Cherry Blossom Centennial in DC

Cherry blossoms in DC

Image by Renee Alfonso

Here in Washington, DC Spring is always highly anticipated. Year after year tourists flock to the US Capital to see the world-famous cherry blossoms on the grounds of the National Mall surrounding the Washington Monument and the Tidal Basin.

Cherry blossoms line the tidal basin

Image by Renee Alfonso

The cherry blossoms, or Sakura, as they’re known in Japan, are native to the island country, but thrive in temperate conditions. Most of the trees in Washington that surround the Tidal Basin are of the Yoshino variety, easily the most common variety of cherry blossoms. While cherry blossoms have a relatively long lifespan, the fact that the trees in Washington have survived this long is also a remarkable event.

National Monument peeking through the Cherry Blossoms

Every year the National Park service predicts the blossoms “peak bloom,” when around 70% of the blossoms in the trees have flowered. Once the flowers open, the tourists come in waves to the US Capital for this fleeting but exhilarating display. Most years the flowers bloom at the end of March or at the beginning of April, but this year they bloomed a little early thanks to a spur of warm weather that swept the district last week.

The blossoms were a special gift from Japan to the United States, given in 1912 to symbolize friendship between the two nations. Although the blooming of the trees is somewhat of a national event every year, this year is particularly significant as it marks the centennial anniversary of the trees.

Sakura by the water

Image by Renee Alfonso

Although the blossoms were almost gone by the time, the celebrations for the centennial were right on time, and for the next month Washington, DC will be alive with cherry blossom related events and festivites. Here’s a few events of note that might be of interest if you’re visiting the district.

Blossom Kite Festival

Blossom Kite FestivalPhoto by Matt MClain, http://www.mattmcclainphoto.com/

The kite festival is an anticipated annual event. Participants bring their own kites, or make them at activity stations on site, and fly them on the National Mall near the Washington monument. There are also traditional Japanese kite flying demonstrations, as well as competitions for those more experienced flyers. This year the festival will be on Saturday, March 31, on the National Mall.

Blossom Bites by Bike Tour

Blossom Bites by BikeBlossom Bites by Bike. Photo credit: Bike and Roll.

For the entire length of the festival, the bicycle tour company Bike and Roll DC Metro are giving bicycle tours and tastings centered around the famous blossoms. The three-hour tour will take you to three eateries in three famous neighborhoods in the district, where you will get a chance to sample cherry blossom-themed bites. After you eat, you can burn the calories on the way to the next site!

Website: http://www.bikethesites.com/Tours/#blossom

Official Stone Lantern Lighting Ceremony

The Japanese Stone lantern is lit

The stone lantern at the Tidal Basin is as iconic as the trees themselves, and every year the lantern is lit in a ceremony that features traditional Japanese performances. This year the ceremony will be held on Sunday, April 8, at 2:30 PM.

O-hanami

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