Few spring scenes inspire instant happiness like the cherry blossoms in full bloom on a sunny day on the National Mall. You’ve got to see them. A stroll around the Tidal Basin (despite the number of tourists) is absolutely necessary if you’re in DC over the next few weeks. Those pinky-white blooms scream “spring is here!” like nothing else. This year is particularly special because it’s the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the United States.
If you’re in DC this weekend, you’ll find a surprising number of free events that coincide with the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The opening ceremony will be held on Sunday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and will feature Grammy-nominated singer Sara Bareilles, plus other local and Japanese performers. While the event is free, you still need to register online for a ticket.
If you’re looking for some family fun, check out “Family Days” at the National Building Museum, Saturday from 10 a. m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Celebrate spring and explore Japanese culture with origami lessons, ballet performances and a show by the Nen Daiko taiko drummers. The best part? Kids get to meet Peanuts and Dr. Seuss characters Snoopy and the Lorax. Talk about serious celebrity sightings.
If you need a break from all the cherry blossom fun, don’t forget that all of DC’s Smithsonian museums are free to the public — check out the Hope Diamond at the Museum of Natural History, the Star-Spangled Banner flag at the National Museum of American History and stop by the National Museum of the American Indian for some seriously good (although overpriced — but aren’t all museum cafeterias?) traditional Native American fare. If you’d rather stick with the Japanese-cherry blossom theme of the weekend, you can also stop by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery to buy a bento box and a cup of tea from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.