The cherry blossoms and their festival are a herald of spring in D.C. For some, it’s a natural feast for the eyes with pink blooms sprouting up along the tidal basin, and a time to remember the bond forged through a simple gift from Tokyo mayor Yukio Ozaki in 1912. For others–namely the 1.5 million people that descend upon D.C. to see these 3,000-plus trees–it’s a living nightmare. For me, it’s a little bit of both, but with good planning and a strong elbow defense, you can face the crowds with ease. This year, despite the tree whisperers getting the prediction totally wrong (I’ll forgive them because global warming is obviously messing their ish up), the blossoms are impressive.

Money Score: Excellent

Free! Free! Free! The best things in life really are free, and we have Japan to thank for this little corner of beauty in D.C. This is my absolute favorite event in the district, and I look forward to it every year. I was sad to miss it last year during my year abroad in Paris, which is saying a lot since I’m obsessed with that city in all ways. Give me pink, fluffy things, and I’m all in.

Consciousness Score: Excellent

The blossoms are a beautiful symbol of peace and friendship, and I can’t help but reflect on happy thoughts as I stroll under these thick blooms. If you feel yourself getting frustrated by slow walkers, strollers, and dense crowds, take a breath, look up, and repeat: peace and friendship. I like to walk through the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial (my favorite, in fact), past the Japanese stone pagoda, and up to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. Along the way, I can’t help but think magical things. My mind wanders to President Roosevelt, and how he guided the U.S. through the Great Depression and World War II. It’s fitting that his memorial on the National Mall is situated in a beautiful location covered in blossoms. Stand by the fountains, and you’ll catch the scent of sakura. Close your eyes, and you might be able to block out the whiff of hot dogs emanating from the street vendors.

The beauty is double-edged. On one side, it’s great that people put down their phones to admire their natural surroundings (including myself, settle down). On the other hand, the scene may be too good not to snap away for bragging rights on Instagram. Insider tip: Get there early to photobomb all the brides trying to get those coveted blossom-framed shots.

‘All the Feels’ Score: Excellent

Okay, hear me out. You have to be there at the crack of dawn if you want to save your sanity. Otherwise, wear your bathing suit, because you’ll likely get shoved into the tidal basin due to the crazy crowds. The sights and smells are pure spring, with the prettiest, softest, pink hues enveloping you. Don’t mind the full news crews, chatty tourists, and military choppers constantly flying overhead—that will only piss you off and take you out of the moment. Ignore everyone and everything, except the call of those pristine, pillows of heaven.

Overall: Excellent