Tuesday, March 20 marks the first day of spring and the start of one of Washington, DC's largest and most anticipated seasonal celebrations—the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Many area hotels are offering Cherry Blossom bundles that include discounts, transportation passes, and fun extras. We've got our top five cherry-picked packages, just don't wait to make reservations as hotels do sell out.
Each spring, the city bursts with sweetly fragrant blossoms and teems with travelers eager to sample the capitol's cultural goodies. This year is the 100th anniversary of the festival, which commemorates the gift of 3,000 cherry trees bestowed to the United States by Japan in 1912 as a sign of continuing friendship between the two nations. As part of the centennial, the 2012 festival has been extended to five weeks (March 20–April 27) of concerts, art exhibits, craft projects, parades, and cruises.
The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown
This upscale hotel, a Fodor's Choice selection, offers year-round luxury to its guests, with an intimate fireplace-themed design and ample amenities. This year, the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown has a Cherry Blossom getaway package that's perfect for couples with a one-bedroom suite. Explore the festival with a one-day guided bicycle tour along the Georgetown Waterfront to the Tidal Basin, a must-see stop as cherry blossom central. After a day pedaling through the city, relax with cherry-chocolate s'mores and cherry infused cocktails in front of the hotel's fireplace before sitting down to dinner for two—cherry inspired, of course—at the hotel's Degrees Bistro.
Details: Package is available through May 31, 2012 and is subject to availability. Rates start at $929/night.
This centrally-located hotel, another Fodor's Choice pick, features modern and eclectic design elements alongside historic architecture. As part of their Blossoms and Bubbles package this year, you can enjoy deluxe accommodations and some family-oriented perks. Upon arrival, kids get a fun bubble toy, while later that night adults can enjoy some complimentary sake at the hotel's hosted evening Wine Hour. Complimentary hand-crafted cherry blossom artisan soap makes a nice memento. Plus each day, you'll receive a $30 credit good toward parking or dining.
Details: Package is available March 20 through April 27, 2012. Rates start at $299/night.
A favorite of heads of state, the Madison Hotel has a downtown location that provides easy access to historic sites and the White House. As part of their Cherry Blossom Bundle, enjoy free parking, a cherry blossom amenity in your room, and breakfast for two each morning before heading out to enjoy the day's activities. You'll leave the hotel equipped with complimentary survival packs stuffed with festival essentials—sunscreen, chapstick, maps and information guide, disposable camera, snacks, bottled water, and up to four one-day Metro passes.
Details: Package is available March 16–April 16, 2012 and is subject to availability. Rates start at $389/night.
Another Fodor's Choice hotel, the Hay-Adams boasts a lineage of famous guests of the political and non-political persuasions, many of whom were surely drawn by its fabulous views of Lafayette Square, the Washington Monument, and the White House. Guests who purchase the Cherry Blossom Festival package (minimum two-night stay) will receive a complimentary breakfast for two in the Lafayette Dining Room. Armed with your free commemorative tote bag and information packet, you'll be ready to hit the streets in search of the best blooms. Ask the staff about their Special Picnic Lunch, which is perfect for enjoying on the picturesque Tidal Basin.
Details: Package is available March 23–April 15, 2012 and is subject to availability. Recent rates searched started at $429/night.
The Liaison Capitol Hill, an Affinia Hotel
Get a taste of urban nightlife in this club-like Capitol Hill hotel. Though it may be a little cool outside for the rooftop lounge, guests can enjoy the outdoors via iPods loaded with walking tour information. As part of the Cherry Blossom Getaway Package, take home a commemorative cherry blossom branch (a souvenir you won't be able to snag yourself per the National Park Service). Other free goodies include a box of cherry blossom-inspired chocolates, picnic treats from Art and Soul Restaurant, and free Metro passes.
Details: Package is available from March 22–April 22, 2012 and is subject to availability. Rates start at $199/night.
Thinking of a trip to Washington, DC?
For up-to-the-minute hotel and restaurant recommendations, plus the best planning advice, check out our online Destination Guide. For more details on the event, check out the National Cherry Blossom Festival website
Photo Credit: Washington Monument Surrounded by Cherry Blossoms via Shutterstock