The 2018 National Cherry Blossom Festival will be held March 20 through April 15. The Cherry Blossom Parade is scheduled for Saturday, April 14, 2018. There are a number of events and activities planned for that period, including the Blossom Kite Festival (March 31) and the the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (April 14).
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is typically scheduled around the average peak bloom date. The hope is that the blossoms will come out at some point during the festival, but there’s no guarantee of that and it’s unlikely they’ll be out for the duration. In 2014 and 2015 the peak bloom fell right at the end of the festival. In 2016 and 2017, with the early bloom, it fell right at the beginning of the festival–they even moved the opening of the 2017 festival at the last minute to accommodate an expected early bloom.
In recent years the festival has been extended to run across several weeks, which increases the chances that the peak bloom will fall within the festival dates, but it’s never guaranteed.
Tidal Basin Welcome Area
Each year, the Tidal Basin’s main parking lot, on Maine Ave SW (next to the paddle boats), is closed off to parking and converted into the Tidal Basin Welcome Area. It features information and activity tents from the National Park Service and National Cherry Blossom Festival, a performance stage, food tents, and dozens of portajohns. The area is open from 10am to 6pm with most of the activities and performances geared toward afternoons. Entry is free.
The Tidal Basin Welcome Area this year will run from March 24 through April 8.
National Cherry Blossom Festival 2018 Major Events
Blossom Kite Festival. Saturday, March 31. Free. Held at the base of the Washington Monument, the Blossom Kite Festival includes competitive battle and tricks competitions but is also an opportunity to bring your own kite or, for kids, to make one on site. You can find more about it here.
PetalPalooza. Saturday, April 7. Entry is free. Hosted at the newly constructed Wharf area (formerly known as the Southwest Waterfront), this afternoon and evening festival includes a range of entertainment and eating options capped by evening fireworks along the waterfront. You can find logistical details about PetalPalooza here.
National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. Saturday, April 14. Standing room is free; stadium seating requires tickets. The parade runs along Constitution Avenue between the National Archives building and the Washington Monument and features performers, marching bands, giant balloons, and floats, many related to the general cherry blossom theme. You can find more specific information about the parade here and buy tickets here.
Where to Stay for DC’s Cherry Blossom Festival
If you’re planning to visit DC to see the cherry blossoms, I’d recommend make hotel reservations sooner rather than later–it can get busy and hotels can fill up. I’ve put together some recommendations on where to stay in DC with an eye specifically on visiting the cherry blossoms.
About the National Cherry Blossom Festival
The Festival is run by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and features a number of events, exhibits, and performances related to the cherry blossoms and U.S.-Japanese relations. Among the events and activities are a parade, fireworks, concerts, and special exhibits that take their theme from the cherry blossoms. You can find more information at the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s official website.
Cherry Blossom Visitor Guides
Planning on visiting DC to see the cherry blossoms? The uncertainty with predicting when the bloom will take place certainly makes things hard, but I've put together some information to help you make an educated guess to maximize your chances.
And if you're coming into town for the events of the cherry blossom festival or just for the flowers, I've also put together some ideas on where to stay and how to get to the cherry blossoms once you're here.
Washington DC Visitor Guides
If you're coming in from out of town, here are some useful travel guidebooks that can help you make the most of your visit. Because as stunning as the cherry blossoms are, there's an awful lot more to do and see in DC.
These are some of the most popular ones. Many of these are available as both traditional books and e-books that you can read on your phone or tablet.
- Stephan Van Dam, Illustrator, Editor
- Publisher: VanDam, Inc
- Elise Hartman Ford
- Publisher: FrommerMedia
- Fodor s Washington D C with Mount Vernon Alexandria Annapolis Full color Travel Guide
- Fodor's Travel Guides
- DK Travel
- Publisher: DK Eyewitness Travel
- Lonely Planet, Regis St Louis, Karla Zimmerman
- Lonely Planet
And here are some interesting options for less traditional guidesbooks if you'd like an emphasis on exploring DC on foot or diving into some of the region's very rich history.
- NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
- Barbara Noe Kennedy