Every year, Washington celebrates its gift of cherry blossoms from the Japanese with their annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. There are concerts, parades and numerous activities around the city during the festival making it a fun (yet very busy) time to visit!
The cherry blossoms were gifted by the people of Japan to the United States in 1912. Unfortunately, the first set of 2000 cherry blossom trees were found to be infested with insects. So, the President at the time ordered all the trees to be burned. Probably not the most gracious way to accept a gift…
The Japanese responded by sending another gift of 3020 trees, which were planted predominantly around Tidal Basin and Potomac Park. These areas remain the best places to view the cherry blossoms to this day.
And of course, once in Washington, you have the excuse to visit the numerous free Smithsonian museums, endless historic monuments, and variety of restaurants, including the growing number of Michelin star-rated restaurants. Some of our recommendations are listed below!
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Everyone knows about the ever popular National Air & Space Museum, which is a must-see for flight lovers. However, the Udvar-Hazy Center is it’s even better older brother, describing the history of flight with a hanger full of various aircrafts. The highlight? Seeing the Space Shuttle Discovery!
National Museum of African American History & Culture: A beautiful building newly opened in 2016, this museum covers African American history, from slavery to the Civil Rights movement and more. Because it’s a newer Smithsonian addition, tickets are required and become available daily online at 6:30 AM. The tickets are still free, but the number of visitors per day is limited.
Other great options include the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Art, National Museum of American History, and the Smithsonian Zoo – which is also free!
Bad Saint: This Fillipino restaurant is tiny yet unassuming, and you’d never guess looking at it that it was one of North America’s restaurants of the year in 2016 and on the Bib Gourmand list. On weekends, expect to line up at 3:30 PM for a 5:30 PM opening. We went on a weekday instead, and got a seat lining up only 30 minutes before opening. And the wait is deifnitely worth it!
All Purpose Pizzeria: A rustic yet buzzing spot for some of Washington’s best pizza.
Flight: A cozy wine bar where you can choose from a selection of flights of wine, including “Thought Provoking Reds”, “Not Your Grandma’s Chardonnay”, “Pinot is the New Noir”, and more.
Despite lists describing “off the beaten track” places to see the cherry blossoms, the best spot still remains around Tidal Basin and Potomac Park. Go early in the day to avoid the crowds. And during your visit make sure not to miss the Cherry Blossom Pop Up Bar, a bar which opens for a limited time each year and is decorated with an amazing canopy of hanging blossoms. It’s a flower wonderland!