By: Natalie O’Neil
In 1912, Yukio Ozaki, the mayor of Tokyo, gifted Washington D.C. with 3,000 cherry blossom trees as a symbol of the friendship between the United States and Japan. Now, every year the National Cherry Blossom Festival is held to commemorate this. As the cherry blossoms begin to bloom in the District, here are a few events to help you celebrate.
- National Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony
The official opening of the National Cherry Blossom Festival is March 25. The free event takes place at the Warner Theatre from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and features both American and Japanese performers. Although the event is free, it is wise to acquire advance tickets.
- Smithsonian American Art Museum Cherry Blossom Celebration
This collaborative event between the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the Smithsonian American Art Museum is a day devoted to celebrating Japanese culture. The celebration will feature an assortment of Japanese music, performance, crafts and more. The free event takes place on March 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in the Kogod Courtyard.
- Japanese Culture Day
On March 25, the Library of Congress will host a free event devoted to origami creation, tiara-making and other activities based on Japanese culture. In addition to a visit from past Cherry Blossom princesses and karate lessons, those in attendance can also expect a fascinating conversation on Japanese life from the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C. The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Young Readers Center at the Thomas Jefferson Building.
- Blossom Kite Festival
If you’re on a “kite” schedule and can’t make any other events, the Blossom Kite Festival is an easy one to enjoy on the move. Even if you can’t stay long, stop by the festival any time between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on April 1 to see an array of creative kites soaring through the D.C. skies. The festival features competitions and kite-flying demonstrations, as well. In case of rain, the event will be moved to April 2.
- Annual Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk
Also on April 1 is the 19th Annual Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk hosted by the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation. The walk—beginning and ending at the Japanese American Memorial—is from 9 a.m. to noon and has free registration.
- Cherry Blossom Wine and Beer Festival
On April 1, the Cherry Blossom Wine and Beer Festival will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. and again from 6 to 9 p.m. at Yards Park. A general admission ticket includes unlimited pours, tokens for tasting, a variety of games, access to food trucks and live music. The festival features over 100 wines and beers.
If you can’t make it on April 1, don’t worry! There is a third session on April 2 from 1 to 4 p.m.
- National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Enjoy a spectacular display of performance, floats, balloons and bands as the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade makes its way down Constitution Avenue NW on April 8. The parade—marching from the National Archives to the Washington Monument—begins at 10 a.m. and is free to the public. Grandstand seating is available for $20.
- Sakura Matsuri – Japanese Street Festival
For just $10, witness the “largest one-day celebration of Japanese culture in the U.S.” The event—hosted by the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C.—showcases Japanese culture through performance, art and food. The festival is on April 8 from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and it is a culmination of over 80 cultural groups.
- Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival
Not only does this festival contain some of the best fireworks around, but it’s also preceded by a day of activities, food, music and more. From 2 to 9:30 p.m., attendees can stop by the District Wharf or the Titanic Memorial for pre-fireworks entertainment. The fireworks themselves begin at 8:30 p.m. This event is free to the public on April 15.