Us travel connoisseurs are always look for low budget ways to feed our wanderlust and, while hassle free bus tours offer inexpensive transportation and admission to all the sought after sites, nothing beats good old fashioned free exploration. Most days we’re looking across the horizon for new sights and lands to discover, often overlooking the simplistic, but fun filled activities near home.
The Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival is one such event. Running from March 20th to April 16, the festival is centered around the gorgeous cherry blossom trees that line the Potomac River and surround the US Capitol’s greatest sites, from Jefferson’s Memorial to the Washington Monument. Expert botanists have noted that the peak time to visit the nation’s capitol is from March 31st to April 3rd to see the trees burst open in a wondrous shade of pink, but there are still plenty of events to enjoy throughout the festival. Below are a few examples of events and activities for you to enjoy on your next trip to D.C.
- If you have little ones, head to the National Building Museum just in front of the Judicary Square Metro for Family Day (date TBA) for a DIY day of origami, tatebanko, playing dress up with traditional Japanese clothing, and a chance to meet DuRo, Kawasaki’s dual-armed robot.
- Grab your kite and head out to the Washington Monument for the Blossom Kite Festival. This is the perfect chance to show off your new, bedazzling kite in competitions – or, if you don’t have a kite, make one at the activities’ station. The event is on April 1st from 10:00am to 4:30pm.
- Neither rain nor shine can stop the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival, a dazzling fireworks display complete with free concerts, live dance performances, and delicious food!
- What festival doesn’t have a parade? Well, the Cherry Blossom Festival has two on April 8th!
- The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade runs from 7th to 17th streets and features dozens of performances from everyone marching band in the area. Sadly, much of the parade route requires a reservation, but there is a free-standing area between 10th and 15th street.
- If you miss out on the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, don’t worry, cause the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival is open from 10:30am to 6:00pm for only $8 (little ones get in free) along M Street and New Jersey Avenue. This is one of the “largest one-day celebration of Japanese culture in the U.S.,” complete with over “80 cultural groups, art vendors, and food stalls.”
Free Things to Do
- Grab your bike (or rent one) and cruise around DC’s many monuments, parks, and trails. Along the way, take the time to enjoy the unique spring scenery. How often do you get to cycle as flower petals rain down upon you?
- Head down to the National Arboretum for a self-guided tour to “explore nearly forty different types of flowering cherries” found in the park.
- Have a wonderful furry friend? Take your dog to Lincoln Park for a chance to meet fellow dog owners and make some new friends!
- Slip into the National Art Gallery, a perfect museum any time of the year, and wander through the Sculpture Garden to enjoy the sweet sights and scents of spring.
- Check out Politics and Books, a classic bookstore and coffee shop, to see amazing authors and poets read from their selections of works. Though its base of operation is at 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, there are also events hosted with @Busboys and Poets
- Catch a free performance every Saturday at the National Theatre to see humorous, family friendly events!
- Or just sit back and enjoy the gentle waving of the cherry blossoms as petals flutter around you.
Almost Free Options
- Slip into either the world renowned Kennedy Center or infamous Ford Theatre to see great performances!
- Visit the National Zoo to see 3 year old Bao Bao, the zoo’s famous baby giant panda.
- If you’re looking to add some culture to your daily routine, check out Alliance Française de Washington for films, lectures, book readings, and free game nights!
- Hop on a bike tour to explore DC’s monuments – or explore them with a charter bus!
- Head out by moonlight on the old town trolley tour to see DC from a whole new perspective.
- Snag a D.C. Explore Pass for just $60 to get free access to up to 3 attractions and/or activities including:
– the enlightening Newseum
– Madame Tussauds DC Wax Museum with replicas of all the U.S. Presidents
– the fascinating and unique International Spy Museum
– the historic George Washington’s Mount Vernon
– Washington Monuments Cruise, which will grant you a stunning view of the cherry blossoms from the Potomac River
– Bike and Roll bike rentals, one of the best ways to explore D.C. this spring
– The National Museum of Crime and Punishment
– National Geographic Museum
– Boating In DC boat rental, perfect for those looking to captain their own ship around D.C.
Update! The NPS is constantly updating their peak bloom prediction. Check there often to discover what’s considered the ideal time to visit Washington, D.C. to see the cherry blossoms bloom, but know that the trees will still be blooming before and after that date.