Spring Awakening in Washington DC

The temperatures hit nearly 80 degrees in Washington this week, and with the warming trend came an annual migration: flocks of school groups, families, international travelers and conventioneers descending on the National Mall and its environs to enjoy what is inarguably the city’s finest season.

The weather has drawn out the spring blooms—daffodils, hyacinths, forsythia, the pretty but odoriferous (and I don’t mean pleasing) Bradford pears and deciduous magnolias. And with the continued warmth, the stars of the show—the cherry blossoms—can’t be far behind. This year marks the 100th time Washingtonians can take part in the Japanese tradition of hamani, or cherry blossom viewing parties, and some of the original trees can still be found, not far from the Martin Luther King Memorial where they stand as gnarled sentinels to a century of history. Peak bloom this year is expected between March 24 through March 31, but it could happen earlier, given the summer-like heat. For the latest update, check out the National Park service’s site.

This year’s Cherry Blossom Festival will last five weeks and offer activities ranging from the Blossom Kite Festival, parade and street festival to a fireworks show. But while these festivities could keep you occupied for days, why not indulge in some of Washington’s other spring offerings? Along with the flowers, March and April bring pit barbecue, outdoor beer gardens and baseball back to the city after a winter hiatus.

For barbeque and beer, Standard, the 14th Street beer garden, reopened March 1, a seasonal destination offering the flavors of summer: pulled pork sandwiches, ribs and barbeque chicken or mounds of blue crabs served alongside draft German pilsner. A new patio this year should extend seating on those nights when the beer garden is overflowing with friends and fun.

The Nationals take to the field for their home opener April 12 against Cincinnati, an excuse to root for the newest home team, in its seventh season in D.C. The sparkling ballpark sets the stage for a great game and a half-smoke from the Ben’s Chili Bowl kiosk. Or if you’re really hungry, the new StrasBurger at the Red Porch is a burger loaded with secret sauce and toppings that tips the scale at eight pounds. And all can be washed down with a local brew, Hook & Ladder Golden Ale or an almost local, Dogfish Head IPA from Lewes, Del.

One place I plan to check out on a rainy day—as likely in Washington as political debate—is the exhibit opening this month at the American Art Museum: the Art of Video Games. Exploring the visual effects and creative technology of 80 games, spanning 40 years, from Pong to Pac-man, this promises to satisfy the gamers, geeks and art enthusiasts in your group. (A visit to the museum also checks off a Civil War sesquicentennial site. Housed in the former Patent Office, Clara Barton worked there before becoming a nurse and Walt Whitman tended the Union’s wounded after it became a hospital during the war).

Political junkies can always find something interesting happening in Washington, and spring brings out the passion of those who want their voices heard: protesters marching to the Capitol; the rallying cry declared from a street corner bullhorn; Occupy DCers lingering on in city parks. The Newseum displays the front pages of newspapers from the U.S. and around the world that can be skimmed daily, for free (disappointing when a really good story jumps, though!)

Spring also is perfect for indulging in a favorite city past-time: people watching. Find a perfect patch of green, a park bench or open café seat and linger, observing the crossroads of America. You might never spot a politician or a celebrity but you will see Americans and visitors from the Four Corners area of the U.S. as well as the world’s four corners. The people, the place, the atmosphere. Spring awakening in Washington is breathtaking.

To celebrate springtime in DC, Moon is hosting a contest for a chance to win a $250 American Express gift card. To enter, find a photo you’ve taken that represents springtime to you—wherever you are in the world—and submit it to Moon’s Flickr page.

Photo © Patricia Nevins Kime

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