Why you should avoid the Cherry Blossom Festival at all costs by Chaney Giordano
The cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. are internationally known for their beauty. For just a few short days each year, these mesmerizing trees bloom, covering the capital in pretty pink flowers that frame the monuments and line the Tidal Basin. However, during those same few days, something else appears in D.C. in staggering numbers: tourists.
During the peak Cherry Blossom bloom of the season, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is held in D.C. every year. According to the festival’s website, the purpose of this event is to celebrate “traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty, and community spirit.” I, being both a travel and nature lover, and perhaps somewhat naive, thought this would be the perfect time to explore D.C.
I thought wrong.
First—I concede that the cherry blossom trees are truly breathtaking. I could have walked around the Tidal Basin for hours, admiring the way they framed the monuments and enjoying the quiet and tranquility– if there had been any.
Crowds at the Cherry Blossom Festival were intense. From the second I stepped off the Metro, it took me nearly two hours before I actually saw my first Cherry Blossom. In the meantime, I saw plenty of other sights. I witnessed roughly 150 amateur photo-shoots that I imagine were all published on Instagram that very afternoon. I was shoved by several nice suburban families, who were somehow always wearing matching pullovers right sout of a J.C. Penney’s ad. And I tripped over the leashes of 4 different teeny-tiny dogs; but don’t feel bad for me, because I imagine each of those dogs was stepped on many more times than I had tripped.
Everything worsened the closer I got to the festival. On the edge of the Tidal Basin, the smell hit me. Not of the blooming cherry blossoms I had come to enjoy, but instead miles of port-a-potties surrounded by of the countless overflowing trashcans. Also, the quiet and tranquility of nature I had yearned for was replaced by the thunder of the crowds, yelling over the constant EDM music blasting along with the dance performances. Not to mention that there were just as many blossoms on the ground as in the trees, since teenage girls can never resist the opportunity to create a flower crown.
Still, being an optimistic person I moved on hoping for the best. I figured I could easily drift from the stench of waste land, the hub-bub of the performances, and the greasy, carnival-style refreshments, and if I went far enough I would be rewarded with a scenic walk around the monuments.
I grossly underestimated just how many people flock to these events, and spent the next three hours walking in a never-ending line of people around the Tidal Basin. It was like spending a day at the amusement park, but never actually getting on a ride.
If you take away nothing else from my experience: at least remember these three important things. The first, cherry blossoms are genuinely beautiful, but they are just as beautiful in settings that don’t involve several thousand people competing for a view. Second, no one listens to signs instructing not to pick pretty flowers, especially if those signs are shaped like friendly beavers. And, finally, D.C. should really be change the name to The New Profile Picture Festival since you’re 10 times more likely to see a “candid” picture being taken than you are to catch a nice view of the flowers.
Chaney Giordano is a Baltimore-based writer, traveler, beachgoer, outdoors lover, and adventure seeker.