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National Cherry Blossom Festival begins in DC

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Hundreds of thousands of tourists descend on Washington, D.C. each year to see the cherry trees in bloom during the nation's favorite spring festival.

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The National Cherry Blossom Festival dates for 2014 are March 20 to April 13. This year's festival began on March 20 with the signature Pink Tie Party, the annual fundraiser for the festival.

The festival features ceremonies, fireworks, a parade and many creative and diverse activities to celebrate spring and the gift of the first Yoshino Cherry blossom trees from the people of Japan to the United States in 1912.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony was held March 22 at the Warner Theatre with live performances by the Howard University Step Team, Takaoki Onishi with Dimitri Dover, Kaori Kobayashi with the Mao Sone Quartet, Anna Saeki, Rimi Natsukawa and Judith Hill.

Family Days, a two day family festival for kids of all ages, takes place at the National Building Museum on March 22-23. Kids can enjoy indoor performances, art demonstrations and hands-on activities to celebrate spring.

The 2014 National Cherry Blossom Festival Youth Art Contest Winners, presented in part with DC Arts & Humanities Education Collaborative, are on display throughout the festival.

The National Park Service announced that the peak bloom dates for the cherry trees this year will be between April 8-12. Peak bloom date is defined as the day when 70 percent of the Yoshino Cherry blossoms are open.

Washington is beautiful in the spring around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. A favorite way to see the cherry trees is by paddle boat on the Tidal Basin.

Paddle boat rentals are available daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Tidal Basin Boathouse, 1501 Maine Avenue, SW. You will also find cherry blossom trees in East Potomac Park and on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

The Blossom Kite Festival will be held March 29 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This free event showcases kites of all varieties on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Join in the fun by flying your own kite.

The Cherry Blossom Soccer Tournament features 48 local recreation teams competing on the West Potomac Polo grounds from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 29-30.

Ranger-led programs take place from March 29 to April 13 around Washington. These events include daily cherry blossom talks at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Plaza, daily walks at Lincoln Memorial, bike tours, running tours, Junior Ranger activities and lantern walks starting March 29 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Japanese Culture Day will be held on April 5 at the Library of Congress. This free event offers origami, book readings and other activities to introduce visitors to Japanese culture.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade will be held April 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. The parade route runs along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th streets NW. You can purchase grandstand seats in advance or stand along Constitution Avenue between 9th and 15th streets at no charge.

You will find a complete calendar of events at the festival website. Mark your calendar now for the National Cherry Blossom Festival and celebrate the return of spring in our nation's capital.

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