Every spring and summer, countless festivals draw crowds outdoors to enjoy food, fine arts and music in colorful destination cities across the country. These unique cultural celebrations provide a great focal point for groups, which can split up to explore different activities and then reconvene for meals and main events.
With so many exceptional festivals to choose from, we have narrowed down five signature events from the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic.
National Cherry Blossom Festival
Touted as the nation’s “greatest springtime celebration,” the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington draws more than 1.5 million visitors to the capital city each spring. In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo, Japan, gave 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the city of Washington as a symbol of the enduring relationship between the United States and Japan, and just a few years later, the U.S. government returned the gesture with a gift of flowering dogwood trees.
Today, the city organizes a broad range of festivities around the breathtaking floral display between late March and April, many of which pay homage to Japanese culture. During the festival’s opening ceremony, groups can witness world-class dance performances from Japanese and American artists at the Warner Theatre. One of the best-known highlights is the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, a lavish, two-hour spectacle with celebrity entertainment, giant helium balloons, dance troupes and more.
There are a number of smaller spring-inspired festivals that take place throughout the four-week celebration. The Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival is the largest one-day celebration of Japanese culture in the United States; there, guests can encounter traditional Japanese fashion, art and cuisine. Many families with young kids enjoy interactive events like the Blossom Kite Festival or Petalpalooza, a carnival-esque event with live music, fireworks and games.
In addition, more than 60 local restaurants offer spring-themed menus in collaboration with the festival. Those who are unable to attend one of the organized events can bike, stroll or boat around the tidal basin to admire hundreds of flowered trees by the waterfront.
Tickets for the parade, the opening ceremony and other events are available online.