White Clouds

We got the chance to go down to D.C. to see the Cherry Blossoms last weekend. It was gorgeous!

After such a long winter, it was amazing to be able to be outside in the sunshine and see some stuff growing and blooming.

The trees in Washington, D.C. were given to the United States as a gift from Japan in 1912. Since then, more trees have been planted and there are now thousands of trees in areas around the Washington Monument and Tidal Basin.

Washington Monument

There are actually a variety of types of Cherry Blossom trees. The majority in D.C. are white, with a few pink-blossomed ones mixed in.

pinks

Every year the city celebrates the blooms with a huge festival. The parade and street festival are the biggest celebrations of Japanese culture in the country. Millions of visitors come to see the trees (and take millions of selfies).

Because nature is unpredictable, it’s difficult to know in advance when the trees will be at peak boom. I learned that there are five stages of bud formation that help predict the bloom. I never knew much about this kind of thing growing up in the South. I don’t remember many blooming trees! Next year I think it would be fun to teach the kids about it and help them be forecasters too.

The day we decided to go was actually not the day of the parade and street fest. It would be fun to go, but I didn’t think it was feasible with the younger kids plus the weather was a little chillier that day. We actually went the day after. It was the Sunday of the Peak Bloom weekend and the weather was perfect.

The kids enjoyed seeing the trees. I had showed them photos in advance so they would be excited to recognize them. I’ve been talking to my son a lot about how Spring is starting and we have been looking out for signs of Spring for the past month. He’s also showed some interest in learning about plants and their parts so this was a great chance to look at some flowers up close. (You’re NOT supposed to pick them, but we found this bloom on the ground to investigate.)

Observation

Here are a few logistical tips in case you’re planning to go visit with little ones:

  • Avoid a stroller if possible. The walkways are really crowded and the subway is a breeze if you don’t have to worry with pushing a bulky stroller.
  • Use the Metro. Coming from Baltimore County, we use the New Carrollton park & ride lot. There is a large parking garage and it’s free on weekends. The busiest stop for the blooms is the Smithsonian. L’Enfant Plaza is a little further but close by too. The station was crowded for sure, but the Metro staff was on point directing foot traffic and able to help if needed. I was totally impressed with how organized they were.
  • Bring food and water. I was a little lax on this because I figured there would surely be vendors. During the street festival there must have been, but not the day we went. Next time I’ll bring lots of water and snacks and then find a place nearby for lunch.
  • Bathrooms are a bit of a problem. There are a couple of bathrooms in the park, but the lines were long and they were pretty filthy. The one by the stage has a family restroom. Oh and there are porta potties. Yay.
  • Find events. Definitely check out the National Cherry Blossom Festival website. They have all the events and there’s a free app you can download too.

To see where exactly the Cherry Blossoms are in the area, go here to see a map. The National Parks Service also has a great site with several maps and more transportation options. There’s even a downloadable activity book for kids.

 

I hope we will be able to make this an annual tradition– at least as long as we live in this area. I am so happy to be able to share the changing of the seasons with my kids!

Have you been to D.C. for the Cherry Blossoms? What are your tips?

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