Photo Of The Day: The Cherry Blossoms Are Here

Each spring, Washington, D.C., transforms from a city of grey to a city of pink during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, an annual springtime celebration of the capital’s most famous flower. This year’s “Peak Bloom Date” fell on April 9; today’s Photo of the Day, from Flickr user Christopher Skillman, was taken a day later.Do you have any great travel photos? You now have two options to enter your snapshots into the running for Gadling’s Photo of the Day. Upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool, or mention @GadlingTravel and use hashtag #gadling in the caption or comments for your post on Instagram. Don’t forget to give us a follow too!

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Christopher Skillman]

Chery Picks: Where to eat during the National Cherry Blossom Festival

It’s official – the National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off today. If you’re visiting, you probably have one question on your mind (well, beyond where to sleep and what to do, which we’ve already covered) … what do I EAT?

We’ve made that simple – check out our favorite of the official “Cherry Picks.” Consider this a guide to our favorite Washington DC restaurants offering special cherry-themed meals during the Festival or early spring. Psst – as an extra bonus, if you use a Capital One Bank debit card or Capital One credit card at Cherry Picks restaurants, you’ll receive a free coffee or dessert (purchase of entrée required).

Carmine’s, Chinatown/Penn Quarter
Information & Reservations
We love this “family-style” Italian eatery, which offers over-sized portions (each dish is sharable for 4-6 people). Enjoy the featured dessert and cocktail below, but don’t miss out on favorite dishes like the eggplant parm or special Easter roasted lamb.

  • Sicilian Triple Cherry Cassata ($12.50); Frozen Cherries Jubilee (Cruzan Rum, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, port, lemon juice, brandied cherries) ($10 and specially priced at Happy Hour)

Cuba Libre, Chinatown/Penn Quarter
Information & Reservations
It’s a true taste of Cuba in the heart of DC. We’re a big fan of the small plates and cocktails at this authentic Cuban restaurant. Don’t miss a chance to sample the cerviches – they’re our favorite!

  • Barbacoa de Pato con Cerezas (Tamarind Barbecued Duck with Bing cherry chimichurri) ($25); Cherry Tini (Pyrat XO Rum, Combier, lemon grass-infused guarapo, bitters, Bing cherries) ($9) and Coconut Cherry Frozen (Three Olives Cherry Vodka, lemon grass-infused guarapo, coconut puree, maraschino cherry juice, ice) ($9)

[Flickr via JoshBerglund19]

Kushi Izakaya and Sushi, Mount Vernon Square
Information & Reservations

What better way to celebrate the cherry blossoms (a gift to the United States from Japan) than at an authentic Japanese restaurant? Kushi boasts some of Washignton, DC’s freshest and best sushi. We’re fans of whatever the chef recommends that evening.

  • Hanami Bento Box ($15 – takeout only); Deluxe Hanami Bento Box ($40); Spring Theme Cherry Blossom Cocktail ($10)

Mie N Yu, Georgetown
Information & Reservations
Don’t miss your chance to dine at this Silk Road inspired hot spot in the heart of Georgetown. You’ll find Asian, Middle Eastern and fusion-style delicacies. We love this restaurant for its chic bar and trendy nightlife scene, but the food is top-notch as well.

  • Sweet and Sour Beef Tartar ($14); Cherry Blossom (vodka, rose petal syrup, lillet and branded cherry) ($13)

Nage Bistro, Downtown
Information & Reservations
Craving hearty, homey food with an upscale touch? Look no further. Centrally located downtown, Nage is a cozy bistro that offers some of the area’s best comforting dishes. Don’t miss their mac and cheese!

  • Crispy Duck, Buttermilk Spaetzle, Shitake, Celery and Cherry Compote ($26); Jalapeno and Cherry Poppers ($8); Boursin Chocolate Cherry Cannolli ($6)

Neyla, Georgetown
Information & Reservations
Small bites don’t get any better than this. From house-made hummus and falafel to creative cocktails, this Mediterranean eatery also offers some of the area’s best cocktails.

  • Duck Manti with dried cherries ($13); Baby Arugula Salad with arak-soaked cherries ($7); Pan Roasted Grouper with kiln-dried cherries ($22); Dark Chocolate Cherry Creme Brulee ($7); Chocolate Covered Cherry Martini (Valhrona chocolate, vanilla vodka and dark cherries) ($10)

Old Glory Bar-B-Que, Georgetown
Information & Reservations
Want a casual night on the town? Look no further. Opt for the signature ‘cue or try your luck at a bourbon from their extensive list.

  • Samuel Adams “Cherry Wheat” Beer Battered Onion Rings with sweet and sour dried cherry-cherry pepper dip ($8); Old Glory “Red Stag” Bourbon Buffalo Wings ($9); Cherry Cola BBQ Glazed Salmon with cheddar cheese grits, backyard cucumber slaw and grilled beefsteak tomato galette ($16); Black Forest Cheesecake with cherry brandy chocolate sauce ($6); Red Stag Mint Julep (Red Stag Cherry Bourbon, vanilla bean, mint, simple syrup, cherry brandy, soda, Red Stag-soaked maraschino cherry) ($10)

Potenza, Downtown
Information & Reservations
One of DC’s best spots for happy hour, this signature Italian eatery offers great pizzas and creative cocktails.

  • Prosciutto de Parma with cherry mostarda ($10); Citrus Crepes with black cherry compote ($9); Duck Breast with black trumpet with cherry jus ($24); Cherry Frangipane Tart with cherry balsamic reduction ($8) (Four courses $45)

Zengo, Chinatown/Penn Quarter
Information & Reservations
If fusion is your favorite, opt for a reservation at this popular Latin/Asian joint, located right next to the Verizon Center. Our favorite items? The tuna-filled won ton “tacos” and the Angry Zengo roll, a spicy tuna/avocado combination.

  • Chile Relleno Tempura with Cherry Braised Beef Brisket ($16); Camarones Al Cana de Azucar with a chile nacho-cherry marinade ($23); Blushing Geisha (absolut kurant / sake / brandied cherries) ($12)

Zola, Penn Quarter
Information & Reservations
Located right next to the Spy Museum, one of Zola’s signatures is the massive rotating doors that lead to the bathrooms – be sure to check them out! Otherwise, cozy in to a corner booth and order some of the area’s best creative American cuisine.

  • Cherry Cured Valentine Miller Ham Rillettes with cherry gelee and brioche ($11); Anise Glazed Sea Scallops with country ham, ramps and cherry suds ($15); Roast Quail with cherry aigre-doux, goat cheese polenta and seedling salad ($16); Cherry Braised Beef Short Ribs with sunchoke puree, pea tendrils and foie gras emulsion ($28); Cherries with bruleed vanilla sponge cake and tonka bean cream ($11)

Washington DC’s National Cherry Blossom Festival 2011: What you need to know

Cherry Blossom fans, get ready! Washington, DC’s annual National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off tomorrow and runs through April 10, 2011. Throughout the two-week festival, visitors will enjoy spectacular views of Washington’s famed Cherry Blossoms, a parade, 10 mile race, and hundreds of special spring-themed events in the Washington, DC area.

Never attended the festival before? Here’s what you need to know:

Top Five Tips For Attending:

1. Plan Around Peak Blossom Time
DC residents have noticed the first hints of the blooms already starting to peek out, but the best time to view the blossoms is predicted to be between March 29 and April 3. This is when the trees will be in the fullest bloom and yield the prettiest pictures. Typically, this when the areas surrounding the National Mall and Tidal Basin tend to be the most crowded as well, so plan accordingly. Our favorite times to view the blooms? Early morning, before the crowds descend – the Metro opens at 5:00 AM! Another beautiful way to relax and enjoy the festival is by renting a paddle boat on the Tidal Basin. Make advance reservations online to avoid getting shut out.2. Take Metro
Parking around the monuments can be a mess on a normal day – don’t even attempt it during Cherry Blossom season. Get off at the Smithsonian stop (Orange and Blue lines) and you can expect at 10-15 minute stroll to reach the Tidal Basin. Tourmobile is also offering a shuttle service from Virginia’s Haines Point parking area to the Tidal Basin at 20 to 30 minute intervals from 10 AM to 7 PM daily for $1 per person. If you’re more athletically-inclined, consider biking. On weekends, there will be a free bike valet at the Jefferson Memorial’s parking lot from 10 AM – 6 PM. You can rent a bike for just $15 on a five-day pass through Capital Bikeshare.

3. Bring A Camera (And Claritin)
There’s something about the blooms that just makes our eyes water – if you’re allergic to pollen, plan accordingly, as the thousands of blooms WILL cause a flare-up. You may also want to pack a bottle of water, as there are very few vendors located directly on the Tidal Basin. While we’d recommend packing a camera, plan your shots accordingly – it’s quite crowded, particularly on weekends, and getting your ideal shot may be difficult. We wouldn’t suggest opting for a tripod or any fancy devices, as you’ll have difficulty finding the space to set up(and you’ll annoy the other viewers).

4. Don’t Pick The Blossoms, and Other Fun Facts
Want to learn more about the history of the trees and the festival? Consider taking the National Park Service’s free guided walking tour. You’ll learn about the different types of trees (there are 3,700 trees in the area, FYI) and why we celebrate each year. Additionally, consider taking part in one of the 200+ Cherry Blossom Festival events around Washington (AOL Travel has a great guide) – from the Opening Day Ceremonies at the National Building Museum to the fireworks on April 2 to the parade on April 9, there’s plenty going on for anyone to enjoy. Oh, and don’t pick the blossoms or you’ll get a stern scolding from your local Park Ranger.

5. Search for Specials
We’ve already highlighted some of our favorite hotel specials offered during the Cherry Blossom Festival, but don’t forget to ask if area restaurants, bars and shops are offering special deals. Some of our favorites? Check out tomorrow’s guide.

[Flickr via JoshBerglund19]

National Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C.

There are 3,700 cherry trees along the Tidal Basin, the partially man-made inlet along the Potomac River between the Jefferson Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. Thanks to an initiative that started back in 1912 with a gift of cherry trees from Japan to the U.S., this stretch of the capitol is awash in pink for a two weeks each year.

The National Park Service Website outlines the history of how cherry trees have become such a prominent feature of D.C. each spring. The first cherry tree planting ceremony included First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador to the United States. Each of them planted one of the trees that still bloom.

According to the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s official website, the blossoms will be at their peak April 1-April 4, and the festival will continue through April 12. There are several festival related activities that accompany the blooming.

For example, the National Park Service is offering the following programs throughout the festival.

  • Ranger Guided Nature Lantern Walks–From 8 to 10 p.m, during these two-hour guided lantern walks, rangers talk about the history of the cherry trees as visitors enjoy the blossoms.
  • Interpretive Cherry Blossom Talks- Even if you come to each of these talks, you’ll get a different story. Different park rangers offer a variety of stories connected to the cherry trees.
  • Ranger-led Bike Tours: These are three-hour bike trips that go from Hains Point to beyond the Washington Monument.

For details about any of these National Park Service activities, check out the programs page.

The Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival is next Saturday, April 4. The festival includes: five stages featuring a variety of performances from singing to dance; food booths; Japanese crafts and art; and children’s activities. For performance schedule, click here.

For more activities that run throughout the week, click on a particular day on the calendar featured on the Cherry Blossom Festival home page. The parade is also next Saturday.