Your Guide To Washington DC's Cherry Blossom Festival

Wesley G
by Wesley Glass

March 26, 2018

2 minute read

There are many great things about living in Washington, DC, but one of my favourite advantages is that I am guaranteed to see the peak bloom of our Japanese cherry trees every year. For less than a week, the Tidal Basin is a ring of delicate white and shades of pink blooms that are reflected in the water and float softly on the breeze to fall at the feet of the Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorials.

The history of the cherry trees in DC

Every year the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the gift of over three thousand trees from the people of Japan and Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki to President Taft and the United States as a sign of friendship between the two nations. The Japanese call the tree "Sakura," and it is symbolic of the coming of spring and the fleeting nature of life. In a ceremony on March 27th of that year First Lady Helen Taft and the wife of the Ambassador from Japan, Viscountess China, planted two trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin. There are multiple varieties of the trees found throughout the city, so the colour of the blooms can vary from tree to tree.

In 1934, the District of Columbia sponsored a three-day celebration around the blooming of the trees that has today expanded to a month long festival with events like a parade, a drum concert, and kite flying day on the National Mall. It is estimated that over one million people attend at least one event during the month long festival. All of the events strive to demonstrate the continued strong bond between the two countries and cultures.

How to catch the blossoms

Seeing the blooms is not easy to predict. The National Park Service employs horticulturalists who study the trees to determine when they think peak bloom might be. Peak bloom is defined as 70% of the Tidal Basin trees flowering, and this time period can last anywhere from one to seven days depending on weather. Rain, wind, or inconsiderate tourists will cause the delicate blooms to fall. As a result, being in DC to see this beautiful occasion is up to luck or the ability to hop on a plane at the drop of a petal.

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