10 Amazing Things We Already Know About This Year’s Cherry Blossom Festival
Each year, the DMV bursts into a profusion of pink and white, bringing the world’s attention to its nearly 3,800 cherry blossom trees. the National Cherry Blossom Festival attracts millions of visitors and is captured in billions of impressions on social networks, and in 2022 it is planned to go live again. Here’s what you need to know about Washington’s Big Rose Petal Party.
It all started thanks to a world traveler. Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore saw glorious explosions of pink and white petals while visiting Japan. Inspired, she called on the US federal government to plant Japanese cherry trees along the Potomac River waterfront. First Lady Helen Taft backed the idea, and Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki donated 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees to the United States. The official planting took place on March 27, 1912, with few people present except Helen Taft and the Japanese Ambassador.
It wasn’t until 1927 that a few local schoolchildren recreated the planting of the “gift of the trees” in what is now considered the first cherry blossom festival. Since then, it has turned into a four-week celebration, starting this year on March 20 – the first day of spring – and ending on April 17.
Today, cherry blossoms are an icon for Washington, DC and its brand. “It’s a time of joy, renewal and hope,” says Diana Mayhew, chair of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The Cherry Blossom Festival is timed around peak bloom, when the flowers reach their most puffy and prettiest. You can keep an eye on the Bloom Cam on cherryblossomwatch.com to see how the trees around the tidal pool are progressing.
Look out for the iconic pandas, Japanese lanterns and pink flowers during the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, the biggest spectator event, on April 9. More than 2,000 community groups plan to march along Constitution Avenue accompanied by bands, dance teams, floats and giant balloons.
The festival features 16 days of free entertainment at Tidal Basin and popular pet comfort station Paws & Petals. National Mall vendors sell souvenirs and Old Ox Brewery Festiv-Ale. Anyone can take part in the Blossom Kite Festival, March 26 at the Washington Monument, or fly a kite at their local park. From April 9 to 10, it’s Sakura Matsuri, the Japanese street festival, with its Ginza Marketplace on Pennsylvania Avenue. Anacostia River Festival features live go-go music, drum lines and military bands on April 10 in Anacostia Park.
Petalpalooza! A particular highlight is this free event on April 16 from 1-9 p.m. at Yards Park – there will be live bands, a beer garden and hands-on family-friendly activities. Find a spot along the Anacostia River to watch a spectacular fireworks display set to music.
Notable emcees at the festival include Alex Trebek, the late host of Peril!; media luminaries like Katie Couric and Norah O’Donnell; singer Marie Osmond; actor Anthony Anderson; and Excellent chef Carla Hall. Famous people are also spotted in the city. In 2016, Katy Perry was at the Tidal Basin and found a receipt on the floor with a handwritten poem that read, “Thank you Cherry Blossoms, for bringing joy and beauty to a large and diverse crowd!” She posted a photo of the poem on social media.
You don’t have to drive around the district to celebrate. Closer to home, Northern Virginians can attend Art flourishes in the mosaic district April 2 for entertainment, art exhibits, kids’ activities, a pop-up beer garden and wine patio, and selfie stations.
Look for Art in Bloom sculptures all over the DMV. There are 26 five-foot sculptures, each shaped like a giant cherry blossom and designed by a local artist. They are found in a variety of locations, including the National Landing, the Woodridge Neighborhood Library, and the Smithsonian Haupt Garden.
This story originally appeared in our March issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.