National Cherry Blossom Festival 2013: Highlight Events and Must-Do Activities

Make the most of the celebration by planning your itinerary early.

By: Dori Zweig

With the peak of the cherry blossom season fast approaching, it’s time to start planning your National Cherry Blossom Festival itinerary. We’ve rounded up the best events—from parties to concerts to bike tours—to help you make the most of this year’s celebrations.


Signature Events

Wine and dine at the seventh annual Pink Tie Party, the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s signature fundraiser, on March 20 at 7 PM at the Renaissance Mayflower. Chef Lorena Garcia hosts this lively event, which features more than 35 participating restaurants throughout the metro Washington area. Enjoy cherry-blossom-inspired cocktails and dishes as you place bids at the evening’s auction to win anything from a weekend getaway to a unique theater experience. The proceeds from the silent auction benefit the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Tickets are $200 and can be purchased online.

Bring your camera to the FDR Memorial along the Tidal Basin, where Washington Photo Safari is holding clinics and tutorials on how to best shoot the iconic cherry blossoms. Photography workshops begin on March 20 and are $69 to register. For a full schedule, visit the website.

Grab the family and head to the National Building Museum, which presents Family Days on Saturday, March 23, from 10 AM to 4 PM, and Sunday, March 24, from 11 to 4. The family-oriented events include hands-on activities and inspiring youth performances. Create a cherry blossom popcorn tree, a spring-themed pinwheel, and even a wind chime. Admission is free for all ages.

The third annual Blossom Kite Festival happens on March 30 from 10 AM to 4:30 PM. Visit the Washington Monument grounds to witness the amazing creativity of kite-makers and kite-fliers from across the US and other countries. The day includes competitions and demonstrations such as the popular Hot Tricks Showdown, and Kite Ballets, in which master kite-fliers set their skills and expertise to music. The fun-filled day also features a family field area where you can learn to fly your kite, and a youth kite-makers competition. For a full schedule and weather advisements, visit the website.

The annual Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival lights up the sky on April 6 from 1 to 9 PM. This event features free music, cultural experiences, and delicious food. Be sure to visit the Very Cherry Marketplace in Kastles Stadium, featuring various arts and crafts. This event happens rain or shine. 700 Water St., SW.


Music and Art Events

For a touch of class, head over to the Willard InterContinental for the annual Cherry Blossom Tea. The Peacock Alley will set the mood with an elegant setting and live koto music. The event is held March 20 through April 14. For a listing of prices and menu options, visit the website.

Enjoy an evening of award-winning artists at the Kennedy Center’s Overtures concert series, presented by the S&R Foundation. Each artist will showcase his or her personal perspective of the festival’s themes—friendship, springtime, love—through a variety of instruments and musical endeavors. Performances begin on March 21 and run until May 31. For a full schedule and ticket information, visit the Overture Series website.

Join the Workhouse Arts Center as it presents Asian Art and Culture Day on April 6 from 11 to 4. Fill your day with demonstrations, performances, workshops and exhibitions, all highlighting Asian art and culture. Presenters include Japan-American Society of Washington, DC and George Mason University. This event is free and great for the whole family.

Can’t make the festival this year? Tune into WETA as the station presents the Washington Cherry Blossoms: Beauty on the Basin TV program. The 30-minute segment will be repeated throughout the month of March and into April, and highlights the most beautiful views of the trees. Check your local listings for scheduled times.

Sample a taste of the East as the area’s top Japanese restaurants gather to bring you their best bites. Taste of Japan highlights Japanese delicacies, as well as sake and craft beer from Japanese brewers. The event is on April 4 from 7 to 9 PM at Carnegie Library. Tickets are $100 per person.

Enjoy and appreciate local students’ artistic creativity at the Youth Art Contest, where contest winners will be recognized at the Earth Day Celebration at Union Station on April 22. Students from DC public and charter schools, grades K through 12, are encouraged to participate in this annual contest. The submission deadline has passed, but the public can help select the overall contest winners online or at Union Station from April 1 through 4.

If you need a break from the outdoors, visit the Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art at the Freer Gallery and check out the Japanese Art Collection. Highlights include calligraphy from the 8th to the 20th century, folding screens from the 15th to the 19th century, and a collection of textiles.


Fit and Fun Events

If you’re in the mood to stroll and take in some history, join Walk of the Town’s free walking tours from March 20 until April 14. This three-hour walk guides visitors past landmarks such as the Washington Monument, the DC War Memorial, the Japanese Lantern, and the US Capitol. The tour is based on tips, but is well worth unloading your extra pocket change. Visit the website for more information.

Cruise along the Mount Vernon Trail from Old Town Alexandria to DC with Bike and Roll DC. The path will continue into DC and around the Tidal Basin, as bikers take in the pink, red, and white from both up close and across the Potomac River. Blossoms Tour rides begin March 24 and go until April 15. Reservations can be made online.

Don’t feel like viewing the cherry blossoms on foot? Grab a friend and explore the sights in a paddleboat at the Tidal Basin. Check out the breathtaking views as you slowly ease past the Jefferson Memorial and cool off on the water. $12 per hour for a two-passenger boat; $19 per hour for a four-passenger boat.