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How to See the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

Updated: Mar 4

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Cherry Blossoms

Contrary to popular belief, cherry blossom trees originated in China rather than Japan. However, Japan is responsible for introducing cherry blossoms to Washington DC. In 1909, Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted the trees to First Lady of the United States Helen Herron Taft. Unfortunately, the first shipment was infected with bugs, but Japan was quick to replace them in 1912. Visiting today's trees is more complicated than simply showing up, so here are some tips for seeing the cherry blossoms in Washington DC.

When to Visit

Cherry Blossom trees in Washington DC

Like any flower, cherry blossoms require specific conditions to thrive. Typically, cherry blossoms in Washington DC bloom at the end of March to the start of April, but the timing can fluctuate based on climate. After they bloom, they stay around for a mere two weeks, so proper planning is essential. Stay updated on this year's forecast by visiting Cherry Blossom Watch.

Where to Find Them

Cherry Blossoms near the Washington Monument

Perhaps the most popular place to visit cherry blossoms in Washington DC is on the Tidal Basin loop trail. This is the site of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, which lasts four weeks whether the blooms are peaking or not. The Tidal Basin is surrounded by a few must-sees, such as the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.

Another place for cherry blossom spotting is near the National Mall. Despite its name, this isn't a mall at all, but rather a public park shrouded in historical sites. The 146-acre area is home to the U.S. Capitol Building, Smithsonian Museums, and the Lincoln Memorial, upon others. Though this isn't a comprehensive list of all the cherry trees in Washington DC, these locations are the highest regarded. Other possible places include the U.S. National Arboretum and Stanton Park.

How to Get There

Washington DC metro station

On par with other major cities, Washington DC has a great metro system. The best way to get to either of the cherry blossom hotspots is by taking the orange, blue, or silver lines to the Smithsonian Metro station. From there, it's about a five-minute walk to the National Mall and a 15-minute walk to the Tidal Basin. You can also take the DC Circulator National Mall route bus to the Tidal Basin Visitor Center and several places along the National Mall.

Of course, you could always drive, but I don't recommend it. Though there are allocated parking areas, they tend to fill up fast this time of year. However, you do have options; if you're visiting the National Mall, you can find about 1,200 metered parking spots along the route. Parking for the Tidal Basin can be found along Maine Ave. SW, Ohio Dr. SW lots A, B, and C, West Basin Dr. SW, and Union Station. Biking is also possible with racks near Ohio Dr. SW and West Basin Dr. SW. You can browse other options through websites like Spot Hero.

Tour Options

There are several guided tours that help you see cherry blossoms in Washington DC. Some companies, such as the Potomac Riverboat Company, offer scenic water tours of the Tidal Basin. Along with Washington DC's cherry blossoms, you'll catch a glimpse of the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and other fantastic sights. Other possibilities include bike tours along the Tidal Basin and walking tours near the National Mall.

Washington DC's Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

As mentioned before, the Tidal Basin lays claim to the National Cherry Blossom Festival each year. The 2024 festival will be held from March 20 to April 14 and include an impressive lineup of events and activities. Among these are a 10-mile run, kite festival, and pink tie party. Japanese culture will be celebrated through art installations, cultural events, and a Japanese Street Festival. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade takes place on April 13 to mark the festival's end.

Accommodation Recommendations

Due to the popularity of Washington DC's cherry blossoms, hotels are pricey this time of year. One of the most affordable is the State Plaza Hotel, which is a 10-minute walk from the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station. From there, it's about a 15-minute ride to the Smithsonian Metro station. A bit more pricey, the Canopy by Hilton Washington DC The Wharf is a 20-minute walk to the Tidal Basin. The Salamander Washington is only an 11-minute walk, but it's the most expensive of these options.

Washington DC's cherry blossoms are a truly wonderful sight. By following these tips and keeping up with the bloom forecast, you'll be prepared to immerse yourself in this bucket-list experience.


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