Last weekend I got the opportunity to do something that I have always wanted to do…. finally see the cherry blossoms at the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. Washington, DC is one of my favorite US cities. I love the patriotism, the history, the walkability, and just the vibe of the city. It’s one of the cities I’ve spent the most time in over the years and one that I will eventually probably make the move to in the future.
With my plans to head south of the Equator next year, I knew this was the year that I needed to visit our nation’s capital again. My original plan was to go down over Easter weekend, but flights were a little pricey so I checked the second weekend of April and saved over $150 on roundtrip flights out of Portland. My timing couldn’t have been any better either. Since the Northeast had a cold winter this year, the cherry blossoms were blooming later this year. Peak bloom was tentatively predicted to fall on the weekend that I was going to be there. Jackpot! The travel gods must have been on my side for once. Not so much when my 10pm flight back to Portland got delayed 2 hours and I didn’t get home until 2am, but such as life.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival occurs every year around the end of March/early April to honor the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. The festival celebrates the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan. The first gift of 2,000 cherry trees made the long voyage to the US two years earlier in 1920 diseased. Scientists from both Japan and the US ensured the safe arrival of the second batch of trees in 1912. First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. Since then, the First Ladies have become proponents of the festival. Today the festival lasts about 3 weeks and is packed with events for the whole family. Events range from a parade to a 10-miler road race to musical concerts. To find out more about the National Cherry Blossom Festival head to their website.
Because of the gorgeous weekend weather, the crowds were out in full force to see the beautiful blooms. After dropping my stuff off at my hostel, I walked down to the Tidal Basin giddy with excitement. My dream of seeing the Cherry Blossoms were about to come true! The wait was absolutely worth it. I spent countless hours just wandering around the Tidal Basin and the National Mall shooting photos of the Cherry Blossoms and taking in the atmosphere. I was surprised that the Cherry Blossoms were more white than pink. I just assumed they were pink. I overheard one guy say they were whiter this year because of the soli pH. Not sure if that’s true or not. Nonetheless, the sight of seeing all the trees blooming over the Potomac was stunning.
I was most excited about photographing the trees at sunset. I wasn’t the only one. After getting off the Metro at L’Enfant and dodging the vehicle and pedestrian traffic, I bee-lined over to the east side of thee Tidal Basin where about 10 photographers had their tripods and expensive telephoto lens set up. Based on their equipment set up I guessed they were either professionals or very serious amateur photographers so I hung around that area to shot photos. It was definitely a good plan! My favorite photos of the weekend were shot during the “golden hour” and sunset. I wanted to get up early to shoot the sunrise too, but decided sleeping in was better. I was exhausted after several early mornings and the sunburn I managed to get on my face on Saturday.