Contrary to a report in yesterday's Weekend section, the Cherry Blossom Parade will not be televised, on Channel 5 or any other station.
ONCE MORE, WITH feeling not to mention foresight.
After a long, messy winter, another Washington spring is about to become official, with cherry blossoms budding at the Tidal Basin and balmy days that fade into cool evenings.
If you take a blind dive straight into celebration, however, you risk letting some potentially memorable spring days blur into a series of "those Gorgeous Spring Days when we did nothing but hang around shooting the breeze," or similar average stuff - unless you're in love, in which case every day is Gorgeous.
So here (in a form that can be folded to fit snugly in a picnic basket or under a bicycle seat) are a few tips that may help you create the stuff of memories in Washington this spring. CHERRY-BLOSSOM LORE
Four things to remember about cherry-blossom time in Washington:
First, events are events and blossoms are blossoms, and the twain have met only once in the past six years. Don't let it ruin your day.
Second is the parade. The Downtown Jaycees sponsor it, and this year they're ever so pleased announce that this very Saturday, 18 floats will navigate Constitution Avenue between 7th and 19th Streets, along with 32 marching units, 15 mounted units, the Budweiser Clydesdale horses and various Kings Dominion cartoon characters.
Last year, the Jaycees do not hesitate to add, there were only two floats and 30,000 spectators. Some 300,000 spectators are hoped for this year, weather willing, and the floats are even international . There was some talk of camel and elephant races, but as the weekend approached, prospects seemed to be fading fast. If you insist, you can watch the entire spectacle, with or without camel and elephant races, at home on Channel 5. It starts at 11 a.m.
Third is the Cherry Blossom Classic, a 10-mile mini-marathon on the mall Sunday, which you can watch absolutely free of charge and which is explained on page 25.
The final cherry-blossom fact is the Cherry Blossom Festival itself. Sponsored by the National Conference of State Societies, it begins Monday - as far as the public's concerned - with the traditional lighting of the Japanese Stone Lantern on the Tidal Basin at 7:30 p.m. The free evening, which includes music by a military band and the Shanley High School Boy's Chorus of Fargo, N.D., is the only festival event that doesn't require some sort of reservation or affiliation. The others, which do, are a reception to greet the states' princesses earlier Monday, a fashion show Tuesday; a congressional reception Wednesday; a sorority dinner Friday for the princesses; and the final sheband, the Grand Presentation Ball, on Saturday. SPRING WATER
The cherry blossoms won't last the entire spring, but the Tidal Basin will - and the Potomac River and the C&O Canal, too. So maybe they're not exactly great for swimming, but how about:
Fishing? Rent a rowboat (or canoe) at Fletcher's Boat House on Canal Road near the Chain Bridge, where canoes are $4 and rowboats $4.50 for a weekday, 50 cents more on weekends. (244-0461). Or try your luck with the catfish congregations around Key Bridge - Jack's Boats at 35th and K Streets in Georgetown (337-9642) will rent you a rowboat or canoe for $8 a day. Fletcher's sells bait and basic tackle; Jack's (where canoes are the specialty) doesn't.
Dining and/or sightseeing? If you happen to be near the Lincoln Memorial when your feet decide they've seen enough for the day, get them to take you to the nearby dock at Ohio Drive and board Potomac Boat Tours' "Spirit of '76," a 65-foot enclosed catamaran that - from tomorrow through Labor Day - stops by the dock every hour from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The hour-long cruise is $3 for adults (under 12 $1.50, over 60 $2.25), and you can even get off for some Georgetown shopping or lunch at the foot of Wisconsin Avenue, and board later for the ride back. Reservations suggested for evening tours (338-6661).
Take a midday or evening cruise and see your city from another angle. The cruise ship Dandy leaves from the foot of Prince Street in Alexandria Tuesday through Sunday for a two-hour luncheon cruise ($7 to $9.50, depending on entree) and a three-hour dinner-and-dancing cruise with live entertainment ($12.50 to $16, not including drinks or tips). For (required) reservations, call 333-7500.
Acting historically? The National Park Service's Canal Clipper starts its muledriven ventures up the C&O Canal on April 28 (Fridays through Sundays until June 1, then Tuesday through Sunday). On board, park rangers in period dress use music and dialogue to recreate life aboard a 19th-century canal boat. Trips start at 30th Street at 11:30, 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30. Adults are $2, children 12 and under are $1 (426-6700). After 8 p.m., you can charter the craft for only $350 (301/299-4159).
Acting energetically? Fletcher's Boat House also rents bikes, for your pedaling pleasure along the abovementioned canal. The three-speeds run $5 a day; the towpath runs forever. At the path's beginnings in Georgetown, you can rent a three-speed ($7 a day) or 10-speed ($9 a day) from Big Wheel Bikes, 1034 33rd St. NW (337-0254). Bring at least $10 and a driver's license to Big Wheel as a deposit. Fletcher's will settle for the license.
Acting Irresponsibly? Go hog wild and forget the laundry next Saturday (April 8), pack a picnic lunch and find a nice spot on the shore of the Tidal Basin. From about 9:15 to 3, you'll be treated to the sixth annual Cherry Blossom Festival El Toro Regatta, in which some 40 colorfully attired Toros (small sailboats) attempt in earnest to whip one another silly. ANIMAL STUFF
Rush-hour traffic aside, the area has a fairly good reputation for animal amusement. These are but three examples:
The National Zoo (of course), where grounds are open 6 to 5:30, the animal buildings from 9 to 4:30, parking is $1.50 per car, and the pandas are fed at 9 and 3 daily. Call 387-7400 for the other details.
The Pet-A-Pet Farm Park, at 1228 Huntermill Road in Vienna, Va. lets you (and the kids) get a little closer. Elephant, camel and pony rides are available, there's an 11-acre barnyard for "close contact" with domestic-type beasts, sheep-sheering demonstrations, snake shows and hayrides on weekends. Open 10 to 5 on weekdays, an hour later on weekends. Admission is $1.50 for adults, $1.25 for children (759-3636).
And for the closest of relationships, the horse. At Brandywine Stables in Brandy wine, Md., you can hit the trails for $6 an hour (guides are available; not required), and it's also not a bad place for cookouts, bonfires or hayrides (372-8914). At the Rock Creek Park Horse Center (Military and Glover Roads NW), one-hour guided trail rides are $5 weekdays (except Mondays) and $6 on weekends, leaving daily at 11:30, 1:30, 3, 4:15 and 5:30 (362-0117). HOMETOWN TOURS
Ever wanted to see Washington the way The Tourists see it? Imagine how surreptitously superior you'll feel, for instance, aboard one of those ubiquitous blue-and-white Tourmobiles, sitting there smirking and not letting on that you live down the block. If you're interested (or if you've got guests you'd like to keep busy), all-day Tourmobile tickets cost $2.75 ($1.40 for children), and they let you get on or off at any one of the 14 stops in the Mall area, between 9:30 and 4&30 daily. Last tickets sold at 2. There's even an Arlington Cemetery Tourmobile route, and they've got trained guides aboard every bus, too (554-7020).
If you're looking for more personal service, perhaps you'd rather do your hardcore touring in a limousine. A mere $54 will get you a seven-person Cadillac from Watergate Limousine and Sightseeing Service for three whole hours (the minimum), driver/guide included (338-7716). You can also hire a cab by the hour ($6 to $7.50, generally), but you take your chances on the driver's willingness and experience in pointing out landmarks.
Beating the crowds at the Smithsonian is no miniature feat, but it can be done - particularly after this Saturday, when summer hours go into effect. Most of the institution's museums will be open 10 to 9, and the way to avoid the lines is simply to show up after 5. The evening would be an especially good time to visit the Air and Space Museum, where a new General Aviation Gallery opens this Saturday with, among other things, REAL FLIGHT SIMULATORS, which you can climb into and work the instruments of, and which ACTUALLY MOVE, and which are bound to be mobbed during the day.
Spend an afternoon at the Washington Navy Yard, the nation's oldest (1799) naval institution and the site of the city's second-largest museum (The Navy Memorial Museum). Inside, there's much to keep kids of all ages occupied, including three working periscopes that enable you to spy on GW Parkway traffic across the river. Outside are two parks, one of them heavily populated by torpedos, propellors, tanks, mines, missiles, cannons and various other "ooohs" and sundry "aahs" (433-2651).
If it's a spring-fever remedy you're after, park you car in Georgetown Sunday, April 16, at exactly 10:30 a.m. Get your feet on M Street and head east, making liberal stops to browse, window shop or eat lunch. Head south when you hit (whew!) 16th Street. As you come through Lafayette Park, after 2 p.m., you'll see a line at the East Gate of the White House. It's for the annual South Lawn Garden Tour, and you should get in it. It's free, continuous until 5 p.m. and you get your very own brochure (it's also on Saturday, April 15).
When you finish, hurry over to the Museum of History and Technology's Constitution Avenue exit and catch the free double-decker bus to the National Portrait Gallery (it leaves hourly on the half-tour, 10:30 to 3:30), where from 11 to 4 April 15 and 16 you can have your own silhouette immortalized in paper by a Richmond mother-daughter team of silhouette-cutters, free.
You pay for dinner, but not for the 7 p.m. concert at the National Gallery of Art's East Garden Court that Sunday (or any Sunday through May 28, starting this weekend). It's part of the gallery's 35th annual American Music Festival.
And finally, Friendship Heights. That's what the destination sign should say on any 30s Metrobus you catch on Pennsylvania Avenue after the concert, to get back to your car (remember your car?) in Georgetown. If you get there and decide it's not yet time to go home, you're probably in love and you really didn't need any tips.