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People from across the nation and across the world mark their calendars in early spring for one of nature's most awesome and beautiful spectacles: the annual blossoming of the cherry trees at the Tidal Basin and the Washington Monument in Washington DC. The National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the original gift, in 1912, of 3000 cherry trees from Japan to the United States as a symbol of the growing friendship between the two countries. Over the years, the National Cherry Blossom Festival has grown to encompass the entirety of Washington DC, with over 90 special events at different locations throughout the nation's capital. Although the festival dates fluctuate to coincide with the blossoming of the cherry trees, potential festival-goers can always count on the springtime (late March to early April) date and the breathtaking beauty of the cherry blossoms.
For almost a century the cherry trees in Washington DC have represented a special commitment of the peoples of Japan and the United States, through good times and bad, to seek friendship, partnership and renewal. In a very simple ceremony in the spring of 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two cherry trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in what would become the first of many mutual gifts between the two nations. Throughout the years Japan and the United States have reenacted that now famous initial cherry tree planting. However, the National Cherry Blossom Festival did not become an official event until 1935, when civic groups in Washington DC gathered together in sponsorship. In recent years the festival, initially consisting of only an official parade and ceremonial plantings, was expanded to two full weeks to accommodate the growing list of festivities and the burgeoning crowds.
Each year nearly a million people attend The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC, and the two weeks are barely enough time to participate in all the activities and events taking place. The official start date is set nearly a year in advance, in accordance with the National Parks Service horticulturists, to coincide with the stunning blossoming of the cherry trees. Most of the wide array of events and family friendly activities at The National Cherry Blossom Festival, from the official parade to walking tours to the Japanese street fairs, are free.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival heralds the arrival of spring in Washington DC, celebrating one of the country's most famed and storied national treasures. The enduring friendship that blossomed out of that initial gift from Japan remains strong today, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival is growing every year. Come to WashingtonDC.com to make hotel reservations in Washington DC, to book a rental car, or to get information on other Metro Washington DC activities, dining, nightlife and events. See you in spring to enjoy the wondrous beauty of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
—National Cherry Blossom Festival review by Ryan Osterbeck