Cherry Blossom Festival 2016: 8 Key Events

The cherry blossoms might peak earlier than expected, but this year's National Cherry Blossom Festival is also on the horizon.

The fest will run for four weeks, from March 20 to April 17, and it's usually a big boost for city and regional tourism. It always includes dozens of events, including everything from high-end bashes to family-friendly arts and crafts projects, plus several festivals-within-the-festival.

PHOTOS: Looks Like Spring! Cherry Blossoms From DC to Japan

You can see a complete calendar of events here, and read on for a breakdown of some of the key events:

  • Saturday, March 18: The Pink Tie Party is held before the festival even officially begins. Held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW), the party is a chance to don your finest pink attire, chow down at food and beverage stations and bid in silent auctions. Tickets are $225 for regular admission and $300 for VIP admission. The bash is a fundraiser for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
  • Saturday, March 26: The official opening ceremony features performances at the Warner Theatre (513 13th St. NW). Tickets are free but are required to attend; see the festival website.
  • Saturday, March 26: A free family day at the National Building Museum (401 F St. NW) offers hands-on activities for kids including making origami, designing a memorial for the National Mall, building tatebanko dioramas and meeting DuAro the robot. Kids will also have the chance to try on traditional Japanese clothing. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 2: Oh, go fly a kite! The Blossom Kite Festival, a family-favorite tradition, has competitions and demonstrations. You can bring your own kite, or kids can make their own!
  • Saturday, April 9: The Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival offers a full day of food vendors, live music, an artists' marketplace and more, ending with fireworks high above the water. Admission is free; the event runs from 1 to 9 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 16: The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade boasts a 10-block-long lineup of balloons, bands and all things pink. Cast members from "Jersey Boys," pop artist Tiffany, Miss America 2016, "The Voice" contest Sisaundra Lewis and many more will join in. Grandstand tickets cost $20, but standing room along the route is free. The parade runs from 10 a.m. to noon.
  • Saturday, April 16: After the parade, six blocks near Capitol Hill turn into a celebration of Japanese culture with food, performances and more during the Sakura Matsuri Festival from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 and free for children under 12.
  • Saturday, April 16-Sunday April 17: The Cherry Blast at the Carnegie Library (801 K St. NW) is a celebration of Japanese pop culture, including anime, cosplay, fashion and gaming, plus a Japanese-inspired dance party. You can also indulge in Tokyo street food, sake tastings and sushi workshops. The event runs from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

To celebrate the National Park Service's 100th birthday, festival officials say they'll also hide special cherry blossom-themed gnomes in parks this spring. Those who find "Petal the Gnome" will win a festival prize package. (See what Petal looks like here.)

This year marks the 104th anniversary of the gift of the cherry blossom trees from Japan as a symbol of friendship with the United States. 

Peak bloom for D.C.'s famed cherry trees is expected to begin around March 23-24, the NPS said. Peak bloom is considered to occur when 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry trees along the Tidal Basin are in bloom. 

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