For more than 100 years, the annual blooming of the cherry trees in Washington, D.C., has brought a vibrant splash of natural beauty to our nation’s capital. The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place this year from March 20 to April 17, 2016, celebrating the 104th anniversary of the gift of the cherry blossom trees, the arrival of spring, and the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan.
Thanks to the partnership between the National Park Service and the National Cherry Blossom Festival organization, many of the events at 2016’s festival take place at national parks and memorials all over Washington, D.C. Most are completely free and open to the public, so if you’ve ever wanted to visit our capital, there’s no better time. Be sure to check out these unique events and activities while you’re there:
National Park Rangers lead guided walks and talks throughout the National Mall & Memorial Parks during the Cherry Blossom Festival, including running and bike tours, dog walks, and daily tours of the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials.
Blossom Kite Festival
Kite flying on the National Mall has been a part of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival for 50 years now. There’s no better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than by watching hundreds of kites take to the air. This year’s event takes place on April 2, showcasing creative kite-makers from all over the world and bringing together some of America’s most skilled kite-fliers. You can watch a variety of competitions and demonstrations, as well as bring your own kites or let your children make their own at the kite activity station.
Tidal Basin paddle boats
Renting a paddle boat gives you a unique view of the cherry trees as they bloom alongside the Tidal Basin. You can also catch a glimpse of several monuments and memorials around the Tidal Basin, including the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Paddle boats are available daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival
Fireworks will light up the Southwest Waterfront on the evening of April 9, rain or shine. The Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival also includes hours of music, family activities, cultural experiences, live entertainment, and delicious foods from all over the world. You can see the fireworks from all over the city, but head to Waterfront Park or the Titanic Memorial for the best view.
Anacostia River Festival
Now in its second year, the Anacostia River Festival is presented by the National Park Service and the 11th Street Bridge Park. In celebration of the National Park Service’s centennial year, the 2016 Anacostia River Festival celebrates “connecting people to parks” with activities like fishing, boating, kayaking, bike parades, musical performances, and hands-on art projects aimed at engaging families with the river, its history, and its ecology. This free event takes place at Anacostia Park on April 17, 2016.
Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo presented a gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the city of Washington, D.C., in 1912, which continues to be one of the most enduring gifts we as a nation have ever received. The annual celebration of the Cherry Blossom Festival honors the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan, and offers an opportunity to see our nation’s capital at its most beautiful.
Photo credit: Find Your Park card at Jefferson Memorial by @dessi005