What to See & Do at D.C.’s 2018 National Cherry Blossom Festival

Highlights of some of the fun at this time-honored Washington, D.C., celebration

Each year pink lights and petal decals bathe D.C. in a rosy hue during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which this year takes place from March 20 to April 15 (see our essential guide here). During this time, art galleries and museums mount intriguing exhibitions, and restaurants serve blossom-themed dishes and cocktails showcasing the flavors of the season. Although this list merely scratches the surface, here are highlights of some of 2018’s not-to-be-missed events. For all events, check the festival website.

Sakura Dream at Artechouse

March 23-24, 7-11 pm

This immersive, interactive art installation in collaboration with Artechouse allows attendees to experience the blossoms through experiential augmented reality. Step into the Sakura Dream (Sakura no Yume), a moonlit floating environment in which larger-than-life koi fish and colorful cherry blossom petals sense movement and “react” to visitors’ presence. 1238 Maryland Ave. SW (next to Mandarin Oriental hotel), Metro: Smithsonian

Opening Ceremony

March 24, 5-6:30 pm

This kick-off extravaganza features longtime Japanese singers T.M. Revolution and Akiko Yano, plus Shodo Girls, a group of calligraphy artists from Fukuoka Prefectural Yahata Chuo High School, who complete a work of calligraphy with each performance. Also this year, 6821 Quintet returns with another original composition created for the festival. The event is free, but tickets with a $5 processing fee must be reserved in advance. Depending on availability, walk-ins accepted starting at 4:45 p.m. on the day of the event. Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW, Metro: Metro Center

Blossom Kite Festival

March 31, 10 am-4:30 pm

Look for popular events like the Hot Tricks Showdown and the Rokkaku Battle. Youth kite-flying contests take place on the northwest quadrant of the Washington Monument grounds. Tents offer stations for making kites and getting quick tune-ups. Kite fliers take to the Public Field. Washington Monument, Metro: Smithsonian

Blossom Bash

April 6, 7 pm

Enjoy an evening of ’90s recollections as Bush, Third Eye Blind and lovelytheband unite for a memorable springtime concert. From $55. The Anthem, 901 Wharf St. SW, 202.888.0020, Metro: Waterfront


April 7, 1-9:30 pm (fireworks start at 8:30 pm, weather permitting)

This free showstopper features a roller skating rink, gigantic floral color-by-number activity, calligraphy artists, bike-powered art, a beer garden, a spectacular fireworks show by Pyrotecnico and other festivities held along the piers of the newly redeveloped Southwest Waterfront. Animal lovers enjoy an enhanced pet comfort station; here “Pop-Up Parklet” attendees can meet adoptable dogs from the Human Rescue Alliance. During the festival, visitors also wander the waterfront community’s half-mile-long stretch of new shops and restaurants. The Wharf, 1100 Main St. SW, Metro: Waterfront

Japanese Stone Lantern Lighting Ceremony

April 8, 3-4:30 pm

The 4,000-pound stone lantern brought from Japan to D.C. in 1954 is lit and the cherry blossom queens and princesses are presented before dignitaries and the public. Tidal Basin at Independence Ave. and 17th St. SW, Metro: Smithsonian, across Kuntz Bridge

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade

April 14, 10 am-noon

Grand Marshal celebrity chef Carla Hall (ABC’s “The Chew”) leads this annual march down Constitution Avenue. Marching bands, helium balloons and elaborate floats mix with performers, including Grammy Award-winning ’90s hip-hop group Arrested Development, country singer Ty Herndon, pop/classical string quartet Well Strung (currently appearing on “The Amazing Race”), ‘The Voice” contestants Sarah Potenza (season eight) and Billy Gilman (season 11) as well as extreme pogo stunt team XPOGO. Free to stand along parade route; grandstand seats from $20. Constitution Ave. NW, from 7th to 17th streets NW

Sakura Matsuri – Japanese Street Festival

April 14, 10:30 am-6 pm

This rain-or-shine event features four performance stages and more than 80 cultural groups, arts vendors and food booths. Attendees purchase tickets online or pay cash at any entrance on the day of the event. $10. Children 12 and under free. Pennsylvania Ave. NW, between 3rd and 7th streets, right after parade, Metro: Archives-Navy Memorial