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The National Cherry Blossom Festival

Washington, D.C.’s Signature Spring Celebration

By Marguerite Cleveland

As winter fades and trees begin to sprout blossoms and leaves, the nation’s capital springs back to life. People emerge from winter hibernation and venture out to enjoy Washington, D.C.’s many public green spaces and monuments. Each year the signature event is the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Where to Stay

The Ritz Carlton Pentagon City is the epitome of luxury, where you can often snag some great rates for a stay. It is so easy to get to from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The hotel has indoor access to the Metro and is only two stops away from all the monuments and museums. You are walking distance to great shopping at the Fashion Centre or Pentagon Row. Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon are also nearby. The hotel is offering a Spring in D.C. package with a perfect way to enjoy the spring season. It includes accommodations, a $65 breakfast credit, Afternoon Tea for Two and Metrorail passes for two.

Many hotels in the area are offering Spring Packages, so when booking reservations make sure to ask.

Where to Eat

The National Mall is a food-truck oasis with a vast cultural diversity of food. There are so many it can be overwhelming, but it is an experience you shouldn’t miss. Where else can you dine on street food while enjoying the views of the Washington Monument and other treasures on the National Mall. Food choices abound with everything from Philly cheese steaks and burgers to authentic gyros, shawarma and other ethnic foods.

Another not to miss is the legendary afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton Pentagon City. This is a good option for lunch as well. Homemade scones, petit sandwiches and a variety of pastries are served up with your choice of teas or a champagne cocktail. Truly memorable and worth the splurge.

Another popular activity in D.C. is happy hour at a rooftop bar—especially when the weather turns nice. Zoning limits the heights of buildings in the city limits, so there are some expansive views with no skyscrapers. Many of the hotels in the area have an outdoor experience. Google “Best Rooftop Bars” in Washington, D.C., and you will see list after list. Here are two that are repeated on multiple “best of” lists. Top of the Yard Rooftop Bar is located at the Hampton Inn and Suites Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. It is famed for its view of the Nationals Park, and you can see the baseball games while enjoying a cocktail from this outdoor venue. Throw in a ballpark-themed menu for the win. The Watergate Hotel boasts the Top of the Gate with a 360-degree view of the D.C. skyline, Washington Monument, the Potomac River and the Kennedy Center. Enjoy small bites while sipping a craft cocktail. Rooftop Yoga is offered during the season.

Restaurants in D.C. are operating at a 25 percent capacity for indoor dining. Outdoor dining, carryout and delivery are available at many local restaurants. The situation is changing, so verify with the restaurant—and be sure to make a reservation.

What to Do

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an ode to spring. Plan your visit to coincide with the peak bloom date. According to the National Park Service, this is the day when 70 percent of the blossoms on the Yoshino cherry trees, which surround the Tidal Basin, are open. Throughout the city, a variety of events are planned. Due to the nature of COVID-19, some will be virtual, but there will be opportunities to see the blossoms live. You will need to check with the festival organizers for more details. Two fun things to do during the festival is to go art hunting. Local and national artists have created 25 giant cherry blossom sculptures that have interactive icons you can engage with to win prizes. Beginning March 20, search around the D.C. area. A new event is the Petal Porches. Download a virtual map (see The Specifics) and plan a walk or drive around a D.C. neighborhood to see porches decorated with a cherry blossom theme.

The International Spy Museum is open. You will need a timed ticket, so make sure to purchase in advance so you aren’t disappointed. This museum is impressive, with lots of interactive experiences. You register as an agent during your initial briefing then complete challenges throughout your tour. Once you are finished with your tour you will enter the Spy Shop, one of the best museum gift shops in the country. A fantastic selection, they even have National Cherry Blossom Festival souvenirs.

With the weather so nice in the spring, venture to the Hillwood Museum and Gardens. This lovely estate was purchased by Marjorie Merriweather Post with the intent to establish a museum after her death. The gardens are set on 25 acres and have a variety of styles including a Japanese Garden and a Russian Dacha on the grounds, which is now used for special exhibitions. The highlight of the museum collection is two Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs, the Twelve Monograms Easter Egg and the Catherine the Great Easter Egg. Post’s collection of Faberge is one of the finest in the world. This is such a lovely property it is easy to spend a day. There is also a restaurant on-site and a well thought-out gift shop with many luxury items.

Another museum house worth visiting when the weather is nice is that of George Washington. Mount Vernon was his love, and on a nice spring day you can see why. The estate is over 40 acres on the Potomac River, and there is so much to see and do; you will want to plan your visit. The ticket process can be confusing, as you must purchase an estate pass and then add-on tours of the home and other specialty tours, which vary by day. For first-time visitors, tour the mansion (timed tours purchased in advance online) and then use the website to decide on an itinerary. So many options from a first-time visitor or family itinerary to a military or African American history. For foodies, follow the Food and Spirits Itinerary. An interesting fact: Did you know George Washington made whiskey? In 1779, the year he died, his whiskey distillery was one of the largest in America and produced over 11,000 gallons.

When planning your visit to D.C., visit, the official tourism site for the area, for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 requirements and what is open. The situation is constantly changing, so check back frequently. There is a wealth of information on the area, and the site has some great ideas for your trip. Make reservations or purchase tickets ahead of time. Due to space capacities, many attractions offer timed entry, and if you wait until the day you want to visit, you may be disappointed, so be sure to plan ahead.

The Specifics

Where to Stay

Where To Eat

Top of the Yard -

What To Do

The National Cherry Blossom Festival -

The International Spy Museum -

Hillwood Museum and Gardens -

Mount Vernon -

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