Travel Thursday: Time To Plan A Return to The National Cherry Blossom Festival

Ever since this gay boy can remember, he’s always wanted to experience the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.  Since my birthday is during the first week of April, I thought sure I would check this bucket list item off early on in my life with a celebratory trip to our nation’s capital. It wasn’t until last year for my 44th birthday that I sprouted my wings and landed in Washington, DC to enjoy the sights. 

This year’s events are scheduled for a span from March 20th to April 12th, 2020.  The large span of time is necessary since mother nature is not predictable and one will never know when the peak time to view will be.  I’ve watched the peak time fluctuate from almost mid March to mid April over the years. But even if the blossoms are not at their peak, they are still beautiful during the entire span. So if you’re trying to be perfect and picky, sure, go for it, but realize that it will be worth the trip no matter when in the festival time frame. 

Here are some of the events for this year.  To stay on top of the schedule and options, keep an eye on https://nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/events/ .

Seeing the cherry blossoms in person was better than I imagined.  I had never done any historical study or research on why they were there, but we were able to learn from a cherry blossom expert about the original trees, new plantings, how to treat the trees, and so on. Another first for me happened at the same time, viewing the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  Seeing both of them together was moving. 

Photo by Adam Dupuis
Photo by Adam Dupuis

Photo by Adam Dupuis
The Cherry Blossom also sponsors a Cherry Blossom Kite Day (Photo by Adam Dupuis)

The festival spans more than one weekend, almost a month long, so there’s plenty of time to see the great show that nature provided DC and its visitors. I’m excited to find out I will be traveling through Washington, DC this year again in early April so I will be able to experience this great show.

Once again, to review the schedule and options the National Cherry Blossom Festival will provide this year, keep an eye on https://nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/events/ .

Where to Stay

With a love of the MGM brand, it was pleasing to find out that they have a location close to Washington, DC, MGM National Harbor, making it the obvious choice to call home for the birthday weekend and Cherry Blossom Festival.  Yes, it was a little out of town, but well worth the short travel to and from the city.  But with so many amenities, shopping, restaurants, entertainment, etc, we did not go into the city much, just the one day to enjoy the blossoms.  As you can se in the picture/rendering below, the complex is located just south of the capital city with the Washington Monument visible from the hotel and, as I found out shortly after check-in, my room.

MGM National Harbor – Spring Aerial l – Potomac Plaza (Courtesy MGM National Harbor)

Checking into MGM National Harbor, guests will notice that the resort/casino/hotel has a love affair with the cherry blossom, some are timely, like the conservatory

The MGM National Harbor Conservatory which is located adjacent to the lobby and is the center of the hotel (photo by Adam Dupuis)

and there is also the Blossom Cocktail Lounge at the heart of the casino area. 

Blossom Cocktail Lounge at MGM National Harbor (Photo by Tracy Brown courtesy of MGM)

We would get to the bars later, but first to my room.  Almost 600 square feet of relaxation and, as mentioned, overlooking the Potomac River and Washington, DC, the MGM National Harbor King Suite with floor-to-ceiling windows, custom automated lighting system, executive desk space, and spacious bathroom lives up to the MGM brand of quality, comfort, and refinement. 

(Photo Adam Dupuis)

After settling into the room, it was time to explore.  What I enjoyed about the design of the resort was that you never really had to go into the casino area to enjoy most of the offerings.  One can circumvent the gambling venue by going through the pleasurable shopping area.  One such find was the SJP store which features handmade shoes, city-chic handbags, and outerwear from actress Sarah Jessica Parker.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Guests Celebrate MGM National Harbor Grand Opening 12,8, 2016 (Courtesy MGM)
SJP Storefront in the MGM National Harbor (photo Adam Dupuis)

Not only were the shops on the exterior of the casino, restaurants as well were easy to find without passing any betting tables or gambling machines. 

From the Voltaggio Brothers Steak House (Top Chef, brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio join forces for the first time with their contemporary steakhouse) to the Osteria Costa (casual reprieve where guests enjoy fresh Coastal Italian cuisine) to the National Market (epicenter of culinary exploration at MGM National Harbor) and more, there was never a bad meal at MGM.

All options eaten and seen at Osteria Costa were pleasing to the eyes and the taste buds.
Best thing about dining with nice people, they share samples of their food. Another dish from Costa

As part of the Cherry Blossom Festival, the MGM National Harbor played host to two wonderful performers. The first night was Ceelo Green.  We were able to do a quick meet and greet with him, which was a surprise so I quickly snapped a shot as he and his peeps went down the stairs by us. 

Ceelo walking by while wearing MGM resort slippers and a cherry blossom colored jump suit.

The second night was all MC. Mariah Carey was in the house to perform and it was actually quite fabulous. I’d say she sang about 80% of her songs, other official sources say 90%, but it was all worth the price of admission. 

Photo by Adam Dupuis
Photo by Adam Dupuis

What I truly enjoyed about the MGM National Harbor was that it was so multi faceted.  I know all the other MGM resorts do a wonderful job in having so much to offer their visitors, but the organization of this resort with everything so centrally located and intertwined with each other, but yet so separate. The MGM National Harbor accomplished luxury, convenience, entertainment, comfort, and bliss without being over the top with the Las Vegas over the top glam. 

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