The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, held in the historic tidal basin in Washington D.C., began last Saturday, March 27th and will continue through April 11th. The festival celebrates the cherry trees that were a gift from Tokyo in 1912 and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Given the harsh winter weather that hit the area in the past few months, buds are just beginning to peek out on the capitol's battered (and recently groomed) trees. The jubilant pink flowers should be in full picturesque bloom April 4th, just in time for Easter visitors.

I ventured down last year to take in the festival. While I got some great shots of the blooms and monuments, the pictures don’t quite capture the throngs of gawkers lining the Mall. Be sure to bring plenty of snacks, bottled water, and patience. Our capitol may be grand, but the metro can be slow and crowded. If the lines for the public restrooms are discouragingly long, head to a nearby museum, like the Smithsonian for free admission, air-conditioning, and a clean place to pee.

Charlotte Savino is the online listings editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photos courtesy of Charlotte Savino.