Whether you’ve spent the past two years dreaming of a parade return or have never experienced Washington’s Rite of Spring in person, here’s what you need to know about the events surrounding the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Tidal pool reception area and stage: Serving as the official gateway to the festival, the National Park Service welcome area is the perfect place to pick up maps, souvenirs and activity books for the Junior Rangers. Park rangers give lectures on the history of cherry blossoms daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the plaza in front of the Jefferson Memorial, and musicians and dancers perform daily between noon and 6 p.m. on a stage from the hospitality area along West Basin. To drive. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until April 3. Free.
Minyo blooms at the national port: Minyo Crusaders plays traditional Japanese folk music called minyo, but flips the style by layering propulsive Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms beneath the haunting melodies. “Minyo is dead in Japan, but we’re trying to bring minyo back,” bandleader Katsumi Tanaka explained during a 2021 Tiny Desk (Home) concert on NPR. By making the sound relevant for a new generation, they just might do well. The band performs an outdoor concert in National Harbor on March 19, the day before the festival’s sold-out opening ceremony. 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Free.
Opening ceremony at the Warner Theater (virtual): All free tickets have been claimed for the National Cherry Blossom Festival opening event, but the show will be streamed live on the festival’s YouTube channel. The program includes performances by a samurai band, taiko drummer Toshihiro Yuta, Samisen musician Keisho Ohno and Minyo Crusaders. 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Free.
Credit Union Virtual Cherry Blossom Race: All 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 race that allows anyone to run 10 miles or five kilometers anywhere in the world until April 17 Register, follow your own progress and participate in photo contests and team challenges. (A bonus for the virtual race: you can bring your dog with you, and there is no entry fee for canines.) Until April 17. $40 – $75.
Blooming Kite Festival: For years, the Cherry Blossom Festival has welcomed spring by filling the grounds of the Washington Monument with kites of all shapes and sizes. During the pandemic, however, attendees have been encouraged to fly kites alone or with families in neighborhood parks. This option will continue this year, with official kite events at city parks such as the Marvin Gaye Recreation Center and Palisades Recreation Ground, as well as three options outside of DC: Bladensburg Waterfront Park; Fairwood Community Park in Bowie; and Virginia Highlands Park in Arlington. These offsite 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 beginners’ videos on how to make and fly kites. Hours vary. Free.
“The Legacy of Satoshi Kon” (virtual): The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art and the Center for Information and Culture of Japan pay tribute to groundbreaking anime director Satoshi Kon with this streaming series. It includes the classics “Perfect Blue” and “Tokyo Godfathers,” plus a new documentary, “Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist.” Films available until April 10. Free ; registration required.
cherry night: Cherry Night brings the flavors of the festival to bars and restaurants across DC, each bringing their own twist to the celebrations. Look for a Kirin Ichiban beer garden at Wunder Garden, cocktails and brass music from Too Much Talent Band at the Metrobar, and an evening of yakitori grills, sake cocktails and a DJ at the hotel’s Dirty Habit bar. Monaco. Hours vary. Free entrance.
Mediation and Mindfulness (virtual): Three times a week, the Freer Gallery of Art offers a free half-hour guided meditation session online, led by local teachers. On Cherry Blossom Festival Fridays, meditation is inspired by Japanese objects from the museum’s collection. Noon every Friday in April. Free.
Bloomaroo at the dock: The Wharf’s restaurants and leisure options are in full swing throughout the festival – it’s hard to miss the pink kayaks rolling out of the boathouse – but Bloomaroo is where it all comes together, with live music on three stages, a pop-up ice rink, beer gardens and other entertainment, crowned by fireworks at 8:30 p.m. 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Free.
Petals in the park and flowers after dark in Franklin Square: The freshly renovated Franklin Square gets its big shot at this one-day event. From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Petals in the Park offers picnics, family entertainment and a designer market. After the sun goes down, the stage transforms into an adults-only party with live music, cocktails, Instagram-worthy decor, and a vendor market. 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Petals in the Park is free; Flowers after dark $25.
Kenny Endo at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage: The sound of traditional taiko drums reverberates throughout the Cherry Blossom Festival, but no one plays taiko like Kenny Endo, a master percussionist who brings jazz and funk to performances with his ensemble. 6 p.m. Free, reservation suggested.
Sakura Sunday at National Port: A Japanese market is the centerpiece of this afternoon event, which also includes Japanese music, dancing and food. Noon to 6 p.m. Free.
National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade: Floats, marching bands, helium balloons and nostalgic 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 Drum and Bugle Corps, are included along with musical guests Taylor Dayne (of “Tell it to My Heart” fame), hip-hop/pitch duo Geico 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 Fifteenth Streets for free. The parade will air delayed on ABC7 on April 17 at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. 10 a.m. to noon. Free – $30.
Sakura Matsuri Street Festival: The downtown Sakura Matsuri street festival spans two days, celebrating its 60th anniversary. This leaves twice as much time to explore J-pop musical performances, traditional dance, cooking demonstrations, martial arts demonstrations, cosplay contests, calligraphy lessons, family crafts, food and drink and outdoor cafes. This year, pavilions also showcase technology from Japan and regions outside of Tokyo. Just leave time to browse the market, where stalls sell Japanese fashion, toys and accessories – everything from art prints to stuffed sushi plushes. Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 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 relies on its extensive collections on Japan and cherry blossoms as the backbone of this family day. Admire the books and prints on display, try origami or woodblock printing, and learn about the storytelling of kamishibai. There will also be demonstrations of taiko drumming and karate. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free. Registration is required, as the library requires timed tickets for entry.
Enchanted Rhapsody at the National Landing: Nothing says “springtime” like listening to a chamber quartet perform Taylor Swift and Queen songs back-to-back under the stars, so tell us the organizers of this outdoor concert in Crystal City. The evening includes drinks from Crystal City Wine Shop and food from local restaurants. 4 to 7:30 p.m. Free, registration required.
Anacostia River Festival at Anacostia Park: An outdoor celebration on the shores of Anacostia begins with canoe trips and fishing before go-go bands including Black Alley, Sirius Company with Scooby and Ms. Kim, TOB and Experience Band, go on stage in the afternoon. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free. Mandatory registration for canoe trips and fishing.
Cherry Blossom Jubilee at Torpedo Factory: Explore multiple floors of artist studios and exhibits while listening to taiko drumming demonstrations and live music, and watching artists at work. Noon to 3 p.m. Free.
Flowers After Hours at the National Gallery of Art: Celebrating the return of spring as well as the return of the National Gallery’s late-night programming, Flowers After Hours encompasses everything floral in the museum’s collection. The evening includes access to the ‘Afro-Atlantic Stories’ exhibition, music by DJ Little Bacon Bear and cellist Benjamin Gates, talks by pop-up curators and artistic creation. Food and drinks are available for purchase. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free, but registration is required, and opens at 10 a.m. on March 21, until nga.gov/nights.
Capitol Riverside Petalpalooza: The annual party at Yards Park features live music on multiple stages, family activities, a beer garden and art installations, and concludes with a fireworks display at 8:30 p.m. 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free.