March 12, 2013 by toursbybecca
The weather this morning was far from ideal in DC. With the cold drizzling rain and overcast skies, it’s impossible not to find oneself day-dreaming about sunshine and blue skies. Luckily, I know that I can pinpoint the actual day that the spring season starts for me – March 20th, the beginning of the National Cherry Blossom Festival!
The Cherry Blossom Festival, which takes over the city from March 20th to April 14th, is an always welcome breath of spring air in the capital city. The festival has been a tradition for over 80 years and an estimated 1.5 million visitors from all over the world join in on the fun. The festival is not just a wonderful opportunity to explore the over 3,000 trees that were gifted to the United States from Japan in 1912 but also to celebrate our continuing friendship with parades, performances, family events, and exhibitions.
Here are a few tips for planning your participation in this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival:
Expect crowds: Remember those 1.5 million visitors? They’re planning to visit the cherry blossom trees, stroll the National Mall, Instagram photos of the monuments and memorials, and escape the heat (or rain or unexpected cold) inside the museums – just like you! Some advanced planning can help alleviate the stress but my best piece of advice is to take a deep breath, accept the masses, and enjoy the opportunity to share in the experience.
Plan ahead: That said, a little planning goes a long way. For a listing of National Cherry Blossom festival events, visit here. Having an idea of what you want to check out before you get here will make your trip go much more smoothly. Also, have a couple back-up plans in case events are too crowded or the weather isn’t cooperating. You might consider attending one of the Library of Congress events, which are always fantastic and never too packed.
Download the apps: The Festival has developed an app this year which will be very helpful to visitors – not only does it have information on events, but also where to find festival-related shopping, dining, and drinks as well as information tents and first aid. If you’re looking for an app with a little adventure, try the International Spy Museum’s SCVNGR app. Complete the challenge and win a special spy prize!
Splurge a little: Most the wonderful sites and places in Washington, DC are free, so it’s easy to visit on a budget. However, the Cherry Blossom Festival is a special time of year and there are some fun ways to splurge a little on your trip – consider renting a paddle boat, take a lunch or dinner Potomac cruise, or try a festival-inspired menu at one of DC’s finer restaurants. My favorite cherry blossom indulgence is one of the blossom-inspired cocktails at the beautiful Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The hotel lounge is gorgeous and has a stunning view – it’s a great way to feel like a million bucks while spending just a few Jacksons.
Talk to an expert: Take advantage of the National Park Service or licensed DC tour guides to help you and your family make the most of your visit. The cherry blossom trees have a fascinating history as do the memorials and monuments that stretch along our National Mall. Whether you’re looking for a private tour or to join a public tour by foot or bus, hit me up in the comments and I’m happy to make recommendations!