There are few American cities more interesting that Washington, D.C. The capital of the United States for over two hundred years, Washington has countless attractions to offer the traveler throughout the year. Washington's various monuments and many Smithsonian museums are always open to visitors, no matter the season.
If you're going to visit Washington at any time, though, you should visit during the spring, between the city's cold, rainy winter and its hot, sultry summer. DC in springtime is unrivaled in its beauty, and it offers several attractions that can't be appreciated in any other season.
1) The National Cherry Blossom Festival
If there's one reason why spring is the best season to visit DC, that reason is the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Every year in early April, the entire city comes to life with the brief but beautiful blooming of thousands of white-pink cherry blossoms.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is the largest of its kind in the United States, all thanks to a 1912 gift of over three thousand cherry blossom trees from the government of Japan to the government of the United States. The planting of these breathtaking white-pink blooming trees was supervised by Dr. David Fairchild of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Dr. Jokichi Takamine, the Japanese chemist who discovered adrenaline. For one hundred years since, the cherry blossoms have stood as a symbol of the strong relationship between the two countries (the bitterness and brutality of the World War II years notwithstanding.)
The cherry blossom typically blooms at any time from late March to early April, depending upon the weather. If you want to be in Washington to see the cherry blossoms in their full glory, you might want to plan on spending at least a week in the city to anticipate their flowering. The trees remain in bloom for only one or two weeks.
2) White House Spring Garden Tours
Every spring and fall, the temporary home of the chief executive of the United States opens its doors to visitors wanting to behold its famous gardens. The grounds of the White House are unparalleled in the craft of their landscaping and the beauty of their flowers and plants.
The first tours of the White House gardens took place in 1972, when First Lady Pat Nixon officially opened the gardens to controlled public viewing. Visitors are guided through the beautiful Jacqueline Kennedy Garden; the Rose Garden, where the President traditionally holds press conferences; the Children's Garden; and the South Lawn, scene of several dramatic moments in presidential history.
The White House Spring Garden Tours typically take place in April and are announced in advance by White House administrative officials. For reasons of security, visitors must carry proper identification and request tickets at least three weeks in advance. Check the White House's official website for its list of prohibited items and pre-tour requirements.
3) The DC Jazz Festival
If you love music, the DC Jazz Festival is a can't-miss event. Every June, just before the city's sultry summer begins, musicians from around the world come to Washington to heat things up. For two weeks, visitors can hear the diverse and vibrant sounds of swing, classic bebop, the blues, Latin and soul music played by some of the world's greatest musical artists.
For decades, Washington has been a center of jazz music. The city's famous U Street is lined with old jazz clubs that operate to this day. Plenty of great musicians visit DC throughout the year to play concerts, and many of them stop by for this annual event. Last year's Jazz Festival included Les Nubians, Jimmy Heath, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, pianist Randy Weston and a mix of other artists from around the world.
Tickets and schedules will be available on the event's official website at dcjazzfest.org.
4) Passport DC
In early May, many of the world's Washington-based embassies open up to visitors during the annual Passport DC. The nation's capital is host to over 200 foreign embassies that employ diplomats and staff from around the globe, and about 40 of these embassies will be open to visitors as a part of the Around the World Embassy Tour.
The spring Embassy Tour is perfect for kids who want to see more of the world without leaving the US. Participating embassies typically put up displays about life and culture in their respective countries, and some employ guides to show visitors around the embassy grounds.
Most of Washington's embassies are conveniently located along Massachusetts and Connecticut Avenues in the trendy Dupont Circle district of DC. Remember to bring your ID and, if possible, your passport. Security at most embassies is understandably tight. You can visit culturaltourismdc.org/things-do-see/passport-dc/participating-embassies for a list and map of participating embassies and their locations.
5) The Memorial Day Parade
Almost every town in the United States has its own Memorial Day Parade, but for a long time, the nation's capital went without one. Since 2005, however, the American Veterans Center has financed DC's very own National Memorial Day Parade. Every year since, on the last Monday of May, thousands of soldiers, veterans and volunteers have put on a great show for tens of thousands of parade watchers eager to express their gratitude and support to the members of the nation's military.
If you're a history buff, you might want to check out the National Memorial Day Parade. Several great figures in American history have taken part in the march. Last year's parade included Chuck Yeager, Air Force officer and first man to break the sound barrier; and Buzz Aldrin, Korean War pilot and, together with Neil Armstrong, one of the first men to land on the Moon.
If you're going to be in Washington in late May, this event is well worth checking out. The Memorial Day parade marches down the traditional DC parade route of Constitution Avenue.
Washington is always a great town to visit, but it has the most to offer during its beautiful springtime months. Do yourself a favor and book a trip to DC in April or May to enjoy some of these unparalleled experiences.