One way you can measure your time in Washington is by the number of Cherry Blossom festivals you’ve attended. This year, I celebrated my third.
The roughly five days when the more than 2,000 cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin reach peak bloom is a time when a solid chunk of DC stays away from the Mall in the hopes of avoiding the tourists. If, however, you can brave the crowds, it is totally, totally worth it.
The first cherry blossoms arrived in DC in March of 1912 when the Mayor of Tokyo sent a shipment of 3,000 cherry trees to the city to commemorate the friendship between the US and Japan. The idea to plant cherry blossoms to beautify the city was first the idea of Eliza Scidmore, a woman who had traveled to Japan and left inspired to plant Japanese cherry trees along the Potomac waterfront (she went on to become the first female board member of the National Geographic society). She wrote to the then First Lady Helen Herron Taft, who met with Japanese consuls and accepted their offer of 2,000 cherry trees. Although the first shipment of trees arrived diseased in 1910 and were subsequently burned, the Mayor of Tokyo sent an additional 3,000, and the first two cherry trees were eventually planted in West Potomac Park on March 27, 1912, by Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador.
This year’s peak bloom fell on the anniversary of the first planting (and over Easter!), and it made for a wonderful spring weekend. Sunshine+beautiful historic flowers = a major win in my book.