Get your cameras ready. The National Park Service just announced new peak dates for Washington’s cherry blossoms: April 1 – 4. Not only does this mean we’ll have great backdrops for photos of the kids, it also bodes well for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The annual celebration of the famous bloom, springtime, and the nation’s friendship with Japan (who gifted the US with the cherry trees) kicks off this Saturday, March 27, and runs through April 11. And with it come tons of great family events—parades, cultural peformances, arts acivities, a kids’ run, and fireworks. It’s an ideal time to hang in the heart of the city, so pop a new memory card into the camera and start making some plans (and prepare to share space with tourists, because they love the pretty flowers, too.) Here are dates and details to keep in mind:
March 27: Family Day & Opening Ceremony
The festivities begin at 10am at the National Building Museum with loads of Japanese-inspired activities and performances. On the building front, kids can learn about the significance of animals in architecture and create their own animal reliefs from clay, construct a Japanese-style garden bridge, and design a Japanese stage set. Other sponsors and organizations will be there with more fun stuff—kids can play dress-up with traditional Japanese clothes, make picture frames and vases, and plant seedlings in cowpots. The Family Day part ends at 3:30pm; the official Opening Ceremony starts at 4pm.
April 3: Prelude to the Fireworks and Fireworks Show at the SW Waterfront
Get ready for the evening spectacle in the sky with Prelude to the Fireworks, an annual festival hosted by the Washington Waterfront Asociation. Starting at 5pm, there will be musical performaces, craft activities for kids, local restaurant fare, and special guest appearances at Waterfront Park, located at 600 Water Street SW. The fireworks begin at 8:30pm, rain or shine.
April 10 (10am – 12pm): National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
It’s the highlight of the festival and a blast for kids, as giant balloon cartoon characters float down Constitution Ave. between 9th and 15th Streets, along with marching bands and other exciting performers. Guarantee your family a good view with grandstand seats ($17) or find standing room on your own (for free) along the route.
April 10 (11am – 6pm): Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival
After the parade, head over to 12th and Pennsylvania NW for a celebration of Japanese culture. Fun and family-friendly, the whole gang can enjoy food and drink, arts and crafts, live performances, and more. The Children’s Corner will showcase traditonal Japanese activities like origami, storytelling, and games. Martial arts zealots will love the karate, judo, and sumo demos. Other cool stuff for kids: anime and manga, taiko drums, samurai swordsmen.
April 11: Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run and 1K Kids Run
The annual Credit Union race begins at 7:40am, so get up early if you want to cheer runners on—registration is closed, but spectators are welcome. Kids ages 5-12 can still participate in the 1K Kids Run at 8:15am. Registration is free and on the morning of the race.
March 27 – April 11: Target Performance Stage at Sylvan Theater
Everyday at 12pm during the festival, there will be music and dance performances by various artists on the Target Performance Stage at Sylvan Theater on the Washington Monument Grounds (Independence Ave. SW & Raoul Wallenberg Place SW).