cherry blossomsMarch is upon us, which makes it a great time to take your family to Washington DC. The country’s capital is always a family favorite with my kids, but I love it even more in the early spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, gloriously dotting their way around the Tidal Basin.

The bad news – there’s no real way of predicting when the blooming period will begin. Still, the officials running the National Cherry Blossom Festival attempt to coincide their activities with the blooming of the trees. Their dates are usually on the mark, which means you can expect to see those delicate white blooms between March 20 and April 27 this year. And even if nature is not cooperating, there will be plenty of things to do to keep you busy and engaged during the festival!

Called the nation’s greatest springtime celebration, the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the gift of cherry blossom trees – a sign of enduring friendship – between the people of our country and Japan. During the weeks of the festival, activities that promote the arts and culture, community spirit and education are featured. Many of these (like most of the city’s museums) are free and open to the public, another reason this is a prime spot for my family!

During the festival, there are a variety of events so diverse that it’s best to check out the festival web site event page to figure out what works best for your family and your travel dates. For my family, some of the “don’t miss” activities in prior years have included the parade (natch!), which will be held from 10 to noon on Saturday, April 13 this year. The parade certainly feels like the city’s official welcome to spring, with the beautifully colored costumes, imposing helium balloons, elaborate floats and marching bands from across the USA. Grandstand tickets are available on a limited basis, but we always do fine standing along Constitution Street between 9th and 15th. Tip – get there early! This is a very popular event (think huge crowds).

Other events we have on our radar this year are the Kites of Asia Family Day on March 23 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Blossom Kite Festival on March 30, and the Spy Cherry Blossom SCVNGR, a free, smartphone-led scavenger hunt sponsored by the International Spy Museum throughout the festival.

And yes, there’s an app for that – or at least there will be. Keep checking the site for the 2013 app, which will help you plan your ideal cherry blossom experience.