Growing up 30 minutes away from the nation’s capital is a pretty cool thing. Unfortunately, I took all those trips to the Smithsonian Museums, Zoo, Capital, Library of Congress, White House, ect for granted. It wasn’t until I was about 22 that I really started to appreciate what D.C. had to offer. I started visiting different exhibits in different museums, making my way into DC for various festivals, rocking out at local venues during music concerts, eating out at various restaurants, and exploring a plethora of bars and nightlife. But all those things are posts for another time. Right now, let’s talk Cherry Blossoms!
Every year around the tidal basin in DC, hundreds of cherry trees blossom, and fill the air with their vibrant, full, pink and white blooms.
The cherry trees were originally a gift to the United States from Japan. In 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gifted 3,000 cherry trees to the city of DC. This was done to symbolize the friendship and closeness of the United States and Japan.
Over the years many more gifts have been given back and forth between the two countries. In 1915, the United States gifted dog wood trees to the country of Japan. And, in 1981, after a flood had destroyed many cherry trees in Japan, the United States gifted clippings to Japanese scientists in an effort to restore the trees.
The festival started in 1927, when a group of students reenacted the first planting of the trees. In 1935, sponsored by civic groups, the festival grew in size, and in 1994 the festival was extended to a full two weeks. Today, over a million people pour into DC from all over the world to view these magnificent trees (information taken from the official website of the Cherry Blossom Festival).
As for me, I’ve been to the Cherry Blossom Festival three times. I don’t do anything fancy, just walk around, admire the trees, and take a few pictures.
You have to strategically plan when you’re going to the festival. I scout the official Cherry Blossom Festival Website, which alerts people to when the blooms will be in full peak. There is also a webcam where people can see live coverage of the trees (you can also see how many people are there!) I usually try to go early in the morning, around sunrise to avoid the crowds. Here are some pictures of the blossoms from 2012.
I went with my Mom, and our strategy of arriving early in the morning seemed to work out pretty well, so in 2013, we decided to try the same thing again. The blooms were supposed to be in full peak, so we headed out armed with our cameras and our coffee at 6 in the morning. And this is what we saw.
Notice how I’m laughing, I’m thinking to myself, is this the peak of the cherry blossoms?
Obviously our first trip was unsuccessful so we made a decision to try again in a few days. Because it was supposed to rain during the next weekend (which would destroy the blooms), we decided to brave DC after work, in rush hour. For those of you who have never been to DC, it may not sound like a big deal. But, if you have ever been to DC and driven during rush hour, it is no joke! And, we knew that the festival would be packed with people, which neither of us were happy about. But we wanted to see the blooms at their peak. And boy did we!
We walked around the whole tidal basin a couple of times and were rewarding with some excellent shots. The only downside? The Washington Monument was under construction, so our pictures were not as great as they could have been, oh well.
After walking among the cherry blossoms, my Mom and I stopped by a tulip display. Mom is an avid gardener, so she had fun walking around and told me that if I ever visited the Holland I have to get her some good pictures of tulips. Lucky for her I’m going this year…although I’m not sure if they will be in bloom or not…
If you’re in DC during spring time, the Cherry Blossom Festival is a must. Be sure to check out the official website so you go when the trees are actually blooming. And go in the morning to avoid crowds (if at all possible). Happy Cherry Blossoming!