If you are taking English courses in Washington DC during the spring, you are in for a treat. Spring in DC is beautiful. Everything comes back to life and the flowers bloom. Most recognizably, the cherry blossoms trees along the National Mall blossom, which is celebrated for four weeks each spring.
The History of the National Cherry Blossom Festival
In 1912, Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted America with 3,000 cherry blossom trees to represent the bonds between the two countries. As cherry blossoms are Japan’s national flower, this gift represented friendship. In 1915, America sent a gift of flowering Dogwood trees to Japan. Then, in 1934, the first Cherry Blossom Festival was held. It continues to be one of the most popular annual events in Washington DC.
Cool Facts About the National Cherry Blossom Festival
- Japan originally sent cherry blossom trees in 1910, but the trees were infested with disease and bugs.
- Many first ladies have planted cherry blossom trees.
- There are two species of cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin in DC – the Yoshino variety and another species, the Kwanzan.
- More than 1.5 million people visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
- People often try to visit the festival at peak bloom time, which varies from year to year. Peak bloom refers to when 70 percent of the cherry blossom trees have bloomed around the Tidal Basin.
- Peak bloom occurs on April 4th on average.
- Cherry blossoms are known as “Sakura” in Japanese.
- The “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World” is actually Macon, Georgia.
- The cherry blossom trees may only flower for one week, which is one reason why this special time of year is celebrated in DC.
Basic Information for the 2019 National Cherry Blossom Festival
For students attending language schools in Washington DC, here is the basic information you need to know about this year’s festival.
- It will take place from March 20th – April 14th, 2019.
- The cherry blossom trees are located all around the Tidal Basin.
- The closest Metro stop is the Smithsonian station. Then, it is just a short walk to the Tidal Basin.
- There are several events as part of the festival, most of which are free.
- Visit the National Park System’s website for the official peak bloom prediction.
- It is against the law to pick the cherry blossoms, so admire them, snap some pictures, but leave them alone!
Tips for Washington Language School Students Visiting the Festival
When you plan to visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival, there are several things you can do to make the experience enjoyable and memorable. First, plan to do a lot of walking. Avoid driving at all costs. Since the festival brings so many tourists to town, expect the streets to be much more crowded than usual. Make use of the Metro system or Capital Bikeshare. Wear comfortable shoes! You can also enjoy the festival by paddle boat in the Tidal Basin. This is a fun way to enjoy the spring weather and see the beautiful blooms.
With a large number of visitors to the area for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, try to avoid the busiest times. Typically, the cherry blossom areas are less crowded early in the morning or in the evening.
If you are living abroad to study English, then you should act like the tourist that you are. Take tons of pictures and share them with friends and family. Try to visit the festival as close to peak bloom as possible. Follow NPS’s bloom watch for an idea of when this will occur.
If you follow these tips, we are sure you will find the perfect time and location to take as many Instagram-worthy shots as possible.
Can’t-Miss Cherry Blossom Events for Students Attending Language Schools in DC
In addition to the National Cherry Blossom Festival signature events, there are over 150 daily performances including musicians, entertainments, and sports competitions. The National Park Service hosts events at the Tidal Basin Welcome Area. Also, during the week of peak bloom, they host events daily. Keeping this in mind, here are some of the can’t miss events:
Opening Ceremony – The National Cherry Blossom Opening Ceremony will be held on March 23rd at Warner Theatre. This year’s ceremony will include the cast members of “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” The Super Live and violinist Ikuko Kawai. While the event is free, you must reserve your tickets.
Blossom Kite Festival – One of the most loved events of the festival is the Blossom Kite Festival, which will take place on March 30th on the Washington Monument grounds. You can fly your own kite or simply marvel at professional kite-flyers and stunt kite-flyers.
Petalpalooza – Head to The Wharf on April 6th for a day-long extravaganza (between the hours of 12:00 pm and 8:30 pm). Petalpalooza includes games, activities, a beer garden, art installations, and concludes with an amazing firework show.
National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade presented by Events DC – The most popular event of the festival is the annual parade, which signifies the conclusion of the weeks-long festival. This year’s parade will take place on April 13th. The 10-block parade includes giant helium balloons and musical performances.
Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival – This street festival taking place on Pennsylvania Avenue from 3rd to 7th Streets NW on April 13th is the largest Japanese street festival in the US. You can sample food, see art, and enjoy live performances. More than 80 groups will be represented.
Before We Go
This is just one of the many fun things inlingua students get to enjoy as they study a new language in DC. Our students get to immerse themselves in American culture and experience all the excitement of living in the nation’s capital. Spring is a great time to visit DC and see the cherry blossoms bloom – it is an even better time to study a new language.