After two years of cancellations, streaming events and socially distanced programming, the National Cherry Blossom Festival returns in-person this spring, in all of its pink-hued glory. In some ways, the festivities are bigger than ever: The popular Sakura Matsuri Japanese street festival is expanding to two days in honor of its 60th anniversary, and the Blossom Kite Festival, which is returning to its spiritual home on the Washington Monument grounds, also invites participants to let kites soar at parks in all eight wards of the city, as well as locations in Maryland and Virginia.WpGet the full experience.Choose your planArrowRight
Whether you’ve spent the last two years pining for a return of the parade, or you’ve never experienced Washington’s rite of spring in person, here’s what you need to know about the events surrounding the Cherry Blossom Festival.
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Tidal Basin Welcome Area and Stage: Serving as the official front door to the festival, the National Park Service’s Welcome Area is the place to pick up maps, souvenirs and Junior Ranger activity books. Park rangers present talks about the history of the cherry blossoms every day at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the plaza in front of the Jefferson Memorial, and musicians and dancers perform daily between noon and 6 p.m. on a stage at the Welcome Area along West Basin Drive. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through April 3. Free.
Seven spots where you can enjoy the cherry blossoms away from the Tidal Basin
Minyo Blooms at National Harbor: Minyo Crusaders play a traditional Japanese folk music called minyo, but turn the style on its head by layering propulsive Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms under the haunting melodies. “Minyo is dead in Japan, but we are trying to bring minyo back,” bandleader Katsumi Tanaka explained during a 2021 Tiny Desk (Home) concert on NPR. By making the sound relevant to a new generation, they might just succeed. The group plays an outdoor concert at National Harbor on March 19, the night before performing at the festival’s sold-out opening ceremony. 4 to 5 p.m. Free.
Cherry Blossom Family Celebration at the Smithsonian American Art Museum: Head outside of the American Art museum in Chinatown for taiko drumming and koto performances and Les the DJ spinning Japanese pop and soul records, and stick around for family crafting and coloring. In the galleries, kids can complete a scavenger hunt. 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free.AdvertisementStory continues below advertisement
Opening Ceremony at Warner Theatre(virtual): All free tickets have been claimed for the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s grand opening event, but the show will be streamed live through the festival’s YouTube channel. The program includes performances by a samurai group, taiko drummer Toshihiro Yuta, samisen musician Keisho Ohno, and Minyo Crusaders. 5 to 6:30 p.m. Free.
Credit Union Cherry Blossom Virtual Run: All the race bibs are taken for the annual Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run and 5K Run-Walk on April 3, but organizers are hosting a virtual run that allows anyone to run 10 miles or five kilometers anywhere in the world through April 17. Sign up, track your own progress and participate in photo contests and team challenges. (One bonus for the virtual race: You can bring your dog along with you, and there’s no registration fee for canines.) Through April 17. $40-$75.
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Blossom Kite Festival: For years, the Cherry Blossom festival has welcomed spring by filling the Washington Monument grounds with kites of all shapes and sizes. During the pandemic, though, participants were encouraged to fly kites alone or with family in neighborhood parks. That option will continue this year, with official kite-flying events at parks throughout the city, such as Marvin Gaye Recreation Center and Palisades Recreation Field, as well as three options outside D.C.: Bladensburg Waterfront Park; Fairwood Community Park in Bowie; and Virginia Highlands Park in Arlington. These off-site events promise much more than open space, including free kite kits, crafts, food trucks and live music. (See individual websites for details.) The festival website also has beginner videos on making and flying kites. Times vary. Free.
'The Legacy of Satoshi Kon’(virtual): The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art and the Japan Information and Culture Center honor groundbreaking anime director Satoshi Kon with this streaming series. It includes the classics “Perfect Blue” and “Tokyo Godfathers,” as well as a new documentary, “Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist.” Films available through April 10. Free; registration required.
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Cherry Night: Cherry Night brings tastes of the festival to bars and restaurants around D.C., each of which puts its own spin on the celebrations. Look for a Kirin Ichiban beer garden at Wunder Garden, cocktails and brass-driven music from Too Much Talent Band at Metrobar, and a night of yakitori grilling, sake cocktails and a DJ at Hotel Monaco’s Dirty Habit bar. Times vary. Free admission.
Mediation and Mindfulness(virtual): Three times per week, the Freer Gallery of Art offers free, half-hour guided meditation session online, which are led by local teachers. On Fridays during the Cherry Blossom Festival, the meditation is inspired by Japanese objects from the museum’s collection. Noon every Friday in April. Free.
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Bloomaroo at the Wharf: The Wharf’s restaurants and recreational options are celebrating throughout the festival — it’s tough to miss the pink kayaks heading out from the boathouse — but Bloomaroo is when everything comes together, with live music on three stages, a pop-up roller rink, beer gardens and other activities, capped by fireworks at 8:30 p.m. 1 to 9:30 p.m. Free.Advertisement
Petals in the Park and Blossoms After Dark at Franklin Square: The freshly renovated Franklin Square gets its close-up at this day-long event. From 2 to 6 p.m., Petals in the Park features picnicking, family-friendly entertainment and a makers market. After sunset, the scene transforms into an adults-only party with live music, cocktails, Insta-worthy settings and a market of vendors. 2 to 10 p.m. Petals in the Park is free; Blossoms After Dark $25.
Kenny Endo at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage: The sound of traditional taiko drumming reverberates throughout the Cherry Blossom Festival, but no one plays the taiko quite like Kenny Endo, a master percussionist who brings a jazz and funk edge to performances with his ensemble. 6 p.m. Free, reservations suggested.Story continues below advertisement
Sakura Sunday at National Harbor: A Japanese market is the centerpiece of this afternoon event, which also includes Japanese music, dance and food. Noon to 6 p.m. Free.
National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade: Floats, marching bands, helium balloons and nostalgia-inducing musical guests return to Constitution Avenue NW during the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. Ten marching bands, including the hometown Ballou High School Majestic Knights marching band and the Naval Academy’s Drum and Bugle Corps, are included along with musical guests Taylor Dayne (of “Tell it to My Heart” fame), hip-hop duo/Geico pitchmen Tag Team, R&B singer Freddie Jackson and go-go legends Rare Essence. Reserved seating is available in a grandstand, but visitors can also stand along the parade route between Ninth and 15th streets free. The parade will be shown on tape delay on ABC7 on April 17 at 1 and 8 p.m. 10 a.m. to noon. Free-$30.Story continues below advertisement
Sakura Matsuri Street Festival: The Sakura Matsuri street festival downtown is expanding to two days, in celebration of its 60th anniversary. That allows twice as much time to explore the J-pop musical performances, traditional dancing, cooking demos, martial-arts displays, cosplay contests, calligraphy lessons, family crafts, food and drink stalls and beer gardens. This year also features pavilions highlighting tech from Japan and the regions outside of Tokyo. Just leave time to browse the marketplace, where booths offer Japanese fashion, toys and accessories — everything from fine art prints to stuffed sushi plushies. Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. $10 per day, $15 for both days. Family passes and sake tasting passes available.
Japanese Culture Day at the Library of Congress: The Library of Congress draws on its extensive holdings about Japan and cherry blossoms as the backbone of this family day. See books and prints on display, try origami or woodblock printing, and learn about kamishibai storytelling. There will also be demonstrations of taiko drums and karate. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free. Registration is required, as the library requires timed tickets for entry.Advertisement
Enchanted Rhapsody at National Landing: Nothing says “spring” like listening to a chamber quartet perform the songs of Taylor Swift and Queen back-to-back under the stars, or so the organizers of this outdoor concert in Crystal City tell us. The evening includes drinks from Crystal City Wine Shop and food from local restaurants. 4 to 7:30 p.m. Free, registration required.Story continues below advertisement
Anacostia River Festival at Anacostia Park: An outdoor celebration on the banks of the Anacostia begins with canoe trips and fishing before go-go bands, including Black Alley, Sirius Company featuring Scooby and Ms. Kim, T.O.B. and Experience Band, take the stage in the afternoon. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free. Registration required for canoe trips and fishing.
Cherry Blossom Jubilee at Torpedo Factory: Explore multiple floors of artist studios and exhibitions while listening to taiko drum demonstrations and live music, and watching artists at work. Noon to 3 p.m. Free.Advertisement
Flowers After Hours at the National Gallery of Art: Celebrating the return of spring as well as the return of the National Gallery’s after-hours programming, Flowers After Hours embraces all things floral in the museum’s collection. The evening includes access to the “Afro-Atlantic Histories” exhibit, music from DJ Little Bacon Bear and cellist Benjamin Gates, pop-up curator talks and art-making. Food and drinks are available for purchase. 6 to 9 p.m. Free, but registration is required, and opens at 10 a.m. on March 21, through nga.gov/nights.
Petalpalooza at Capitol Riverfront: The annual party at Yards Park features live music on multiple stages, family-friendly activities, a beer garden and art installations, and ends with a firework display at 8:30 p.m. 1 to 9 p.m. Free.