National Cherry Blossom Festival Still Blooming

We're inching ever-closer toward spring, and that means we have a lot to look forward to: blue skies, short sleeves, ridiculously long lines at carwashes... and, of course, the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

The festival (March 20-April 12) is getting off the ground this year a little bit sooner than the blossoms themselves, which are forecast to hit peak bloom April 11-14.

That means the tail end of the festival should be especially spectacular, but the fest is always fun, even when the blossoms are still curled tightly in their buds. Read on for some top events to anticipate:

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Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival -- Saturday, April 4, 1-9 p.m. (fireworks at 8:30 p.m.)

Southwest Waterfront, 600 Water St. SW

Find music, family-friendly activities, cultural performances, arts and crafts vendors and plenty of food trucks, all outdoors. Admission is free; make sure to stay for the fireworks, which will illuminate the waterfront.

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade -- Saturday, April 11, 10 a.m.-noon
Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th streets NW

It's a D.C. classic. Watch as floats, giant balloons, marching bands and celebrity entertainers (this year's famous names TBA) make their way along Constitution Avenue. The parade is free, but if you'd like grandstand seating, tickets start at $20.

Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival -- Saturday, April 11, 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 9th and 14th streets

The U.S.'s largest one-day celebration of Japanese culture features tons of food booths, 50+ cultural groups and performances, and plenty more. Arrive hungry! Tickets are $8 in advance online; day-of tickets are $10 online or at the gate, or $5 after 3p.m. Kids age 12 and younger get in for free.

Pink Tie Party Fundraiser -- Thursday, March 19, 7 p.m.
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW)

In advance of the fest's official start, get decked out in your best "pink tie" cocktail attire for the signature fundraiser, which serves up bites from tons of D.C.'s hottest restaurants, plus cocktails (of course), live music and dancing, silent auctions and more. Tickets start at $225.

Opening Ceremony -- Saturday, March 21
Warner Theatre (513 13th St. NW)

Catch traditional and modern acts by both American and Japanese musicians, including the AUN-J Classic Orchestra; Japanese star Misato Watanabe and classical pianist Manami Morita. Tickets themselves are free, but with a $5 processing fee; you can get them online here.

Blossom Kite Festival -- Saturday, March 28, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Washington Monument Grounds

It's a good time to hope for a windy day. The kite fest features five areas, including the Competition & Demonstration Field, the Family Field, activity tents and more. Catch the Hot Tricks Showdown and the Rokkaku Battle. You can also fly your own kite in the Public Field area, and kids can make their own at an activity station. Admission is free.

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