Around the globe, around the calendar
Don't despair if you can't get to D.C. in May; you can sample the city's international vibe at other times throughout the year as well.
The Embassy Series: Launched 20 years ago to promote "global cultural diplomacy through music and the arts," this concert program has become one of the hottest tickets in town. The Embassy Series stages 25 musical performances a year in embassies or ambassadors' residences. Tickets are pricey — they range from $50 to $150 — but typically include a reception featuring regional food and wines.
Very cherry: Forget the tourist-slammed Tidal Basin; you haven't experienced spring in Washington until you've walked, run, skated or cycled beneath the cherry blossom petals that shower down from the trees encircling nearby East Potomac Park. It all started as a gesture of international friendship 102 years ago, when Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki presented the city with 3,020 saplings. Today some 3,750 mature cherry trees ring the Tidal Basin, East Potomac Park and the grounds of the Washington Monument. A tip for those who succeed in timing their visit with peak blooms: Take in the spectacle at sunrise or sunset, when the crowds are manageable.
Pandamonium! The National Zoo's Asia Trail houses several species from Asia, including the giant pandas who double as ambassadors for international wildlife conservation. Ever since Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling arrived following President Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China, Americans have been enamored with these cuddly but endangered creatures. Baby panda Bao Bao's debut in January turned the already-popular exhibit into a real, uh, zoo — but it's well worth a visit.
Jefferson Memorial: Our third president is credited with introducing Italy's Palladian architecture to the United States, showcasing it in famous domes at Monticello and the University of Virginia. So it's only fitting that the Jefferson Memorial, overlooking the Tidal Basin, is modeled on the Pantheon in Rome.