Last Updated on December 12, 2022
Much as they do in Japan, the blooming of the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC signal both the beginning of Spring and also a resurgence of beauty in the capital after the bleakness of winter.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
by Donna Manz
Cherry blossoms in Washington, DC are one of the delights of living in the U.S. capital region area is the annual explosion of cherry blossoms and flowering trees.
Washington tourism organizations celebrate the seasonal spectacular with what is, typically, a two-week series of pageantry. It celebrates the gift of the cherry trees that Japan gave to the United States in a gesture of friendship. In recognition, the festival is a multi-week series of events and exhibitions.
Cherry blossom trees in Washington can’t read press releases reporting their predicted blooming so it’s not unusual that the blossoms peak at their own pace. I remember occasions when my preschoolers bundled up to walk the Tidal Basin in blustery cold. Other years, strong winds dropped the florets to the ground before the festival was slated to begin. I also recall a year or two when the blossoms were dusted by snowfall.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival has a slightly different schedule every year, based on estimates of the initial bloom. Mild winters bring some benefits, one of which is that the blossoms will usually bloom early.
Cherry Blossoms Beyond the Capital
But cherry blossoms in the Washington area is not confined to the District of Columbia. Northern Virginia, which hugs the DC border to the west and south, is a tourist attraction in its own right, and rich in American history. There the spring profusion of pastels is not confined to cherry blossoms, either, as other flowering trees burst forth in bloom. Here where I live, the pink-and-maroon petals of magnolia blossoms are peeking out of their unfurling glossy-green leaves.
Seated less than 20 miles from the Washington Monument is the little affluent town of Vienna. Through gentle stewardship and rousing support of the community, Vienna maintains its “small-town” feel. Despite its proximity to urban centers, the Town and its unincorporated areas still have more two-lane winding roads than it does four-lane ones. Civil War history has a hold in Vienna, and the town’s year-round seasonal events bring out thousands of families.
The Battle of Vienna was fought here in 1861 when Confederate forces attacked a Union train. On Church Street, Freeman Store, known as Lydecker Store in 1861, was used by Union forces as a headquarters and hospital. Still in-use today as a general store and museum, Freeman Store is listed on Virginia’s registry of historic places. On the front porch of Lydecker Store, citizens of the precinct of Vienna voted against secession from the Union amid impassioned rhetoric from both sides.
On Friday and Saturday nights throughout the warm weather months, the Town Green, nestled on the main road and behind Freeman Store, is alive with free family concerts.
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, more than 100 acres of flowers, flowering trees, medicinal flora, and lakes, is set off Beulah Road in Vienna. Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts, the nation’s only national park dedicated to the performing arts, has a Vienna address, as well, as does Feld Entertainment, owners of Ringling Brothers.
Today the apple blossom tree in my front yard is showing signs of life although I hear we are expecting snow flurries tomorrow.
If you go:
If you visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the town of Vienna check the schedule of events, as well as resources for lodging and social activities, at www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/.
Historic Vienna, Inc. administers Freeman Store and Museum. The store is open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 4p.m. You can find more information at www.historicviennainc.org.
There are more than a dozen hotels with Vienna-area addresses in the Tysons Corner area, from family-friendly Marriott properties to the Ritz-Carlton and McLean Hilton. The Hilton McLean has an innovative restaurant with locally sourced ingredients.