The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual celebration that takes place at the beginning of the spring in Washington D.C. The festival, which began in 1935, celebrates the friendship which ties Japan and the United States. It is centered on beautiful Japanese cherry blossoms planted all along the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial, the East Potomac Park, and the Washington Monument.

The cherry blossoms which have pale white and pink petals when in full bloom were a gift from Japan to the United States. In 1905, Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore who was the first female board member of the National Geographical Society petitioned to plant cherry blossoms after coming back from a trip from Japan. Her efforts would continue for many years until First Lady Helen Herron Taft, wife of newly elected president Howard Taft, accepted her proposal in 1909 and plans were underway to obtain cherry blossoms from Japan through the Japanese Ambassador Mr. Midzuno.

In 1910, the first shipment of 2000 cherry blossoms donated by Japan was found to be infested with insects. The trees were subsequently burned and destroyed to avoid contamination with local trees. Japan responded with another donation in 1912 of 3020 trees which were free of insects arrived in Washington D.C. on March 27, 1912. The trees had a dozen different varieties but were mostly Yoshino and Kwanzan.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is one of Washington D.C’s most beloved annual events drawing almost a million town tourists and residents. During two weeks, visitors will have a ton of fun attending all the different events scheduled as part of the festival. There are art exhibits, fashion shows, sports meets, dancing, music, and various cultural events that take place during this time. Not to mention the spectacular blooming of the cherry blossoms.

Other major events that occur during the National Cherry Blossom Festival are; the Cherry Blossom 10-mile run, the Macy’s Cherry Blossom Show, the ceremonial lighting of the Japanese stone lantern which is 360 years old, and the spectacular fireworks display which takes place over the Washington Channel at the Southwest Waterfront area. The festival is topped off by the annual Sakura Matsuri-Japanese Street Festival, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.

You should also visit the Jefferson Memorial when it’s at its most beautiful during this time of year. If you want to learn everything there is to know about the Cherry Blossom Festival, consider taking free walking tours led by a National Park Service ranger, which take place every day during the festival at 11 am, 1, 3, and 5 pm. The meeting place for the tour is at the Jefferson Memorial parking lot and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial steps to the Tidal Basin.

Most of the National Cherry Blossom Festival events are free to attend and tend to attract very large crowds. If you want to enjoy the festival with fewer people, then go on weekdays, in the early mornings or late afternoons. Because there are so many events and people, you should consider taking public transportation instead of driving to the festival.

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