No contest: The best time of year to visit Washington, DC is in the spring. And during each spring, the capstone event in our nation's capital is the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The Festival, March 20 to April 27, 2012, commemorates Japan's 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the United States in an effort to enhance friendship between the two countries. The event is extraordinarily popular among American and foreign tourists. The lovely spring weather and the overwhelming beauty of seeing thousands of cherry blossom trees in bloom along DC's Tidal Basin render the celebration a genuinely unique American experience.
This year the 100th celebration of the festival is certain to make it more popular than ever. Organizers are promising new heights of creativity at the on-site exhibitions of Japanese culture, artistry and performances.
Credit: Matthew Daisey
Despite its international stature, Washington DC is a small city. The popularity of the cherry blossom festival can, therefore, make driving around or riding on Washington DC's Metro subway crowded, slow and uncomfortable. Parking is at a premium. That's why some discerning clients turn to a limousine service. You might choose to use RMA Worldwide Chaffeured Transportation to help make your visit to the nation's capitol stress-free. Whether you are a CEO traveling with a spouse and just need a Town Car, or if you are bringing the kids and grandchildren for a special family time and need a stretch limousine or luxury van for 20 people, everyone will enjoy the trip to the fullest if you pre-arrange your individualized sightseeing transportation. So if you're planning on seeing the Cherry Blossom Festival this year, here's what's recommended for an ambitious yet extremely enjoyable itinerary.
Pickup at Reagan National Airport (10 a.m.)
A vehicle of your choice can pick you and your family up at Reagan National Airport. Drive into the city along Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. With walking trails set next to the winding Potomac River and downtown Washington laid out in the distance, this is one of the prettiest views in DC.
International Spy Museum (11 a.m.)
Only in Washington: The International Spy Museum in Gallery Place is the only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage. It features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display—many of which are now being seen by the public for the first time. The museum details the work of famous spies and brings to life the strategies and techniques of the men and women behind some of the most secretive espionage missions in world history. Admission is by purchased ticket only.
Zaytinya (12:30 p.m.)
The restaurant Zaytinya is just steps from the Spy Museum. Sleek, contemporary and airy, this dining spot is one of the hottest places in town. Under the direction of celebrated chef José Andrés, Zaytinya offers a small-plates mezze-style menu inspired by Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisines. The mezze lunch ("mezze" means sharing) features four courses for $22. Finish your meal with some bracing Arabic coffee.
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (2:30 p.m.)
From Zaytinya, your driver can whisk you to the Natural History Museum at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue in NW DC. The museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution and one of the most beloved museums in Washington. Children enjoy it as much as adults, particularly the trumpeting elephant in the large foyer. Some of the offerings include a description of our earliest mammalian ancestors, a look at primate diversity around the planet, an examination of ancient life forms, including dinosaurs, and an exploration of rare gems and uniquely colored diamonds.
Newseum (4 p.m.)
From the Natural History Museum, it's just a short ride to the Newseum. The Newseum is a comparatively recent offering in DC. It bills itself as the city's "most interactive museum" and has received rave reviews from both children and adults. Top items include The Berlin Wall Gallery, the world's largest collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, and a 3-D film with four-dimensional special effects that recreates dramatic events in the history of journalism. Kids will love the NBC News Interactive News Room, which allows them to play the role of onscreen reporter or news photographer.
Check-in at Overnight Lodging (5:45 p.m.)
Like most Washington, DC visits, it's been a very busy day. Now, if you want to unwind like a local you could stay overnight in a vacation rental home. You and your family might take up residence in a quaint Georgetown townhouse close to shopping, a luxury apartment in Kalorama amid the heart of "Embassy Row," or on a deluxe houseboat situated on the southwest waterfront just minutes from the National Mall where the cherry blossoms are located.
However, if an upscale hotel is more to your taste, TripAdvisor ranks the Palomar Washington DC—a luxury Kimpton hotel in tony Dupont Circle—as the finest in the city. This boutique hotel (www.hotelpalomar-dc.com) embodies the city's cosmopolitan dynamism. The Four Seasons Washington DC is a posh hotel located on M Street in the heart of Georgetown. A time-honored luxury location, the Four Seasons features a spa and renowned restaurant Bourbon Steak on site.
Sushi Taro (8 p.m.)
The Cherry Blossom Festival honors the friendship between the U.S. and Japan. So why not enjoy your vacation by dining at what Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema called Washington, DC's best Japanese restaurant? Specifically, Sietsema wrote there is "no finer source for sushi" in DC "nor a more alluring setting in which to admire it" than Dupont Circle's Sushi Taro. To experience Sushi Taro at its most amazing, upgrade the family to the chef's tasting menu for $100 per person. From the delicious seasonal items flown in from around the globe to the private cooking show with wasabi grated fresh on the spot, you'll experience firsthand why Sushi Taro is the highest level of Japanese cuisine.
Driving Tour of DC's Monuments (10 p.m.)
Like many great cities, Washington DC is at its most alluring and beautiful at night. Your transportation company can arrange a guided tour of the city's many dazzling monuments and buildings., The Lincoln Memorial, in particular, should be viewed at night, when the hushed tones of evening make this monument particularly moving.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival (9 a.m.)
The Cherry Blossom festival is always very crowded. During the centennial celebration it will be exceptionally well-attended. Again, you might consider pre-arranging car service to the National Mall. As previously mentioned, the festival's organizers are planning a number of extra special events in support of the festival, so go online to the website (see link above) to decide which events to attend.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (11:30 a.m.)
Next on the itinerary consider a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum—it's a true Washington, DC classic. The Air and Space Museum has thousands of delightful artifacts on display, including the Wright 1903 Flyer, Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 command module Columbia and a sample of lunar rock that visitors can touch. The museum also features an IMAX theater and a flight simulator. Kids will love "How Things Fly," a hands-on gallery with amazing science demonstrations, paper airplane contests and numerous interactive devices.
Lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl (1 p.m.)
No visit to Washington, DC would be complete without a stop at Ben's Chili Bowl. Ben's Chili Bowl opened in 1958 when the U Street corridor was known as "Black Broadway." Back then, one might find Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Redd Foxx, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Bill Cosby hanging out at "The Bowl." Since then, it has become the eatery of numerous presidents, celebrities and local folks. President Barack Obama is said to be a regular and even President Sarkozy of France and his family had lunch at Ben's. After all this time, Ben's counter, booths, stools and secret-recipe chili are still the same.
Return to Reagan National Airport (4 p.m.)
We hope you enjoyed your trip to Washington, DC. There are so many interesting things to explore and enjoy in and around our nation's capital. Come back soon
-- Robert Alexander