D.C.'s cherry blossoms to peak during annual festival

The National Cherry Blossom Festival draws visitors to Washington, D.C., each spring to witness the blooming of these pale pink flowers. The blossoms — originally a gift from Japan in 1912 to symbolize their friendship with the USA — encompass the city's Tidal Basin near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and are expected to reach peak bloom April 3 through April 9.

The two-week festival runs from March 28 through April 12 this year, and the schedule is packed with flower power. Visitors can scope the blossoms by foot, boat or bike.

First up? The annual Smithsonian Kite Festival takes over the National Mall near the Washington Monument on March 28. Bring your own, or make one at this celebration that colors the sky.

District denizens and visitors alike line the streets of downtown D.C. for the parade (April 4, 10 a.m.). This year's features performances by American Idol finalist Kimberley Locke and the cast of Broadway's Chicago. The Japanese Street Festival follows the parade and shows off everything from sushi to sumo wrestling.

Visit nationalcherryblossomfestival.org for more information, including the full calendar of events.

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