With the National Park Service’s recent announcement of the predicted cherry blossom peak (March 31 – April 3) and the Capital Weather Gang’s declaration that winter is over and spring is on, it’s time to talk celebration. And the National Cherry Blossom Festival, along with a couple of museums, have it all figured out for us with several weeks of events and activities to enjoy during the prettiest time of year in DC. Here are the best of them for families to help you have a peak blossom experience. Happy spring! (Update: The National Park Service revised their prediction, and the peak is now expected March 18-23.)
Asia Heritage Family Day
Where: National Air & Space Museum
When: March 19, 10am – 3pm
Get ready for the Blossom Kite Festival and celebrate spring and Asian Heritage! Talk to kite experts, see pan-Asian kite displays, marvel at indoor kite flying, make your own kite, and maybe even take a dance lesson! This year’s Kites of Asia Heritage Family Day will have a special focus on Nepal and India.
Make an Okinawan Textile Craft
Where: GW Museum & Textile Museum
When: March 18-20
Discover Okinawa at this three-day celebration for all ages! Try your hand at origami, traditional bingata painting, and other art activities. Enjoy children’s stories, dance performances, and karate demonstrations. Learn about the geography and natural environment of the island, sample Okinawan treats, and take home a local souvenir. Check the website to see the schedule of events each day.
Family Day at the Building Museum
Where: National Building Museum
When: March 26
The National Building Museum is hosting their annual event to kick off the cherry blossoms celebration family-style. And they’re doing it with a nod to the National Park Service’s Centennial Anniversary. The day will feature hands-on fun and games focused on parks, planning, landscape design, and architecture. Activities will include folding origami masterpieces, designing a memorial for the National Mall, constructing a tatebanko diorama, meeting DuAro (Kawasaki’s robot), trying on traditional Japanese clothing, and learning more about the National Park Service’s milestone celebration.
Blossom Kite Festival
Where: Washington Monument Grounds
When: April 2, 10am – 4:30pm
Go fly a kite! Seriously. The Kite Festival is, in my opinion, the best event during cherry blossom season (when the weather cooperates, anyway). The sight of thousands of kites in all colors, shapes, and sizes soaring around the Washington Monument is truly a sight to behold. It’s absolutely magical for my kids, and even for me as a jaded adult. 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 intricate works of art actually outnumber your basic diamond. And anyone can go fly their kites, so be sure to bring one. 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.
Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival
Where: Southwest Waterfront, 600 Water Street SW
When: April 9, 1-9pm
A fun 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 free live music and family-friendly festivities, including water-related activities, cultural experiences, and delicious foods. The grand finale will begin at 8:30pm when the National Cherry Blossom Festival Fireworks Show lights up the night sky.
Family Workshop: Paper Trails
Where: Sackler Gallery
When: April 10 & 16, 1-4pm
In celebration of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, explore the importance of paper across Asian artmaking traditions. With educators from the Freer|Sackler and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, use traditional Japanese papers and bookmaking tools and techniques to create your own artist’s book. This program is designed for children ages 6–12 and adults to enjoy together.
National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Where: Constitution Avenue, 7th – 17th Streets NW
When: April 16, 10am – 12pm
The pinnacle of cherry blossom festivities is easily 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 down Constitution Avenue. 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: M Street & New Jersey Ave. SE
When: April 16, 10:30am – 6pm
Admission: $8/ages 13 and up in advance, free for 12 and under
Following the Cherry Blossom parade, many folks head right over to Sakura Matsuri, the Japanese Street Festival that is America’s largest one-day exhibition of Japanese culture. There will be live music and dance performances, all kinds of Asian and Western foods, martial arts demos, Japanese art, and more. All at a new location in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. Be prepared for a crowd.