Enjoy a Cherry-Picked Vacation in D.C. With Lots of Free Fun

As unpredictable as a temper tantrum but as beautiful as your annual family Christmas card, cherry blossom season in our nation’s capital is a bucket-list trip that can be hard to plan around — but a trip to D.C. is an A-plus just the same with all of the free family fun.

The activities may be timeless, but a stay at the new InterContinental puts a contemporary spin on lodgings. Opened in October, the 278 rooms overlooking the Potomac River are smack-dab in the middle of The Wharf, a new southwest waterfront community just south of the National Mall. Spacious rooms have spa-like bathrooms, a L’Occitane Spa, a rooftop pool and restaurant and an Afro-Caribbean restaurant,

Kith/Kin. The Cherry Pick package includes two cherry cocktails, valet parking and breakfast. The Cherry Suite package adds on two blossom crowns and breakfast in bed with a cherry granola parfait or cherry pancakes.

The Willard InterContinental gets its seasonal game on, too, with a cherry blossom package featuring upgraded accommodations, valet parking and a $75 food and beverage credit. Located just two blocks from the White House, this Historic Hotel of America has a great children’s program, including a Kids Concierge. Millie the Mallard is the official mascot, the duck who each spring lays her egg in the hotel’s courtyard. The theme is carried throughout the year, and kids can earn and redeem “duck bucks” for treats like ice cream, and there’s a treasure chest and games for ages 12 and below.

Cherry Blossom Kite Festival in Washington, DC.

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It’s all within walking distance of the Tidal Basin area, the epicenter of activities for these pink-hued trees. Timed with what is predicted to be the peak blossom weeks depending on weather patterns, the 2018 festival runs through April 15 this year, culminating in a parade Saturday, April 14. This year the Tidal basin welcome center, food tents and performance stage will be set up through April 8, and entry to all activities — like many of the museums and family-friendly fun in D.C. — is free.

Other highlights include PetalPalooza on April 7 at the new Wharf area, with live music on three outdoor stages, a free roller rink, a beer garden (with free non-alcoholic beverages for kids), art installations and a massive fireworks display to cap it off at the end of the night.

The capstone of the week is the parade conclusion April 14, running along Constitution Avenue between the National Archives Building and Washington Monument. Gear up for marching bands, balloons, performances and floats related to the cherry blossom theme and its historic ties to the burgeoning friendship between the United States and Japan (the trees were a gift from Tokyo’s mayor in 1912). Standing tickets are free but stadium seats include a small charge.