From colourful cherry-blossom parades to Easter egg rolling with the President on the White House lawn, the US capital welcomes in the new season in style
Washington DC swings into prime tourist season each April, with the blooming of its famed cherry trees. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual three-week event held citywide, showcasing the 3,000 cherry trees that the city of Tokyo presented to the nation’s capital in 1912. With more than 90 special events, ranging from arts and entertainment to cuisine and sports, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
While taking in the spectacular views of the trees along the Tidal Basin, visit the Jefferson Memorial, the dome-shaped rotunda that honours the third US President, Thomas Jefferson. The memorial is one of the most impressive sites in Washington DC, with a 19-foot bronze statue of Jefferson surrounded by passages from the Declaration of Independence. Rent a paddle boat from Tidal Basin Paddle Boats (best reserved in advance) for an alternative panorama of the cherry blossoms as well as the major DC landmarks, including the Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, Washington Monument, Martin Luther King Memorial and the White House.
As the nation’s capital celebrates the arrival of spring, dozens of Washington DC’s top restaurants show off their creativity, serving cherry-infused cuisine. From sumptuous entrees to decadent desserts to artisanal cocktails, there’s a treat for all palates. At Mandarin Oriental, Washington, cocktails on offer include Cherry Collins, Sakura Fizz, Red Vine Smash and Blossoming Champagne, while the new Asian-inspired Muze will serve a cherry-infused vanilla panna cotta. Or for more seasonally-inspired treats, check out the hotel’s Cherry Blossoms Bloom package, until 13 April.
The Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival on 5 April offers a full day of entertainment with laid-on activities, music, food and drink. Watch the fireworks light up the sky over the Potomac River, as the crowd celebrates this favourite annual tradition. On 12 April, the colourful National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade features decorated floats, gigantic helium balloons, marching bands, clowns, horses, antique cars, and performances by the military, celebrities and cultural groups. Following the parade, don’t miss the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, which stretches six blocks across the city and includes interactive cultural exhibits and performances, martial arts demonstrations, Japanese and Asian cuisine, arts and crafts, and more.
Also in April, the White House Easter Egg Roll is an annual event that takes place on the White House Lawn and dates back to 1878, when President Rutherford B Hayes officially opened the grounds to local children for egg rolling on Easter Monday. The activities are still hosted by the President and First Family, but advance tickets are required, distributed by an online lottery. Otherwise, celebrate Easter Monday at the Smithsonian National Zoo, which holds its ‘Easter Monday: Celebrating the African American Family’ event. Expect Easter-themed games, African storytelling and performances, talks by animal keepers, feedings and demonstrations.
Earth Day is celebrated on 22 April across the nation to show support for the protection of the environment. Throughout the month, many local parks and environmental groups in the Washington DC metropolitan area sponsor park cleanup days, while Union Station plays host to a programme of interactive, eco-friendly experiences. In addition, the US Environmental Protection Agency sponsors hands-on activities on the National Mall, and the National Zoo invites children to participate in ‘green’-themed crafts while learning how to be environmentally friendly.
Rachel Cooper writes about Washington DC at dc.about.com