Visiting Washington DC at Cherry Blossom Time
History of the Cherry Blossoms.
In 1912 twelve varieties of cherry trees were shipped from Yokohama, Japan to Seattle, Washington as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. The beautiful Cherry Blossoms are the Japanese symbol of human life and Japanese culture.
On March 26, 1912, 3,020 cherry trees arrived in Washington DC. On March 27 Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted two of the trees on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin. Workmen continued planting the remaining trees around the Tidal Basin, at East Potomac Park, and on the White House grounds.
The first Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935. Today you can catch people having family picnics underneath the spectacular trees.The trees blossom in spring. *Dates of full bloom differ each year depending on the weather so check the government site for the dates you plan to visit.
Places to visit, Downtown:
A good place to start is the Washington DC Chamber of Commerce Tourist Information Center located at 506 9th Street, NW. Open M-F from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Closed on Sat. and Sun. Knowledgeable staff can answer questions and help you navigate around the city.
The White House, The Ellipse, The National Christmas Tree. Write or email your Congressman. Your Congressman will email you back. Attached to this email is a packet of tour information and the security information sheet needed to request a White House tour. Fill it out and email it back. The tours that required booking through our Congressman's office were the White House and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. All other tours are available to book on your own, although the Capitol is usually booked through his/her office as well. Also, just as an FYI the White House was not available for tours on April 2nd, 3rd, or 4th 2013 as it was blocked out solely for pre-reserved school groups on Spring Break. *The tour was eventually completely cancelled because of sequestration cuts. You can also be asked to clear the area at any time. We were asked twice. Check with the Forestry Guide for tours of the White House gardens.
The Capital, Inside Tour. Arrange an inside tour through your Congressman. *Ask for tickets to the Congressional Gallery also so you can watch speeches being made.
Library of Congress, Supreme Court. back side of the Capital.
Numerous Federal Buildings. Including The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). Watch The U.S. Treasury print currency. Line up for first come first serve tickets as soon as possible in the morning or ask your Congressman.
The National Mall. Smithsonian Museums line the sides.
National Archives. View the Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, The Emancipation Proclamation, and the Magna Carta. You can do genealogy research also. Buy tickets online, $1.50 fee per person for the guided tour.
The Pentagon. Headquarters of U.S. Department of Defense.
Arlington National Cemetery. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, (changing of the guard occurs each hour) graves of John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft.
Heritage Trail. Ford's Theater, (the house where Lincoln died is across the street), Spy Museum, FBI Museum, etc. There are street signs along this route that explain what you are seeing.
Monuments/Memorials. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, and MLK. The best place to take pictures of the Cherry Blossoms is from the Jefferson Memorial. The Washington Monument was closed for earth quake retrofitting when we visited.
War Memorials. WW I & II, Vietnam, Korean. The WW II Memorial is probably the biggest and best lit up at night.
DuPont Circle. Metro stop, The Hilton where Reagan was shot, foreign Embassies, places to shop and eat.
Out of Town, Virginia
Mount Vernon. The web site states: Guests to Mount Vernon can visit George Washington's Plantation, Washington's tomb, and nearly 50 acres of his extensive gardens. The estate also includes a working blacksmith shop and the George Washington Pioneer Farmer site, a 4-acre demonstration farm with a reconstructed slave cabin and 16-sided treading barn. $15.00 fee
Monticello. The web site states: A guided tour of Monticello provides an intimate look at the extraordinary house Thomas Jefferson built and furnished for himself and his family. See the furnishings, art, books, gadgets and other objects that reveal Jefferson's unique mind. The basic guided tour includes the rooms on Monticello's first floor and lasts about 35 minutes. The upper floors are accessible through one of the extended daytime tours.
In the cellar area underneath the house, visit the dependencies (privy), as well as the restored wine cellar, kitchen, smokehouse, slave quarters, vegetable garden and stables. $25.00 fee.
Michie Tavern, Ca. 1784. The web site states: A Virginia Historic Landmark located ½ mile below Jefferson’s Monticello, accommodated travelers with food, drink and lodging more than 200 years ago. Today, visitors experience the Tavern’s past through a historic journey which recreates 18th-century tavern life. Servers in period attire offer bountiful Colonial Midday Fare. This tavern closed at 3:30 when we visited so stop early.
Civil War Battlefields, Shenandoah National Park. $15.00 entrance fee to the park.
Jamestown. The web site states: The founding of Jamestown, America's first permanent English colony in Virginia in 1607, 13 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, forged cultural encounters that helped shape our nation and the world and are part of our heritage today. $16.00 fee.
Tips: If you are staying in downtown DC you don't need a car as the Metro goes just about every where you will want to go. *Download a map from the Chamber of Commerce under Visiting to the right. You can catch the Metro from the Reagan Airport. However you will have to walk.
We didn't find it hard to find a parking spot downtown for our rental car but got a $25.00 ticket when we went past the 2 hour limit and ran out of extra paid time.
If you are planning on going to Mount Vernon, The Civil War Battlefields, Monticello, and Jamestown you will need a car as these sites are about 2 hours apart in Virginia.
Instead of buying souvenirs and trying to fit them in your luggage to take home, order them online when you get home. The link is under Visiting to the right.
Are we there yet? What to take on a road trip:
An ice chest with food, snacks and drinks for everyone. Forget sharing.
Don't forget your chargers, headphones, earplugs, meds, and a trash bag.
Take along your Kindle and cell phone to keep yourself and the kids occupied on long road trips. Download any ebooks or apps that can help you.
Remember to take along a great camera. We found the Sony Nex-5 to be light weight and user friendly.
Streets, freeways, and traffic jams are frustrating. Take along a good GPS system and visit off season.
- Tourist Information Center - Washington DC Chamber of Commerce
Metro Maps - Printable
- Find Available Tours - NATIONAL ARCHIVES park tour, DC - Recreation.gov
Docent Led Tours
- About | National Cherry Blossom Festival
Buying Souvenirs - Online