 10am – 4:30pm
The annual Blossom Kite Festival is a favorite for many during the blossom season. The sight of thousands of kites in all colors, shapes, and sizes soaring around the Washington Monument truly is a sight to behold. The sails you see flying at the Festival each spring range from simple to pretty darn creative. Dragons, sharks, butterflies, giant soccer balls, even some that look like big, beautiful origami works way outnumber your basic diamond. And anyone can go fly their kites, so BYO or make one there at an activity station. There’s a competition aspect to the event, too; expert kite enthusiasts will wow crowds with cool stunts, and prizes will be awarded to winners of various categories such as most beautiful, funniest, and aerodynamics.
A cherry blossom dream at last year’s ARTECHOUSE spring exhibit
Blossoms & Baseball
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: April 3
Admission: Ticket price vary
The Nats are getting in on the Cherry Blossom festivities this year with a petal-packed, pink takeover of Nationals Park as they host the Phillies. A portion of ticket proceeds from the game will also benefit the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Cherry Blossom STEM Day
Where: Children’s Science Center Lab | Fairfax, VA
When: April 6, 10am – 6pm
Celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival with a twist of STEM! Guests will be able to experiment with Flower Pigmentation. Visitors will press or rub flower petals onto a coffee filter, and with water added, witness the process of different pigmentation (ie, which colors will appear for the different types of flowers). Surprise and wonder may come as to how many colors will reveal themselves out of one colored petal. Read more about the Children’s Science Center Lab in this KFDC post.
Open Studio: Celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Freer|Sackler Gallery | National Mall, DC
When: April 6, 10am – 12pm & April 13, 12-4pm
Take a family-friendly tour and learn about nature in Japanese art (10:30am on 4/6, 12:30pm & 2:30pm on 4/13). Then, continue to explore the Freer for pop-up art-making activities with FutureMakers and artist demonstrations inspired by the spring season. All ages are welcome with adult companions.
Ikebana Floral Design Workshop for Kids
Where: Green Spring Garden | Alexandria, VA
When: April 6
Kids ages 8-14 can try their hand at creating a Japanese-style floral design influenced by the flowering cherry trees. Instructor Elizabeth Berry will introduce kids to this Asian art and help them create a small arrangement of their own to take home. Register in advance. Read more about Green Spring Gardens in this KFDC post.
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: April 6, 12-9:30pm
It’s a full day of live music and engaging activities at The Wharf! Petalpalooza will feature live music on multiple outdoor stages, a beer garden, all-ages activities, product giveaways, a spectacular fireworks show by Pyrotecnico, and much more along the piers of the Southwest Waterfront. Take in the half-mile-long stretch of The Wharf’s shops and restaurants as the National Cherry Blossom Festival transforms the waterfront community into a one-day-only springtime spectacle. Read more about The Wharf in this KFDC post.
Community Day: Growing Community
Where: National Building Museum | Judiciary Square, DC
When: April 7, 10am – 2pm
Celebrate the playfulness of spring at the National Building Museum during this program offered as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival! Participate in hands-on activities and learn from community partners as you explore how landscape design can inspire outdoor play to grow and strengthen community. Take a closer look at the green space incorporated into your built environment that gets people outside and brings them together.
Art Blooms at Mosaic
Where: Mosaic District | McLean, VA
When: April 7, 11am – 5pm
This inaugural National Cherry Blossom Festival event brings an immersive and participatory art experience to Northern Virginia. Shop the UrbnMarket handmade and vintage craft fair, join interactive art classes and demonstrations, enjoy live music and entertainment, and watch the Cherry Tree planting and dedication. There will also be a Caboose Beer Garden for adults.
Japanese Stone Lantern Lighting
Where: Tidal Basin | Southwest, DC
When: April 7, 3-4:30pm
Nestled under the cherry blossom trees on the Tidal Basin, this ceremony includes remarks by top US officials and Japanese diplomats as well as traditional songs and music performed by Toho Koto Society of Washington DC and the Washington DC Choral Society.
Cherry Blossom Night at DC United
Where: Audi Field | Southwest DC
When: April 9, 7:45pm
Admission: Ticket prices vary
Support local sports and be a part of the Cherry Blossom Festival at once! DC United’s home match against Montreal Impact will include cherry blossom-themed activations, activities, and celebrations for fans along with the action on the pitch. Score tickets here.
Millennium Stage: Taiko Drumming and Traditional Dance
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: April 12, 6pm
This Target Family Night at Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage features a Japanese performance that all ages will enjoy. Thundering taiko drumming meets traditional Japanese dance as nearly 30 drummers and dancers from Tamagawa University and Taiko Group take the stage. The performers make up one of Japan’s top-ranking taiko groups coming out of the premier arts university in Japan.
See Racing Presidents rolling down Constitution Ave at the annual parade
National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Where: Constitution Avenue, 7th – 17th St NW | Downtown DC
When: April 13, 10am – 12pm
The pinnacle of cherry blossom festivities easily is the parade. Thousands of people line Constitution Avenue every year to watch the procession of lavish floats, giant helium balloons, marching bands, and a variety of performers roll through the city. Tickets for grandstand seats are available for $20, but you can stake out a spot along the curb for free. Plan to arrive early to get a good view — the crowds come out for this one, especially if it’s a pretty spring day.
Where: Pennsylvania Ave, 3rd-7th St NW | Downtown DC
When: April 13, 10:30am – 6pm
Admission: $10/ages 13+, free/12 & under
Following the Cherry Blossom parade, many folks head over to Sakura Matsuri, the Japanese Street Festival that is America’s largest one-day exhibition of Japanese culture. The 59th annual event will feature live music and dance performances, all kinds of Asian and Western foods, martial arts demos, Japanese art, and more. Be prepared for a crowd.
Into The Woods
Where: Frying Pan Farm Park | Herndon, VA
When: April 13, 11:30am – 1:30pm
Celebrate the season trekking on Frying Pan’s nature trail to experience the changes of spring. Visit stations peppered throughout the trail to build a fairy house, help tally migratory and year round resident birds, and search for critters in the soil and water. Enjoy Japanese teas at the historic Frying Pan Meeting House. Stop by the Indoor Arena first for a map and instructions.
Ikebana for Kids
Where: National Arboretum | Northeast DC
When: April 13, 1-2pm
Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging, and kids ages 10 to 13 can spend an hour with a trained ikebana teacher qualified to teach young people this ancient art. Your child will take home a beautiful living flower arrangement as part of the workshop. All materials will be provided. Registration by April 5 is required.
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: April 14, 11am – 8pm
This year, National Harbor will be joining the DC region in the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. Sakura Sunday will feature a wide array of fincluding traditional Japanese picnicking with food available for sale; a sake, rosé and beer garden; a Japanese Market; and Japanese-inspired music and entertainment. Restaurants and retailers will also participate in special offers and a cherry blossom store display window competition, and The Capital Wheel will turn pink during the festival. Muse Paintbar will feature cherry blossom art classes and a live painting demonstration as well.
Anacostia River Festival
Where: Anacostia Park | Southeast DC
When: April 14, 1-5pm (POSTPONED to April 20)
The 5th annual Anacostia River Festival is once again a premier event and official closing of the 2019 National Cherry Blossom Festival! Celebrate the Anacostia River with some fun outdoor recreation! Explore the river by canoe, ride in a bike parade, play lawn games with your family, and experience Southeast DC’s local arts scene.