COURTESY OF EMMA SHANNON
Shannon and a friend visited D.C. for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The first time I ever visited Baltimore, I was still a naïve, admitted-but-not-committed high school student. It was the first day all of the cherry blossom trees around campus were in bloom, and I fell in love instantly. The petals falling in the wind seemed like a snowstorm. They had all the beauty of snowflakes without any of the bitter cold that I would later discover arrives in tandem. I knew that this short period could possibly replace fall as my favorite time of year.
I’ve looked forward to seeing the cherry blossoms every year that I’ve lived here. But despite that, I had somehow never made it out to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. until this past weekend. It absolutely lived up to what I’d hoped for.
There were hundreds of trees, all gorgeous in full bloom. The path that took me along the Festival was right along the Tidal Basin reservoir. No matter where I looked there was a view of the trees, the still water and even D.C. landmarks like the Washington Monument.
If you like nature and taking artsy photographs as much as I do, I completely recommend making your way out to the Festival. A majority of the foot traffic seemed to come from people stopping to pose with the petals, and I’m genuinely convinced that it’s impossible to take a bad picture with these plants. I know I bombarded my social media accounts with “basic” pictures from the Festival once I got home, but hey, when in Rome do as the Romans do, right?
If you like the more informative route, there are educational talks and guided hikes at certain times of the day about the history of the Festival and the cherry blossoms themselves. These talks take place at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and are led by National Park Rangers.
If you’re more interested in learning on your own, there is also a plaque at a certain point indicating which of the trees was the very first to be planted in the orchard. Who would have thought at the time that one little sapling would end up starting a famous annual event?
If you don’t like large crowds of people, this is not the event for you. The Festival is super popular, attracting tourists from across the globe. The massive numbers of people visiting D.C. from all over the world to see the cherry blossoms was practically overwhelming.
I think it absolutely would have been overwhelming for me had I not been there with a local friend who’d already had experience navigating the horde of tourists. There were definitely moments I worried someone trying to get the perfect camera angle would accidentally knock me off the path and into the water. Even so, the crowd isn’t so bad once you get used to it, and if you like to people-watch, this is a fantastic place to do it.
On the other hand, if you like large crowds of food trucks, this event is worth checking out. An enjoyable side-event of the Festival is the incredible number of food trucks gathered around just outside the trail leading to the flowers.
When I went the weather was beautiful and sunny, and I split a soft-serve sundae with my friend. We ate while sitting in the park looking at the trees lining the distance, just enjoying the first moments of spring.
It’s impossible not to be excited for the upcoming time of year while surrounded by flowers and thousands of people all enjoying the outdoors. Everyone is enjoying themselves, whether by lying back in the sun and watching the crowd or climbing right into the branches to get that perfect camera shot. It’s truly a breath of fresh air, pollen and all, to be able to say goodbye to the seasonal depression of winter and hello to the soft warmth of spring.