Cherry Blossom Lantern Tour

Jefferson Memorial

Cherry blossoms framing the Jefferson Memorial

Sterling and I had a very rare evening to ourselves—Natalie was gone for a couple of nights, and when you are used to always having someone around, it’s kind of a weird feeling to not have them there. We missed her a lot, but decided to take full advantage of our time. Since it was cherry blossom time, we of course had to go see them.

After making the mistake last year of going in the middle of the day on a weekend to see the blossoms, I vowed to never make that mistake again. I’ve always been careful in past years to go at the right time (early morning or late day)—I don’t know how I forgot last year. But I’ll never forget again.

An evening lantern tour looked perfect—and hopefully at an hour when most people had left DC for the evening.

We went on a Friday night (the tours are only offered on a few evenings around cherry blossom time, so check their website first: http://www.nps.gov/cherry/cherryrangerprograms.htm). We drove into DC at around 7:15 pm. Luckily there was very little traffic, and there were lots of parking spots. This is usually a great time for finding spots, as the city is clearing out for the evening. We parked on the Mall on 14th Street, and walked the short distance to the Tidal Basin Welcome Area. It’s right near where you go to rent paddle boats to go around the Tidal Basin. When you get to the Welcome Area, there is a National Park tent with a sign in front for the lantern tour.

NPS Tent

National Park Service Tent at Tidal Basin

On our walk over, we had to take a few pictures of the beautiful sunset behind the monument, accented by the surrounding cherry blossoms. It was a beautiful evening and a beautiful sunset.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument with a beautiful sky and beautiful cherry trees

Cherry trees

Cherry trees around the Washington Monument

The tour started at 8:00, and was led by a park ranger, carrying a lantern (with a flashlight inside—just wanted to make that clear in case you were expecting something else).

park rangers with lanterns

The park rangers getting their lanterns ready

It was interesting, and I learned several things about the cherry blossoms that I didn’t know before—like that the first batch of cherry blossoms that were sent to us from Japan, all 2,000 of them, were burned in a big bonfire because of bugs found in them. Luckily Japan understood and sent 3,020 more.

Another interesting thing I learned is that looking at the cherry blossoms is quite a tradition in Japan, often coupled with a picnic party. In fact, there is a specific Japanese word, “hanami”, which means flower viewing, with particular reference to cherry blossom viewing.

We walked about halfway around the Tidal Basin, stopping at several points for the ranger to talk to us about the history and importance of the cherry trees. The tour lasted about an hour.

So, my honest assessment: the talk wasn’t super interesting, in fact I’m not sure Natalie would have enjoyed it too much. But as I mentioned, I did learn new things, which I always like and the atmosphere was really fun. I love being on the Tidal Basin at that hour—it was so pretty with relatively small crowds for cherry blossom time. It was great to be out on a beautiful night, at a beautiful place, with my hubby.

Tidal Basin

The Tidal Basin in the evening

Next time, when we have Natalie along, I think this is what we’ll do to enjoy the cherry blossoms (in fact we’ve done this before and we all love it): bring down a picnic dinner at around 6:30 and eat under a cherry tree, then walk the Tidal Basin.

As the national park service website says:

“An evening stroll beneath the blossoms is one of the best ways to beat the crowds
and enjoy the beautiful serenity of the Cherry Trees.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I look forward to hearing about your Cherry Blossom adventure, past or present.

2 thoughts on “Cherry Blossom Lantern Tour

  1. This sounds so magical! I’ve never had the time to visit your site, but it makes me want to go to DC.

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