The Tidal Basin, shown last spring, is home to nearly 1,700 cherry trees and the Japanese Pagoda, which weighs 3,800 pounds and is more than 300 years old. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

There’s still snow on the ground, but Washington is marching toward spring with this weekend’s kickoff of the National Cherry Blossom Festival . The annual festival celebrates the friendship between the United States and Japan, which gave Washington 3,000 cherry trees in 1912. The trees can be found at the Tidal Basin, at Hains Point and at the Washington Monument.

The trees won’t be bursting with color for probably three more weeks, but there are several fun-filled family events planned before then. Unless noted, a parent can go to the festival’s official site,, for details. Check out Friday’s Weekend section and for more festival highlights.

Family Days

Designing a Japanese garden, folding origami sailboats and making a cherry blossom tree out of popcorn are a few of the hands-on activities at this well-attended event. Performances include the Nen Daiko taiko drummers, Blues Alley Youth Orchestra and Capitol Movement dancers. Winning entries in the Youth Art Contest will be on display.

Where: National Building Museum, 401 F Street NW.

When: Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How much: Free!

Community Art Show

Washington kids in kindergarten through 12th grade who entered the festival’s Youth Art Contest will have their works displayed at the Edison Place Gallery. This year’s theme is “Step Into Spring.”

Where: Pepco Edison Place Gallery, 702 Eighth Street NW.

When: Extended hours to view student works are Sunday and April 5, noon to 4 p.m.; regular gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday, noon to 4 p.m., through April 24.

How much: Free!

Blossom Kite Festival

Kites have been popular in Japan for hundreds of years, so flying kites at the festival is serious business — but also seriously fun. There are kite battles, kite races and kite design competitions for adults and kids. The Hot Tricks Showdown and the Rokkaku Battle (featuring hexagon-shaped fighter kites) are especially entertaining. One activity station features kids’ kitemaking, but supplies are limited. So if you want to fly a kite, it’s best to bring one from home.

Where: Washington Monument, Constitution Avenue and 17th Street NW.

When: March 29, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

How much: Free! To be part of a competition, kite fliers must register at the event.

Japanese Culture Day

Explore what life is like in Japan with stories, origami and crafts in the library’s Young Readers Center. Several of this year’s cherry blossom princesses will help children make tiaras.

Where: Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street SE.

When: April 5, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

How much: Free!

For more information: A parent can go to

— Christina Barron