Washington, DC is a heavily touristed city, but there are two times during the year when that statement becomes even more true. One of them is the 4th of July, and the second is currently in full swing: The National Cherry Blossom Festival. It's an annual celebration that celebrates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees, or Sakura as they're known in Japanese, from the then mayor of Tokyo. Meant to symbolize the enduring friendship between our two countries, the trees have proved to be the gift that keeps on giving. Every spring they erupt in a sea of pink and white as their blossoms mark the unofficial end of winter in the DC area. Easily felled by stiff winds or a spring storm, it's important to get out to see them early on. I did just that earlier this week, and was not disappointed.
Most of the cherry blossom trees are near the tidal basin, which is a man-made inlet next to the Potomac River. In fact, the basin and the walking path that encircles it are completely lined with Sakura. When they bloom, it creates a gorgeous ring of soft color, the perfect backdrop for shots of the nearby Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument. Cherry blossoms are so pretty that you have the urge to walk with your eyes pointed upward, gazing at all the pink and white, but this is not a good idea. Some of the branches of the trees are low enough for a 5' 8" person like myself to run into with her head. Best to keep your eyes straight ahead and enjoy the sensation of walking through a tunnel of flowers.
Washington's two-week National Cherry Blossom Festival isn't just about trees, it's also has a jam-packed calendar of blossom-related events. Everything from river tours to musical performances to bike rides to a soirée and reception at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (seriously?) has been organized to celebrate the bloom. The Festival's main event is a parade being held this weekend on the streets of DC. But you don't have to do any of that to appreciate the delicate beauty of the cherry blossoms. You don't have to line a parade route, get on a boat, or visit a museum boasting lifelike replicas of the Obamas. All you have to do is stroll around the tidal basin on a warm spring night, camera in hand, and take in the view.