A colorful weekend escape to the National Cherry Blossom Festival
We have a lot in common with Washington D.C.
For a decade, before the U.S. capital found its permanent home along the Potomac River, it was of course right here in Philadelphia! There’s also a bevy of U.S. history that obviously stems from our Delaware River shores — what with the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross House and on and on along our cobblestone old city streets. More recently, D.C. and Philly share Bryce Harper history! The 330 million dollar outfielder now plies his trade in a Phillies uniform after spending his first seven professional seasons with the Nationals.
The most surprising connection between Philly and D.C. however shows its colors every spring: some of the very first cherry blossom trees planted along the tidal basin in our nation’s capital came from right here in Philly. We even have our own lovely cherry blossom festival in Fairmount Park (April 6-14).
In a way then, packing up your kids and heading down I-95 for a Washington weekend during the National Cherry Blossom Festival is a little bit like going home. Spending that Washington weekend at the monumental MGM National Harbor is like going back to a home that’s had over a billion dollars poured into it.
Located a pleasant ten miles from the evocative Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, across the the Potomac River from Alexandria, Virginia, it is a picturesque drive past the Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery, and Lincoln Memorial before you reach the Tidal Basin which at this time of year is like being smack dab in the middle of a massive blooming pink flower.
Because so much is free in the District — the memorials, the monuments, the museums, and the many National Cherry Blossom Festival events — you will be flush with cash to splurge on some of the best dining in the DMV back at the MGM.
The three-year old property is home of Voltaggio Brothers Steak House and it is as delicious on the eyes as it is in your belly. Your kids will love feeling like they are in a real house, with every room of the restaurant immaculately decorated to replicate the Top Chef Brothers’ original family home. Kids will also love the succulent steak and, for vegetarians like my daughters, the scrumptious roasted cauliflower with baba ganoush and black garlic; it may be the greatest vegetable-based entree I’ve ever eaten.
While the resort is grand, thanks in part to The Wells, a 3D LED light sculpture by Chul Hyun that will mesmerize your kids while you get your Starbucks fix in the morning, as well as its stunning cherry blossom art installation and the brilliant cherry blossoms AR experience currently on show in the lobby’s 15,000 square foot conservatory, you have to spend time among the actual pink and white trees in the District!
The golden hour (60-90 minutes before sunset) is usually best for photographing just about anything but I enjoyed being among D.C.’s pink and white cherry blossoms in the cool air of a weekend morning. After the grey of dawn burns off, the hues pop on thousands of branches rimming the Tidal Basin, and the Jefferson Memorial glistens with speckled visitors climbing the steps up into the dome. Afterwards, make the short stroll over to the National Mall to visit the newest gem in the Smithsonian crown, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and to fly kites with your kids around the Washington Monument.
All those colorful kites will remind you of our own Benjamin Franklin as you continue to feel right at home in Washington D.C during your family’s Cherry Blossom weekend.
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