Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 18, 2024

Don’t forget to stop and smell the blossoms at D.C.’s National Cherry Blossom Festival

By ROWAN LIU | March 31, 2023



Cherry blossoms in bloom over the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. 

Welcome back from spring break! For students who stayed on campus, some of you may have traveled down to D.C. where cherry blossoms were in peak bloom.

The cherry blossoms in D.C. were a diplomatic “gift of friendship” from Japan in 1912. 3,020 cherry blossom trees of 12 different varieties traveled from Tokyo to Seattle and then arrived by freight to D.C. Some of the 20 gyoiko varieties ended up on White House ground but most settled around the Tidal Basin. 

When you visit the National Mall, you’ll also find cherry blossom trees. These varieties were part of another gift in 1965 when the Japanese government sent another 3,800 trees that were planted around the grounds of the Washington monument. 

The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival officially began on March 18 with a Pink Tie Party and performances happening around the first weekend, and the Opening Ceremony was on March 25.  Performers like Anna Sato, Toshiyuki Sasaki, Mika Stoltzman and the J-Pop group Travis Japan gave rousing performances to kick off the flowering spring season.

The National Park Services announced that peak bloom began on March 23. The premiere viewing spot each year is at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial toward the south of the district, with cherry blossom trees extending all around the Tidal Basin. There is nothing that quite screams D.C. like getting a picture with the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial framed by pink blossoms at all sides (maybe the White House and Capitol are equally important representations of D.C.). 

If you get the chance in the future, visit the Tidal Basin at dawn. There’s no guarantee you can beat the crowd even then, but you may have better chances of finding some wiggle room for pictures or simply a peaceful view of the rising sun. The light reflecting off the reservoir gives the usually pink and white blossoms a warm, yellow glow. If the day is particularly windy, the petals will carry on the breeze. The pink petals are beauty in motion, creating a scene that feels so alive compared to any picture you see. 

I recommend going with friends to share in the joy, so they can snap a picture of you in case petals fly into your hair. However, I cannot deny that a morning under the flowers is the perfect time for some solitary contemplation.

Peak bloom might be ending this season, but the festivities have not! For my friends who have a bit of free time in the coming weeks, the National Cherry Blossom Festival continues until April 16. 

This weekend, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art has free tours, activities and even a kimono pop-up inside the museum. Likewise, the National Gallery of Art has free activities on a first come, first served basis. Make floral collages and custom cherry blossom screenprints this April 1

Later in April is Petalpalooza. Take the MARC train to D.C. on April 8 for an all-day event with live music, interactive art and a no-cash, card-only beer garden. If you’re not in a hurry to return to Baltimore, stay for fireworks at 8:30 p.m. I wonder... will all the fireworks be pink? 

The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade is the last major event of the season. If you’re not too busy on April 15 and haven’t had the chance to partake in other cherry blossom activities, then it’s as good a time as any to watch performances as you grab cherry blossom macarons, cakes and doughnuts while available.

Cherry blossoms have a long history in the city. Every year, they remind us of new beginnings and enduring friendships that survive the passage of time. As you enjoy your time at Hopkins and meet people along the way, remember to stop and smell the flowers. But don’t fret when you or friends graduate. Like cherry blossoms, you’ll see them again when the time is right.

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