Ever since we moved to Pittsburgh a little over three years ago, I have been trying to get out to D.C. to see the cherry blossoms in bloom. Between my husband’s hectic schedule and the fact that the blossoms do not always bloom as predicted, we were never able to make it out to see them. Now that we are locals, I have the next three springs to take in their splendor. I am hoping the blossoms will fair a bit better next year. They bloomed prematurely this season due to a few warmer than average days in March. Unfortunately these warm days were followed by a cold snap that came through a little over a week ago. This damaged many of the blossoms that had already opened. When peak bloom hit last week, the trees were left looking a little more sparse than usual.
I was warned by several locals that the crowds that come for the festival are quite immense, but after seeing my son’s enthusiasm over his preschool’s unit on kites last week, I decided that we should brave the droves of people and attend the Blossom Kite Festival. I will admit that it felt like I was trying to navigate through a theme park in the middle of July when it came to the number of people attending the festival. As much as I didn’t appreciate at times being pushed in the mud (yes, that happened) or having someone walk into a shot (that happened a lot), it was still an experience worth attending. If you ever find yourself in the D.C. area during the festival, I highly recommend attending. The current festivities run through April 16th.
Know Before You Go
Whether or not you will be heading out to the festival with kids, there are a few things you should know before you attend the festival.
Look But Don’t Touch!
Please note that it is illegal to pick or climb the cherry trees. I witnessed a couple of infractions. One woman had picked some blossoms and I witnessed a man climbing one of the trees on the National Mall to retrieve a kite. As tempting as it is to bring the beautiful blossoms home with you, make sure you talk to your children beforehand (there are some low hanging branches). I made sure Lil’ Man understood that we were there to look and not touch.
Create a Plan in Case of Separation
As I mentioned earlier, the crowds at the festival are quite large. Talk with your children about the importance of sticking together and have a plan in place in case you get separated.
If you are anything like my family and me, than you have an aversion to using porta-potties and public restrooms aren’t always easy to come by in the Capital. I will say, if you are in a jam (especially if you are potty training a little one), I have never seen more porta-potties in my life than I did at the festival. However, if you prefer facilities with running water and soap, than you have a few options.
- There are restrooms near the Washington Monument, but I have found that even on less crowded days these are not all that clean.
- The Smithsonian Museums are close enough that if you don’t have an emergency, you can run on in and use their facilities. (Just note that you may have to wait in a long line to go through security.)
- If you are in need of a caffeine fix, you can also find a Starbucks and use their restroom.
Baby Changing Stations: These aren’t always easy to find in DC. Your best bet for finding one of these (in a somewhat clean looking facility) is to head over to the museums. A word of warning: we once waited an hour to enter the National Archives when Lil’ Man was an infant. We had no choice but to step out of line and change his diaper off to the side (trying to get as much privacy as possible while not subjecting the bystanders to the present he made for us). We were fortunate enough that the people behind us were kind enough to let us back in line.
Items to Bring
I recommend bringing the following items so that you can avoid paying a premium for them onsite:
- Hand Sanitizer/Wipes
- Camera with Memory Card (I forgot my card and we had to pick up a class 4 16GB at a nearby CVS for $25 plus tax-OUCH!)
- Kite (If attending the Blossom Kite Festival)
- Infant Necessities (i.e., diapers, wipes, changing pad, etc.,)
The Main Event: The Tidal Basin
First of all, if you really want to experience the cherry blossoms, you’ll want to head down to the Tidal Basin. This area is located just south of the Washington Monument and features various performers throughout the festival’s duration. I will let the flowers do the rest of the talking.
Blossom Kite Festival (National Mall)
If you choose to attend this event, I recommend bringing your own kite. Between carting along a stroller, keeping a four year old in toe, and carrying my photo equipment, I chose to forgo bringing our rather large kite onto the Metro. This was my mistake. The crowds were so large that I couldn’t locate the activity station where Lil’ Man could make a kite. There are kites available to purchase and I attempted to buy one around 2 pm. Unfortunately the patron in front of me nabbed up the last one. Lil’ Man was devastated. Next year we will be ditching the stroller and bringing the kite!