This year, March 20th was much more than the first day of spring. It began a three-week period when hundreds of thousands of tourists traveled into Washington, D.C., to catch a glimpse of the pink and white blossoms that covered the trees surrounding the D.C. Tidal Basin. People from all over the world filled the hotels and streets to participate in the celebration of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place every year in the spring to celebrate the beautiful trees that bloom every year. In 1912, Japan gave cherry blossom trees to the United States as a gesture of friendship and goodwill. The number of trees has greatly increased, as there are now about 3,750 trees of 16 different varieties.
The festival celebrating the trees began in the in the mid-1930s. It previously took place in one or two days but is now much longer. This year, the festival occurred from March 20 until April 12. The average peak bloom date was April 4, meaning that 70 percent of the blossoms on the Yoshino Cherry Trees were in bloom.
The cherry blossom trees currently grow around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park, and on the Washington Monument grounds. The festival celebrates diverse activities promoting art, culture, spirituality, and the environment, and also brings a great amount of tourism into Washington, D.C. According to the National Park Service, during the festival, as many as 1,200 tour buses a day operate in and out of the National Mall.
“I love going to see the cherry blossoms. I’ve gone a couple years with friends and it always gives us an excuse to go into D.C., spend time outside, stop in a museum, and go to a new restaurant,” said Sarah Johnson, a senior at University of Maryland.
During the festival, local, national, and international entertainers offer over 150 daily cultural performances that are free to the public. The most well known events that take place during the celebration are the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, the Kite Festival, the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks, and the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run.
Emily Choi, a UMD junior said, “I go to the Cherry Blossom Festival every year with my family. For me, it really symbolizes the start of spring. My family and I always go to the parade and we usually get lucky with the weather.”
If you missed the National Cherry Blossom Festival, you are not too late. While the cherry blossoms around the tidal basin may not be in bloom, another variety of cherry blossoms, the Kwanzan, will be in bloom through the spring. They blossom about 2 weeks after the Yoshino’s, which are the trees that are at their peek during the festival. The Kwanzan are scattered around the Tidal Basin and throughout the East Potomac Park. Spring tourist attractions after the festival that are the most popular include paddle boating at the Jefferson Memorial, bus tours, museums, restaurant deals, as well as stands selling food, souvenirs, and more.