Celebrate Springtime: Explore the Nation’s Capital

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This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of So Scottsdale! magazine.

Washington, D.C. is much more than politics and what happens behind the closed doors of Capitol Hill and the Oval Office. One of the most iconic symbols of Washington, D.C. in the springtime is the cherry blossom tree. Celebrate the nation's heritage among the beautiful blooms during the month-long Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from mid-March to mid-April each year.


History of the Trees

Cherry trees haven't always been a part of the District's landscape. In March 1912, Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki transferred 3,000 cherry trees from the banks of Japan's Arakawa River to the banks of the Potomac as a gift to First Lady Helen Herron Taft.

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The cherry blossoms with the Washington Monument. Photo courtesy Destination DC

The cherry blossoms with the Washington Monument. Photo courtesy Destination DC

Three short decades later, however, the U.S. found itself at war with Japan, and after some of the trees were cut down, the government started calling them “Oriental flowering cherry trees” to protect them. The ploy worked and the trees survived. Following the war, the trees became a symbol of renewed goodwill between the U.S. and Japan. In 1965, Japan gifted another 3,800 trees to Lady Bird Johnson.

The gifts and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the U.S. and Japan.

National Cherry Blossom Festival

With so many flowering trees dotting the nation's capital city, it seems only appropriate to celebrate them. For four weekends stretching from mid-March through mid-April, millions of people come from around the world to celebrate the arrival of spring, marked by the trees' iconic pink blooms.

The festival is filled with events, most of which are free and open to the public. One of the most beautiful events is the Blossom Kite Festival held April 1, where attendees can watch kites flying in front of the Washington Monument. The Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival takes place during the final weekend with live music, food trucks, a beer garden, and activities at the District Wharf, followed by fireworks.

Of course, simply ambling along the National Mall, strolling from the Capitol toward the Lincoln Memorial is an event in and of itself with the cherry blossoms in full bloom.

Luxury Lodging in Washington DC

The Mayflower Hotel, now part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, opened in the District more than 90 years ago and has been a landmark ever since. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, it has had some famous guests walk through its doors, including every U.S. president as well as visiting royalty and celebrities.

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The Mayflower recently underwent a $20 million renovation, and a stay there is an ideal central location during the Cherry Blossom Festival. The hotel is a few steps from the Metro, which delivers you right into the heart of the festival activities. Even walking through the marble lobby, which retains a touch of yesteryear, gives you an appreciation for the history of our country.

Written by Susan Lanier-Graham

Founder and publisher Susan Lanier-Graham has traveled the world for the past twenty years, filling a passport or two along the way. She has wandered through the jungles of Thailand, explored the mysteries of the Great Pyramids, and shared the night with a leopard in Zambia. She sailed in the Mediterranean, sipped her way through Burgundy canals and Champagne caves. She followed Rembrandt’s footsteps through Amsterdam. Susan found her center on the red rocks of Sedona and soaked up an exquisite sunset over the Indian Ocean in Bali. Susan is always looking for wow moments around the world or across the street to share with adventure lovers everywhere. She has authored more than 75 books and hundreds of magazine articles. Susan is an award-winning travel writer and member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). She is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan's work still regularly appears in print and online. Susan is an award-winning travel writer, a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan has worked as an ambassador for Travelocity and is currently a travel ambassador for Rocky Mountaineer. Her work regularly appears in print and online in a variety of publications. These include various AAA publications, Postcards for Travel Leaders, Alamo.com, Hotels.com, Fairmont.com, So Scottsdale, Uptown, Green Living AZ, Life Refined, Modern Luxury, Marriott.com, WHERE Arizona, WHERE Traveler Phoenix + Scottsdale, and more.

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