Cherry Blossom Festival: 5 Tips from a Washington, DC Insider

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Cherry Blossom Festival
Associated Press
The National Cherry Blossom Festival: Washington, D.C.'s most popular annual event has zip to do with politics and everything to do with celebrating the awesomeness of these special trees. The 1912 gift of the original Japanese cherry trees from the mayor of Tokyo sparked both a friendship between those two capital cities and the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which this year runs March 20 to April 13. Trees bloom for about 10 days, but activities of every description take place throughout.

To get the most out of your visit, follow these best-of-the-fest tips.

1. Go early

Avoid the crush (a whopping 1.6 million people attend annually), and view the flowers at sunrise. You won't be alone, but it won't be as crowded. Wear pink. Pack a breakfast picnic of pink foods (may we suggest Georgetown Cupcake's Cherry Blossoms cupcakes ?). And bring your camera.

2. Don't drive there

Traffic is horrendous and parking spots nonexistent, so don't drive or even take a cab. Bike, Metro, or walk. The closest Metro stop to the Tidal Basin is the Smithsonian station, but L'Enfant Plaza, one stop further, will be less chaotic.

3. Be prepared for rain

Late March and early April weather in Washington,D.C. can be rainy and blustery. No problem. There are indoor events daily. From the National Building Museum's Family Days to special exhibits, like the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery's The Art of The Tea, hundreds of fun options are on offer, most of them for free. Schedules are available online, at Union Station's Welcome Center and Tidal Basin kiosks.

4. Drink (and eat) pink

Restaurants and bars serve specialty cherry-themed cocktails and dishes, among them the Cherry Blossom Margarita at El Centro D.F., in Georgetown and on 14th St.; the cherry liqueur-flavored Late Bloomer at Foggy Bottom's District Commons; and the pork belly confit with cherry sauce at Penn Quarter's Jaleo.

5. Take a guided tour

Consider signing up for a guided tour to add history, horticultural fact and even exercise, to your oohs and ahs. Two to recommend are the Lantern Tours led by National Park Service rangers on certain evenings and Bike the Sites' Blossoms by Bike tours, whose guides narrate as you pedal past the petals.

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