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One of the events unique to Washington DC is the Cherry Blossom Festival, celebrating the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to the people of Washington, DC in 1912. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, outraged Washingtonians took axes to hundreds of the trees, chopping them into firewood, as several gnarled older trees bear witness to that unfortunate event. Forty years after the end of the war, Japan gave 3,800 cherry trees to the United States as a show of friendship and remembrance. Twenty years after that, the cycle of giving came full circle when Japanese horticulturalists came to take cuttings from the Washington DC trees to replace cherry trees in Japan that had been lost in a flood.
In 1994 the Festival was expanded to two weeks to accommodate the many activities that happen during the trees blooming. Today the National Cherry Blossom Festival is coordinated by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., an umbrella organization consisting of representatives of business, civic and governmental organizations. More than 700,000 people visit Washington each year to admire the blossoming cherry trees that herald the beginning of spring in the nation's capital.
The NCBF's website provides information on the history of the festival, a calendar of events surrounding the festival, and opportunities to purchase tickets for the parade. In 2006, the festival will last from March 25 through April 9. However, this may not necessarily reflect when the blossoms will be in bloom, which is determined more by weather and temperature than by festival organizers! The National Park Service maintains a website that predicts when they expect the peak blooms to occur.
Keep in mind that the festival is one of DC's premiere tourist events, and hotel rooms may not only be hard to find, but that you'll be paying peak seasonal prices as well.