Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

How to spend springtime in Maryland and D.C.

By YUYU HUANG | April 1, 2024

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IMAGE COURTESY OF YUYU HUANG

There are many other places to see cherry blossoms in Maryland besides the Tidal Basin!

As spring takes hold in D.C. and Maryland, the cherry blossoms burst into life, splashing the city in pinks and whites. Sure, it might sound cliché, but let me take you through my own cherry blossom chase, complete with the lowdown on some great food finds along the way. I hope this helps you plan your own spring escapade!

Prelude: Brookside Gardens & A Cuban Feast

Brookside Gardens in Silver Spring packs a punch with its expertly designed landscapes, mixing a colorful, fragrant and textured floral display that evolves from spring into summer. The arrival of warm weather is heralded by a parade of daffodils, lilies of the valley, magnolias and, of course, cherry blossoms. Here's the kicker: unlike the one-type cherry tree show in D.C., Brookside Gardens showcases a variety of cherry blossoms, from the pristine “Akebono” to the pinkish “Accolade” and the rosy “Okame”. The garden features a relaxing one-mile walk, sprinkled with ponds, gazebos and bridges. My favorite spot is a Japanese-inspired garden where stones, boulders and pine trees are meticulously arranged. Setting aside two hours for this place promises a serene and relaxing stroll, offering a slice of peace amidst the bustle of spring travels.

After all that walking, I felt a little hungry. I stumbled upon this cozy Cuban spot called Cuba de Ayer — a laid-back, family-owned spot dishing out authentic Cuban cuisine just 15 minutes from the gardens. The owner opened this place as a tribute to her Cuban mother-in-law's hometown recipes. What I love about Cuba de Ayer’s offerings is how they bring together all sorts of ingredients on one plate, creating these rich, layered flavors, all while keeping things affordable. 

Take the appetizer platter, for example: it's a hearty mix of fresh shrimp in garlic sauce and juicy avocado, pinned together with toothpicks — perfect to kick things off with some crunchy bread on the side. As for the main dishes, you're spilt for choice, with proteins ranging from shredded beef to marinated pork and Cuban-style salmon, all served up with either sweet or fried plantains, rice and black beans. The cooking might be simple, but the generous, comforting servings make for a genuinely satisfying meal.

Chorus: Cherry Blossom Viewing at the Tidal Basin and Diverse Cuisines

Late March and April are prime times for cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin Trail, with over 2,500 Yoshino cherry trees in full bloom along the 2.1-mile loop. It's a beautiful blend of the East and the West, where stony, neoclassical architecture meets the delicate blossoms of spring. If you're planning to join in on the hanami (that's Japanese for cherry blossom viewing), I've got a few tips to share. 

First, aim for a weekday morning to dodge the crowds. Also, don't forget to check the weather for those clear, blue skies that make your photos pop. Now, for some spontaneous tips: Capturing the everyday vibes with shots of the cherry blossoms and the old Japanese Pagoda, or even the quirky yellow and silver road signs, can add a unique twist to your photos. These details remind me of scenes from classic Japanese anime or movies, where you see kids wandering home on streets blanketed with cherry blossoms. Remember, cherry blossom trees are everywhere, so don't obsess over getting that perfect shot with the Tidal Basin in the background. The lighting at this angle often creates silhouettes, darkening faces and obscuring details in the shadows.

IMAGE COURTESY OF YUYU HUANG

After logging a good 7,000 steps on the trail, I couldn't wait for lunch — yes, the foodie in me is always planning the next meal. In D.C., home to the largest Ethiopian community in the U.S., authentic flavors abound in the city's Ethiopian eateries. I dragged my gym-obsessed boyfriend to the famous CherCher. For around $55, the two of us were more than satisfied. Eating Ethiopian style is a tactile experience — you grab the injera (think of a spongy bread) with your hand and use it to scoop up the food. Every bite is like a mini flavor explosion, where the tangy injera enhances the flavors of a variety of toppings, including stewed legumes, fresh veggies and sautéed beef. If you're new to Ethiopian food, CherCher’s injera isn't too sour, making it a great introduction to the cuisine. The endgame gets a bit messy, though. Once you're down to the injera at the bottom, soaked with all those tasty juices, gracefully finishing the dish may pose a challenge. I ended up waving the white flag and asking for spoons to tackle the last bits.

Wrapping up my cherry blossom chase and culinary quest in Maryland and D.C., I find myself reflecting on the simple joys that spring brings. The arrival of the season serves as a signal for me to shake off the winter blues accumulated during Baltimore's damp and chilly months. As the sun starts to break through and the air transitions from a biting cold to a gentle chill, my senses become keener, eager to soak in the softness of flower petals, the freshness of new grass and the comfort of lighter clothing. Spring is a special time to step outside and make the most of this season's gifts. I hope this piece sparks some inspiration for your own spring outings!


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