The Best Family Events to Celebrate the 2018 Cherry Blossom Season in DC

Peak time around the National Mall



We’re about to hit one of the best times of the year in DC: Cherry Blossom Season! Not only is the city at its prettiest when the famous flowers are in bloom, there are also loads of special events and activities to celebrate it. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, running March 17 – April 15 this year, presents all kinds of fun and enriching opportunities over several weeks, plus there are even more blossom-inspired happenings that aren’t part of the official festivities. Here are the best of them for families to help plan for a peak experience. And for tips on viewing the blossoms, check out this post. Happy Spring!

Sakura Dream
Where: ARTECHOUSE | Southwest DC
When: March 15 – May 6
Admission: $15/adult

ARTECHOUSE is celebrating spring, renewal, and the cherry blossom season with a new immersive and interactive digital experience. And if past installations there are any indication, this one is going to be amazing — and popular! In Sakura Dream, step into a moonlit, floating environment where larger than life koi fish and colorful cherry blossom petals react to your presence. Contemplate the beautiful and ephemeral nature of life over an interactive 3D sculpture of a koi pond and walk narrow lantern lit “street” that respond to your footsteps.

Cultural Performances
Where: Tidal Basin Welcome Area
When: March 17 – April 1
Admission: Free

Catch live entertainment as you take in views of the blossoms! During the bloom season and most of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, there will be music and dance performances on a special stage set up at the Tidal Basin Welcome Area. Enjoy them daily starting March 15 from 12-6pm.

Bloomia Field of Tulips
Where: The Park at CityCenterDC | Downtown DC
When: March 23-24
Admission: Free

Spring into the season with DC’s very own Tulip Festival! For two days only, The Park at CityCenter will be filled with more than 40,000 tulips per day. Entry into the garden is free, and you can take a piece of spring home with you for $1/stem. Every purchase made supports DC Central Kitchen.

Cherry Blossom Celebration
Where: Smithsonian American Art Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: March 24, 11:30am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Join a celebration of Japanese culture! A taiko drumming performance kicks off the day, followed by Japanese music and dance performances, face painting, and cherry-blossom themed crafts. Make your own tatebanko (a Japanese paper diorama) with friends from the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler Asian art museums, take a scavenger hunt to find spring themed artworks, and more! The event takes place in the Museum’s beautiful, glass covered Kogod Courtyard.

Friendship Between Nations Family Day
Where: National Archives | National Mall, DC
When: March 24, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Join the National Archives for a fun, activity filled day exploring the many ways countries show their friendship, such as the gift of the cherry blossoms from Japan to the US. Investigate treaties, learn about some of the crazy gifts countries have given, and participate in interactive activities designed for the entire family to enjoy.

Go fly a kite at the Washington Monument!

Blossom Kite Festival
Where: Washington Monument Grounds | National Mall, DC
When: March 31, 10am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free

Go fly a kite! Seriously. The Kite Festival is probably my favorite event of the blossom season. 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 magical for 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 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.

Growing Community
Where: National Building Museum | Judiciary Square, DC
When: March 31, 11am – 2pm
Admission: Free

All ages can drop in to explore how nature can be intentionally integrated into and around built spaces to help promote community and encourage civic engagement. Work with friends and family to design and build a large scale model of your own green space inspired by a park in your neighborhood or one you would like to see added to your community. Find out more about the importance of green space in urban areas during Ten (minute) Talks and a spring-inspired story time.

Cherry Blossom Day at the Lab
Where: Children’s Science Center Lab | Fairfax, VA
When: March 31, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $13

Fuse science and cherry blossoms and fun at the Lab! Visitors will create their own unique representation of a cherry blossom. Learn and grow crystals, explore the world of chemical reactions, solubility, and become chemists. Design your own cherry blossom petal, flower, or tree to take home and celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival. Read more about the Children’s Science Center Lab in this KFDC post.

Paints, Pigments, Brushes: All about Japanese Painting
Where: Freer|Sackler Gallery | National Mall, DC
When: March 31, 12-4pm
Admission: Free

Enter the world of traditional Japanese painting, or nihonga, in this drop-in Open Studio workshop celebrating the National Cherry Blossom Festival. View a display of colorful pigments and brushes, and try making your own painting alongside visiting Japanese artists Ideguchi Yuki and Iwaizumi Kei. All ages welcome with adult companions.

Japanese Culture Day
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: April 7
Admission: Free

Learn Japanese culture through reading, writing, and craft making with Japanese cultural and linguistic professionals. Cherry Blossom princesses from the last few years will instruct children in the art of tiara-making. And the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC, will present “Japan-In-A-Suitcase,” a program about Japanese life and culture. Tad Hills, an American children’s book author and illustrator, will be joining the Japanese Culture Day for a book reading/signing. He plans to read “How Rocket Learned to Read.” 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.

Open Studio: Celebrate the National Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Freer|Sackler Gallery | National Mall, DC
When: April 7, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the National Cherry Blossom Festival with the Freer|Sackler! Take a family-friendly tour and learn about nature in Japanese art (10:30 am). Then, continue to explore the Freer for pop-up art-making activities and artist demonstrations inspired by the spring season. All ages welcome with adult companions.

Family Fun: Japanese Brush Painting
Where: Green Spring Gardens | Alexandria, VA
When: April 7, 1-2:30pm
Admission: $10

Celebrate the blooming of the cherry trees and Japanese culture with Asian sumi-e brush painting at Green Spring Gardens for kids (5 years and up) and their parents. Learn about the materials and brush strokes used in this beautiful art style and take home your own brush painting masterpiece. Art materials provided. Plan for time before or after to explore the beautiful ground. Read more about Green Spring Gardens in this KFDC post.

Cherry Blossom Fun
Where: Room and Board | 14th Street NW
When: April 7, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Join Room and Board for a morning of creative activities celebrating the National Cherry Blossom Festival and Japanese culture. Kids of all ages can make candy sushi, listen to story time, and have an anime caricature drawn of them. Parents are invited to enjoy beverages from a special tea station.

Petalpalooza
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: April 7, 2-9:30pm
Admission: Free

Formerly known as the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival, Petalpalooza will include interactive art installations, larger-than-life games and activities, live music on three outdoor stages, a roller rink, a beer garden, a spectacular fireworks show by Pyrotecnico, and much more along the piers of the Southwest Waterfront, the “home of the cherry blossoms.”

Lantern Lighting & Cherry Blossom Princesses
Where: Tidal Basin | Southwest, DC
When: April 8, 3pm
Admission: Free

Children will be inspired by the beauty of the Cherry Blossom Princesses dressed in their pink kimonos. The Cherry Blossom Princess Program is an educational and cultural program for women aged 19-24 from across the United States, including leadership workshops, building public speaking skills, and creating connections that can help with college applications and future employment. The princesses light the 8.5-foot-tall Japanese stone lantern at the Tidal Basin as part of a truly spectacular celebration of the festival and the enduring friendship between Japan and the United States.

Catch Racing Presidents sightings at the Cherry Blossom Parade!

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Where: Constitution Avenue, 7th – 17th St NW | Downtown DC
When: April 14, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

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.

Sakura Matsuri
Where: Pennsylvania Ave, 3rd-7th St NW | Downtown DC
When: April 14, 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. 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.

Ikebana
Where: National Arboretum | Northeast DC
When: April 15, 1-2pm
Admission: $10

Children can learn the centuries-old tradition of Japanese flower arranging at an ikebana workshop at the National Arboretum. The hour-long workshop is for children ages 10-13. You can also visit an ikebana demonstration and see the Ikebana International exhibit at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum Exhibits Gallery. Registration required.

Anacostia River Festival
Where: Anacostia Park | Southeast DC
When: April 15, 1-5pm
Admission: Free

The National Park Service and the 11th Street Bridge Park present the 4th annual Anacostia River Festival, also a premier event of the 2018 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. This year’s festival will also celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Anacostia Park and the Year of the Anacostia — a year-long invitation to honor its history.

J-POP
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom
When: April 18
Admission: Free

At the daily Millennium Stage show, New York-based pop singer Kana Uemura will perform “J-Pop”, Japanese pop music and American pop music at a free concert suitable for children. Her play list includes her hit song “Goddess of the Toilet,” a whimsical ballad dedicated to her late grandmother who told her there was a god of beauty living in the toilet and if she cleaned the toilet carefully, she would grow up to be beautiful. Her song inspired both tears and laughter across Japan and was a #1 hit.

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