DC in Bloom: The 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival

A 2-year-old Owen delights in the blossoms

It’s just a matter of time until DC is at its prettiest. The National Park Service recently announced the peak dates of our famous cherry blossoms:  March 29 – April 3.  And the timing couldn’t be better.  Not only does the dazzling flower display coincide with the start of spring, it occurs during the 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival, over two weeks of special events, including tons of entertainment and fun activities for all ages.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 26 – April 10, is more than just a celebration of spring and its namesake flowers.  It also honors the friendship between the U.S. and Japan, who gifted us with the cherry trees, a relationship especially significant in light of the devastation the country just endured.  A wonderful way to acknowledge our Japanese friends is with contribution to relief efforts.  If you’d like to make a donation, consider these charitable organizations:
American Red Cross
Mercy Corps
Doctors Without Borders
GlobalGiving.com
International Medical Corps

As for the Festival, it’s chock full of activities for families to enjoy.  Here are select events and dates to mark on your calendar.

National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day and Opening Ceremony
Saturday, March 26
The National Cherry Blossom Festival will kick off with a Family Day at the National Building Museum from 10am – 3:30pm before the official Opening Ceremony from 4–5:30pm.  The free, drop-in program will feature hands-on activities and exciting indoor and outdoor performances that celebrate spring and explore Japanese arts and design.

Performance Stage at Sylvan Theater
Saturday, March 26 – Sunday, April 10
In the shadow of the Washington Monument, this is the Festival’s primary stage. Enjoy recognized and diverse talent from around the region, country, and world, including varied genres of music and dance, martial arts exhibitions, marching bands, and more. Free performances can be enjoyed from 12-5pm on weekdays and 12-6pm on weekends.

Music of Spring at Eastern Market
Saturday & Sunday, Marc 26-27 & April 9-10
Along with several children’s performances presented by the Boogie Babes, there will be upbeat, springtime jazz, world-beat, Americana, classical, and spoken word in the street, on the plazas, and in Eastern Market’s newly restored North Hall.

Our dragon kite from last year's festival

Blossom Kite Festival
Sunday, March 27
Rescheduled for Sunday, April 10
Even before having kids, this was one of my favorite DC activities. With babes in tow, it’s even better. The sight of thousands of colorful kites of all shapes and sizes flying in the air around the Washington Monument is a sight to behold.  And imagining it from my kids’ perspectives adds a touch of magic to it all.   So, when I say kites of all shapes and sizes, I don’t just mean the typical diamonds and triangles; the sails you see at the festival each spring get a little more sophisticated than that.  There are sharks, butterflies, giant soccer balls, even some that look like intricate works of art.  While the festival is open to the public to come fly their kites, there is some competition and exhibition to witness, 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.   The Festival is free and will run from 10am – 4pm.

ImaginAsia Family Program: Painted Parasols
Sunday, March 27
At 2pm, at the Freer Gallery Courtyard, kids ages 8-14 (suggested ages) can participate in a hands-on art activity reminiscent of Japanese culture as they paint a paper parasol to carry as they visit the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin. Find inspiration in some of the gallery’s exhibits that depict spring flower motifs in the clothes and accessories of Japanese women as they stroll through parks in springtime.

National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Fun Day at The Yards Park
Saturday, April 2
There are two things we can count on as spring begins in DC: cherry blossoms and the start of the baseball season.  You can celebrate both at the Yards Park, the centerpiece of the new Capitol Riverfront area. The Family Fun Day will include kids activities like boat making and moonbouncing, lantern making for all ages, Trapeze School, Japanese performers and music, a variety of Japanese cuisine from Nooshi Sushi, and Sake tasting and a Japanese beer garden (for adults, of course) from Mie N Yu.  The event is free and open to the public from 11am – 4pm.

DISC Cherry Blossom Regatta
Saturday, April 2
Young boat enthusiasts will love watching sailboats from Daingerfield Island Sailing Club (DISC) and Potomac River Sailing Association race near Hains Point and East Potomac Park on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers with cherry trees lining the shore. You can probably get a good view of the boats from the Yards Park during the Family Fun Day.  For a view from the water, the M/V PATRIOT II, the official spectator boat of the regatta and DC Harbor Cruises’ new luxury catamaran, will offer a special Cherry Blossom Regatta cruise.

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival
Saturday, April 2
Another family event happening along the water is the annual fireworks show at the Southwest Waterfront.  It’s an all-day and part-evening affair with live music and family-friendly festivities starting at 1pm. The grand finale will begin at 8:30pm when the National Cherry Blossom Festival Fireworks Show lights up the night sky.

Clifford at the Cherry Blossom Parade

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Saturday, April 9
The mac daddy of cherry blossom festivities is definitely the parade. Thousands of people line Constitution Avenue every year to watch the spectacle of lavish floats, giant helium balloons, marching bands, and a variety of performers travel from 7th to 17th Streets.  The parade begins at 10am and last about two hours.  Tickets for grandstand seats are available for $17, but you can stake out a spot along the curb for free.  Plan to arrive early t get a good view — the crowds come out for this one, especially if it’s a nice day.

Sakura Matsuri
Saturday, April 9
Immediately following the parade, many folks head right over to Sakura Matsuri, the Japanese Street Festival that is America’s largest one-day exhibition of Japanese culture. Stretching down six city blocks from 9th to 14th Streets on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, there will be live music and dance performances, all kinds of Asian and Western foods, martial arts demos, a Children’s Corner with storytelling, origami, Japanese games, calligraphy, and more.  Festivities go on until 6pm, and there is a $5 charge for adults (free for children under 12).

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Filed under All ages, DC, Eats, Festival, Free, Live Entertainment, Monuments & Memorials, Music, Outdoor, Parade, Seasonal, Spring

3 Responses to DC in Bloom: The 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival

  1. Pingback: National Mall and Memorial Parks Cherry Blossom Festival dates: March 26 - April 10 Washington D.C. | Freelance Tourist

  2. Pingback: Tips for Families Viewing the Cherry Blossoms | KidFriendly DC

  3. Pingback: Weekend Outlook: Snow, with a Cherry Blossom on Top | KidFriendly DC

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