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LGBTQ+ Guide to the DC Cherry Blossom Festival

Travel Tips | Jim Werner | March 12, 2024

Ah, spring in Washington, D.C.—the perfect time to ditch the dark winter wardrobe and strut down the Tidal Basin in full-spectrum cherry blossom couture! But beyond the petals, the DC Cherry Blossom Festival (March 20–April 14, 2024) means much more than admiring flowers. It’s about celebrating new beginnings that spring embodies (hello, Mother Nature’s glam makeover!) and cherishing friendship, kind of like Japan sending us the ultimate friendship bracelet made of trees.

Cherry blossoms in full bloom surrounding the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC during peak season. The iconic pink flowers create a stunning backdrop, attracting visitors from around the world to witness this annual spectacle of natural beauty.

This iconic event attracts visitors from around the world who come to witness the breathtaking sight of thousands of cherry trees in full bloom. From traditional Japanese performances to vibrant parades, the festival offers a diverse array of activities for attendees to enjoy. This guide brings you the queerer side of the festival’s vibrant pink petals with LGBTQ+ landmarks and fabulous LGBTQ+ events that’ll have you sashaying your way through one of the capital’s most iconic celebrations.

Significance of the Petals for People

The DC Cherry Blossom Festival, held annually in Washington, DC, is more than an explosion of color—it’s an homage to friendship and a symbol of the enduring relationship between the United States and Japan. Started in 1912, when Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gifted 3,000 cherry trees to the city, the festival has blossomed into an international display of unity and beauty.

March cherry blossoms in full bloom with the iconic Washington Monument standing tall in the background. This picturesque scene captures the beauty of springtime in Washington DC, drawing visitors from near and far to witness the annual spectacle of nature's splendor.

Japan in Bloom

The DC Cherry Blossom Festival is all about celebrating Japanese culture, friendship, and the strong bond between the United States and Japan. During the festival, you can dive into traditional Japanese arts like tea ceremonies, taiko drum performances, and kimono fashion shows. Plus, there are cool cultural demos like bonsai tree displays and origami workshops where you can really get into Japanese traditions. It’s a fun way to learn and connect with all things Japanese!

Exploring the Blossoms

What’s more Washingtonian than a walk along the Tidal Basin under the blush of cherry blossoms? The delicate pink and white blooms create a stunning backdrop against the backdrop of the iconic monuments of Washington, D.C., including the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument. And for LGBTQ+ travelers, it is also an opportunity to connect with nature and history while making colorful memories.

Cherry Blossoms bloom around the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington DC, symbolizing springtime beauty and cultural significance. This image captures the serene atmosphere of the memorial adorned with delicate pink flowers.

Peak Bloom and You

Peak bloom marks that enchanting time when you can witness the cherry blossoms in their full glory. The peak bloom dates are simply when 70 percent of the trees near the Tidal Basin burst into a stunning sea of pink and white. The National Park Service (NPS) keeps tabs on the buds’ progress and forecasts the annual peak bloom. Get ready, as peak bloom for 2024 is set for March 23–26, 2024.

People photographing cherry blossoms in bloom around the Tidal Basin in Washington DC during peak season. The iconic pink flowers attract visitors from around the world to witness this annual spectacle of natural beauty.

Capturing the Scene

On the National Mall, every Instagram moment is a postcard of resistance and pride. Begin your cherry blossom photography journey at the Tidal Basin, where the delicate blossoms frame the Jefferson Memorial against the backdrop of the water. For those epic sunrise shots, make your way to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The early morning light gives a golden glow to the blossoms, setting a magical vibe. And as the day rolls on, wander the Washington Monument grounds. The cherry blossoms there stand out beautifully against the massive monument. Meanwhile for a less crowded vision, consider the Cherry Blossom Festival’s guided tours and photography workshops—the blossoms don’t just pop, they come alive.

The Washington DC Metro, also known as the Metrorail, serves as a vital transportation network connecting the capital region. Passengers commute on sleek trains through underground tunnels and above-ground tracks, facilitating efficient travel throughout the metropolitan area.

Getting There Is Half the Fun

The city’s metro system is a mosaic of convenience. Hop on the DC Circulator’s National Mall route for direct stops at key spots near the Tidal Basin, including the Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials. If you’re a Metro fan, catch the Blue, Orange, or Silver lines to the Smithsonian Metro stop, then just a quick 10-15 minute stroll to the Tidal Basin Welcome Area at 1501 Maine Avenue SW. Taking the Metrobus? Routes 32 and 36 will drop you close to the Washington Monument on the National Mall, just a short 10-minute walk south to the Tidal Basin Welcome Area & ANA Stage.

The Gay Scene Around the Greens

The LGBTQ+ experience at the Cherry Blossom Festival extends beyond the petals. It’s a time to connect with the history and culture that gets washed in a sea of pink. With more than a century’s worth of queer history scattered across the city, each stop becomes a part of D.C.’s living legacy.

A gay man proudly waving a rainbow flag in front of the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC, advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and equality. The iconic landmark serves as a backdrop for the expression of inclusivity and activism in the nation's capital.

Monumentally Queer

Washington, D.C., is home to a wealth of historic landmarks and monuments that embody the city’s rich heritage and significance. From the iconic Lincoln Memorial to the poignant Vietnam Veterans Memorial, these sites offer visitors an opportunity to reflect on the nation’s history and pay tribute to those who have shaped it—including the queers that came before us that often go unrecognized. Additionally, immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of the LGBTQ+ community at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, home to the iconic rainbow flag that flew over the Supreme Court during the marriage equality ruling.

Two gay men strolling through the vibrant streets of a neighborhood in Washington DC. The area is known for its inclusive atmosphere, LGBTQ+ friendly establishments, and colorful community events, contributing to the rich tapestry of diversity in the nation's capital.

Fab Finds and Fun in the Gayborhood

Explore the diverse neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., each offering its own unique charm and character. From the trendy bars and boutiques of Dupont Circle to the eclectic art scene of Adams Morgan, there’s no shortage of vibrant spaces to discover and enjoy. Furthermore, for a culinary adventure, indulge in the diverse flavors offered by LGBT-friendly restaurants like Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse in Dupont Circle, known for its welcoming atmosphere and mouthwatering dishes. After dinner, dive into the city’s eclectic nightlife scene, with hotspots like JR’s Bar & Grill and Trade, where heavy pours and drink specials beckon. For a touch of retail therapy, explore LGBT-owned boutiques like Little District Books and Miss Pixie’s.

People dancing joyfully shirtless at Cherry DC, a vibrant gay circuit party held during the DC Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington. The event celebrates diversity and inclusivity, bringing together individuals to revel in the festivities under the blooming cherry blossoms.

Cherry Circuit Party: Not Just a Floral Fling

Cherry DC (April 4–7, 2024) is an annual dancing-for-charity four-day-long circuit party raising money for HIV and AIDS as well as mental health services. The Cherry Circuit Party is not just your regular dance fling; it’s a statement of pride and power. The phenomenon started while the community was in the throes of the AIDS epidemic and peaked at the turn of the millennium. Girlfriend went through some hard times recently (IRS got in her way and all) but she is back, back, back again!!!

This year, get ready for a blast with 10 top D.J.s spinning tunes across eight events at the four-day extravaganza. Their theme “Rewind” will whisk you back to a time when everything felt just right. It’s a chance to relive the magic and fantasy of the legendary dance floors from back in the day. So, dance, drink, mingle, and party for a good cause—who knows, you might even find a bit of romance along the way!

Cherry blossoms in full bloom in front of a vibrant mural reading 'Washington' in Washington DC, celebrating the DC Cherry Blossom Festival. The iconic pink flowers juxtaposed with the colorful mural create a picturesque scene synonymous with springtime in the nation's capital.

And That’s the Tea, Now Bloom and Sashay to DC!

The Capital’s festival awaits, with petals and pride interwoven. LGBTQ+ travelers, indeed, it’s not just an event; rather, a celebration that embodies D.C.’s blooming inclusivity. Whether it’s your first festivity or you’re a returning ranger of the rainbow, there’s always a new blossom, a bright story, and a brilliant tale to be told and retold in the language of LGBTQ+ celebration.

See you in DC!

Photos by Ted Eytan used under Flickr Creative Commons and Denis Largeron Photographie for Cherry Fund


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