Showing posts with label east coast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label east coast. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012 Recap: Washington D.C. for National Cherry Blossom Festival (Centennial)

Cherry Blossom Trees in Bloom
For the last couple of years, I have made an annual trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.  Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries (  This year was the centennial celebration, 100 years of cherry blossom trees! Because I've gone several times, I've been able to do activities specific to the festival as well as activities available year round in Washington, D.C.  I am going to focus this post on the festival specific activities, but I will also briefly mention some of my more enjoyable memories of the D.C. area as well.

Cherry Blossoms with the Washington Monument
If you think you might want to visit D.C. during the Cherry Blossom festival, the official website is incredibly helpful for planning:.  They list all of the festival events on their calendar; they also have an app for the iPhone!  In addition, look into picking up a Petal Pass.  With this little card, you get discounts at lots of different places in the city.  Spring is a wonderful time of year to visit, and of course, the biggest attractions are the cherry blossom trees.  Most people like to walk around the Tidal Basin and see them blooming.  This makes for some awesome photos with the various D.C. monuments in the background.  Depending on the weather, the peak bloom period can occur later or earlier in the season.  The National Park Service sponsors a "bloom watch" each year to help predict the best time to visit the trees.  I've gone in years when the parade and major festival activities were timed perfectly, and I've gone in years where it was not.  I had a great time either way, but your pictures are much less stunning when the trees are just a basic green.

Balloons Along the Parade Route
Speaking of festivities and events, there are plenty of walking, biking, boating, and photography tours that will lead you to the best views.  One year, I went on a Cherry Blossom Tea Cruise on the Potomac River.  It was a lot of fun and the sights were excellent.  I also enjoy watching the Parade and attending the Sakura Matsuri street festival.  The parade is free, but you can buy tickets online for grandstand seating.  I did not have a problem seeing all of the floats just standing along the road (not at all like my experience in Chicago for St. Patrick's Day!).  You have to pay to enter the street festival, and I'm pretty sure the price changes every year; last year it cost $5 to enter.  I remember it was cash only and I had to hunt around the National Mall to find an ATM.  That was very inconvenient, but the $5 entrance fee ended up being worth it.  I really enjoyed how they had a traditional Japanese section and a more modern section (think Anime and J-Pop concerts).  They have TONS of food vendors and lots of places to shop and buy souvenirs.  The entire area is marked off, so I wouldn't try sneaking on.  Those security guards looked pretty tough.  Another fun activity I attended this past year was the Joint Service Drill Exhibition.  I sure wouldn't want to be very close to any of those people throwing swords and bayonets in the air.  If you happen to live in D.C, you can also partake in the earlier festivities like the Pink Tie Party

Me Outside the National Archives
One of my favorite things about visiting during this time of year is that the entire city seems to join in celebrating the Cherry Blossom Trees.  You will find a lot of restaurants adapt their menus to include cherry infused drinks and food and many of the museums will display Japanese exhibits.  Even walking through the National Zoo, you can spot cherry blossoms here and there.  It is a lot of fun! 

Some of my top spots to visit while in D.C. include as many Smithsonian museums as possible.  They are all over the city, including an Air & Space museum out by the airport, and they are all free!  I'm not sure how much better that can get.  Coming from Boston where I pay for everything, this was a great surprise.  I also like the Georgetown area for brunch and/or shopping and Adams Morgan for nightlife.  My best suggestion to anyone is to find a local (friend, family, etc) and latch on tight.  My brother and a few friends live in D.C. and they give great advice.  There is a lot to do, and if you're like me, you don't have too long to do it!  If you are interested in suggestions on restaurants, check out my Yelp page and look at my reviews in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2012 Summer Day Trips: Chatham, Cape Cod

While most of my blog posts have to do with long vacations, I occasionally find a local gem nearby that I want to write about. 

Taken From
One Saturday toward the end of June, I woke up bright and early to travel down to Chatham for a day trip with friends.  To my surprise, there was no traffic at all!  I think I lucked out because everyone must have been preparing for 4th of July and not traveling the weekend before.  We arrived at Chatham Bars Inn around 10 AM, and as expected, the room was not yet ready.  The real reason we came so early was to use the pool, beach access, and other facilities.  The concierge happily directed us across a foot path to the pool where a cabana boy set up a section of lounge chairs with towells and an umbrella.  The pool was not too big, but plenty big for the number of guests that were there.  There were employees around to take drink orders as needed, but not in an overwhelming - in your face - fashion.  The view of the beach was gorgeous as well.  We decided to stay at the pool, but I can agree that the service was just as good on the beach.  Around lunch time, we placed orders for lunch.  The lobster roll was delicious, and served with a side of watermelon slices.  Absolutely perfect for a hot summer day.  Around 5pm, we checked into the room.  The quaint, but very tasteful, oceanside room was located right on the bluff overlooking the water.  Adorable little bunnies scattered about on the lawn hiding in shadows cast by the large adirondack chairs.  This is a great escape for a staycation on the Cape!

Before dinner, we strolled into town stopping at the shops along the way.  There is some incredible art to be found down there!  Lots of galleries and local jewelers ready to make a memorable piece for you or your home.  Dinner was set for 6 PM at Del Mar. I am told that arriving any later chances a 1+ hour wait by the bar before you are seated, and no, they don't take any reservations.  We were seated right away and had our drink orders in immediately.  The service was good, and the food was delicious.  I love lobster ravioli, and they have it available as an appetizer or entree portion.  Yummy!  Everyone else was satisfied with their food as well.  The atmosphere was great and I can see how this would be a fun place for drinks later at night. 

*Special Thanks to Nuala for catching my errors!