Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

Every spring, visitors from all over the country come to Washington D.C witness the Cherry Blossoms near Tidal Basin. The beauty of Yoshito cherry blossoms captures the hearts of visitors, as they linger, admire, and marvel at the delicate blooms.  The visit often leaves an everlasting remark in their memories.  I know, because I am one of them.

The chase of the perfect blossoms is a constant battle. Timing is the key.  Because of the nature of the cherry blossoms, the forecasting peak bloom is near impossible more than 10 days in advance. As few have the luxury of leaving at the moment of calling, most of us often feel helpless with the situation.  We carefully research the weather trend of the current year, closely follow the online update, book our vacation to the best of our knowledge, then pray for the best.

Every year Cherry Blossoms in D.C. fall any time between March 15 to April 15. The blooms last from two days to two weeks depending on the weather conditions.  This year spring arrives early in east coast. The original prediction of the peak blooms fell on March 19-22, overlapping with my visit to Maryland!  Imagine the excitement when I found out that!!

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Then winter came, just two days before my arrival.  Long story short, the snow storm and the extreme coldness on March 14-16 tarnished most of the just out blooms and destroyed more than half of the flower buds close to final stage of opening.  Some even announced up to 90% of destruction and no Cherry Blossoms this year…

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I didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t dare to get my hope up. So imagine my delight when I spotted the first blooms after finally arrived in Tidal Basin!  Delicate white with faint pink, yet unmistakable, some cherry blossoms survived the storm, they insisted to let the beauty shine! What fighters they were!

We joined the Cherry Blossom Ranger Talk near Tidal Basin. It was very informative, we learned a lot about the history of the cherry blossoms and the lore of the annual Cherry Blossom Festivals in D.C.  The best photo spots in Tidal Basin are near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Besides the obvious, the beautiful blossoms, there are a couple of highly recommended sites near Tidal Basin: the location of the original Yoshino tree dated back to 1912, planted by First Lady Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin. There you can also find a stone lantern, also a gift from  Japan (1954). Lighting this lantern by the Cherry Blossom Princess kicks off the annual Cherry Blossom Festivals in D.C. If you like the lantern, make sure to check out the Japanese Pagoda, a stone statue, just outside of FDR memorial.

Other places also offer beautiful sights of cherry blossoms, such as along the shoreline of East Potomac Park all the way to Hains Point and Kenwood neighborhood in Bethesda, Maryland.

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Another interesting story is worth telling. As we know that the Yoshino cherry trees were the gift of City of Tokyo to Washington D.C..  More than three thousands trees were shipped and transplanted in D.C. in 1912, and many more trees in the years fo allowed.  Throughout the years, they flourished and eventually called D.C. home.  Today Yoshino trees are the most common cherry trees in D.C area.  Did you know the bombing of WWII destroyed the trees in Japan, at one point Yoshino trees were extinct in Tokyo?  Sending back the propagated tree from the 1912 donation after the war helped Japan to revive their Yoshino trees, and the genetic lineage of the original trees is preserved and continued in Japan.  It is through the cycle of giving that the cherry trees have fulfilled their role as a symbol of friendship of US and Japan.

What an uplift of spirit from Cherry Blossoms! No matter how short the life span, the cherry blossoms persevere and let out the beautiful blooms, even facing the storm.  How marvelous!!

Stay at On-Site Hotels to Get the Most out of Universal Orlando

The Wizard World of Harry Potter (WWoHP) is one of the main reasons we visit Universal Orlando.  Just come back from our third trip to the theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (the third park Volcano Bay will be open to public the summer of 2017), I like to share a few tips to maximize your experiences there.

Before the time of WWoHP we did both parks in one day with park-to-park admission plus express pass. It was a FULL day adventure, totally doable then. But today, you need at least two days to adequately enjoy the parks.

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You have two options for two-day ticket: the park-to-park or single park admission. In order to board the Hogwarts Express, you need the park-to-park ticket since the train connects the two theme parks, from the Diagon Alley in Universal Studios to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.

Hogwarts Express

I strongly recommend staying in one of the five on-site hotels.  All on-site hotels, categories of value, preferred and premier, offer early admission to the parks–you get in the park one hour before the general admission.  However, if you are not a Harry Potter fan, it is not necessary to take advantage of early admission since the only rides open in the early hour are the WWoHP attractions.

In my experience, staying in one of the on-site hotels that offer complimentary unlimited express pass, which allows you to bypass lines in many attractions, gives you the best value! These on-site hotels are Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. This is especially true if you come to the theme park during high seasons. But one thing to remember–many WWoHP rides do not honor Express Pass!

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One more money-saving plus of staying in the on-site hotels: the unlimited express pass is effective for BOTH the check-in and check-out days. In another word, one night stay in the on-site hotel can give you two days of express pass!

For families, especially those with young children, an additional advantage of staying on-site is that you may go back to the hotel to swim or rest when the parks get over-crowded and too hot in the summer months, usually from late morning to afternoon, then back again in the later hours when the parks are thinner and the day is cooler.

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