The 2021 National Cherry Blossom Festival will be held March 20 to April 11. There will be no Cherry Blossom Parade in 2021.
It seems increasingly likely that DC will still be under COVID-19 restrictions in spring 2021 while the cherry blossoms are blooming. So it's shaping up to be a good year to follow along from afar from the safety and comfort of your home.
There will be no Cherry Blossom Parade in 2021, but the National Cherry Blossom Festival organizers are in the process of creating a safe and pandemic-appropriate schedule of events. The dates of the festival are March 20 to April 11, although it will look quite different to a pre-COVID festival schedule. They’ve yet to announce the program, but expect more virtual events rather than the usual large, in-person events.
President and CEO of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Diana Mayhew, put out this statement:
The health and safety of our Festival staff and the attendees, sponsors, and other stakeholders remain the Festival’s top priority. While we know the community will miss the tradition of the Parade, a striking and celebratory procession down Constitution Avenue, plans to present the 2021 Festival in innovative and fun ways are already underway.
The schedule has not yet been announced–stay tuned!
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 because the festival has gotten much longer in recent years–running about three weeks–it’s unlikely they’ll be out for the duration simply because it would be very unusual for the bloom to last that long. 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 and 2018 festivals at the last minute to try 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.
While I have not yet seen an official announcement, the Welcome Area will almost certainly not go ahead in 2021.
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 National Cherry Blossom Festival organizers are in the process of creating a safe and pandemic-appropriate schedule of events.
The parade will not go ahead. It is very likely that other large in-person events, like PetalPalooza, the kite festival, and the fireworks, will also not go ahead in 2021.
In light of the pandemic, I recommend following along from the safety and comfort of home for the 2021 bloom.
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. The Cherry Blossom Watch site is not affiliated with the festival.
Last updated October 21, 2020