Ultimate Guide to Seeing the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC (from a local)

Every year, at the beginning of spring, people flock to Washington, DC, to see the cherry blossoms. While the Tidal Basin is full of cherry blossoms, there’s a lot to see and do in DC during this season. Here are some spots and tips for seeing the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC.

As someone who has lived here for years, it’s one of my favorite times of the year. There’s so much to do and see in DC this time of year! This post is full of helpful info for anyone who is trying to see the cherry blossoms and get the best experience while here.

For more about the best things to see and do in DC, check out my post of favorite things to do in DC for first-time visitors! If you want a Washington, DC itinerary, I’ve got you covered there too!

Table of Contents

 
Salamander DC (formerly the Mandarin Oriental) Situated on the southwest waterfront, the Salamander boasts a prime location with views of the Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial, and Washington Monument. This is the perfect place to stay in the spring because you’ll have a front row seat to the cherry blossoms in bloom!
 

Canopy by Hilton at The Wharf: This hotel is situated along the mile-long pier of The Wharf, featuring restaurants, retail and fun activities on DC’s Potomac River. Across from the hotel is a great view of Potomac Park which is lined with cherry blossoms. The Wharf also has a cherry blossom festival  (Bloomaroo) and making it the perfect spot to stay.

Hyatt House Washington DC: This property is just 3 blocks from the National Mall and located within 1 mi of many of DC’s historical attractions including the Smithsonian National Air and the Tidal Basin. It’s just a few blocks from the Canopy Hilton.

 
 

Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC

The most famous place to see the cherry blossoms in DC is around the Tidal Basin located right near the National Mall. It has the highest concentration of them here, and they are beautiful reflecting on the water. You can also see the trees in some other spots around DC.

 

But, on your first visit, you can’t miss seeing them along the Tidal Basin. However, you can escape the crowds and see beautiful trees (especially if you’re looking to get great photos) in these spots listed below.

First time in DC? Consider a tour:

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1. Around the National Mall 

Steps of Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and Washington Monument on the National Mall

 

If you are planning on going to the National Mall, you have a few different options. During the week, you can fairly easily park along the National Mall and walk, especially in the evening.

 

During the weekend, you definitely do not want to try and drive unless you have reserved parking, don’t mind paying (typically) $20 to park, or walk really far. The best options are to take the Metro to Smithsonian Station, grab an Uber, or use Capital Bike Share.

2. National Arboretum (definitely a hidden gem)

 

3501 New York Avenue NE, Washington, DC

 3. Hains Point/East Potomac Park
 

927 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 

 

4. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna, Virginia, great for flowers year round

 

5. LeDroit Park Arch

Corner of Florida Ave NW and 6th Street, Washington, DC 20001

 
 

6. Old Town Alexandria

 Walk the neighborhood, they are all over!
 

7. Capitol Hill

Walk the neighborhood, they are all over!

 
 

8. Tenlytown

Walk the neighborhood, they are all over!

 

When To See the Cherry Blossoms and Events

The peak season for the cherry blossoms is typically between March 15 and April 15. If you are planning a trip, then sometime within this window is best.
 

The timing can be really tricky as the National Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled for March 20 through April 14. Want to know more about the forecast for peak bloom this year? Check this link for the latest info from the National Cherry Blossom Watch.

 

Here’s the main events for Cherry Blossom Season in DC:

  • Opening Ceremony: Saturday, March 23, 2024
  • Kite Festival: Saturday, March 30, 2024
  • PetalPalooza: Saturday, April 6, 2024
  • Parade: Saturday, April 13, 2024 (Tickets)

Also, if you miss peak bloom, try seeing them in Howard County! Peak bloom typically lasts two weeks or so after the National Mall at Howard County Cherrybration, 10000 Rt 108 in Ellicott City.

To see the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC, the cherry blossom forecast says the last week of March for 2024.

Types of Cherry Blossoms in DC

The most common type of cherry blossom in Washington, D.C., is the Yoshino cherry. These blossoms are light pink and have a five-petaled flower. Yoshino cherry trees were a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912, and they line the Tidal Basin, creating a stunning display of pink and white blossoms during peak bloom. So when we talk peak bloom, we’re talking Yoshino cherry.

However, there are several different types of cherry blossoms in DC beyond the Yoshino and they all bloom at different times, either earlier on in spring or later. So, if you miss peak, you won’t necessarily miss all the cherry blossoms in the DC area!

Here are some other common types of cherry blossoms in DC:

Kwanzan cherry: These blossoms are a deeper pink and have a double layer of petals. Kwanzan cherry trees are often found in various locations around the city. Good place to find them is in East Potomac Park. The Kwanzan cherry blossoms bloom a little later than the Yoshinos.

Akebono cherry: Akebono cherry trees produce light pink, semi-double blossoms and are also part of the cherry blossom collection in Washington, D.C. The showy, large, rose-pink blooms of the Akebono Cherry tree appear early in spring before the tree leaves out.

Autumnalis cherry: Also known as the winter-flowering cherry, Autumnalis cherry trees have pink or white blossoms. The Autumnalis tree blooms exceptionally early in spring, usually before all other flowering cherry varieties, and then once more late in autumn.

Weeping Japanese Cherry/Higan Cherry — Interspersed between the Yoshino, Akebono, and Kwanzan cherry trees. These trees flower about a week before the Yoshino trees.

While Yoshino cherry blossoms are the most iconic in Washington, D.C., the variety of cherry trees contributes to a diverse and visually appealing cherry blossom season. You’ll see a variety of trees all over the city!

Fun Ways to Experience the Cherry Blossoms

There are a bunch of different ways to experience the cheery blossoms while in DC and below are listed some of the most popular ways to see them. I’ve done them all!

1. Cherry Blossom Festival

Every year there is a big festival that happens for two weekends in the spring. The video above is the reason I do not recommend just coming for the Cherry Blossom Festival. It is insanely crowded!

The Cherry Blossom Festival is definitely the most popular time and place to see the cherry blossoms. This past year I went to the festival and was very underwhelmed. There were huge crowds, nowhere to sit, bad food, and there were very few good photo spots because of all the people there.

If it is your first time and you really want to see the cherry blossoms, the festival can still be worth it, but I would definitely take the time to go see them again at a different time. Weekday mornings are way less crowded, and the trees are just as beautiful.

 2. Boat

I have been on a cherry blossom viewing cruise that was lots of fun. There are options leaving from the Wharf and from Georgetown. The boat I rode was from Georgetown (check TravelZoo and Groupon for deals!), and we did have fun.

There are drinks available and food for purchase that make the ride even better. Pretty views are all over, and if you go in the evening you can see a really nice sunset. Note that this time of year it can be really chilly, especially on the water so wear a jacket and pants if you go in the evening especially! 

Other Cherry Blossom Cruise Options:

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3. Pedal Boats

In the Tidal Basin, you will find the famous pedal boats that are a really unique way to see the cherry blossoms. If you go during the Cherry Blossom Festival on the weekend, you can wait over three hours for a pedal boat. If you go during the week you will wait far less and still get the same view. If you want to take a pedal boat, go on the weekend!

 

4. Walk the National Mall

Walking along the National Mall is the perfect way to see the cherry blossoms. There are a bunch of spots near the Tidal Basin that are great for viewing the cherry blossoms. You can get really great views of the trees around the Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the Washington Monument.
 

5. Hit Up a Cherry Blossom Themed Restaurant or Bar

During Cherry Blossom season, restaurants and bars around the DC area join in on the fun of themed drinks, food, and decor. Below are a few to highlight for you!

  1. Kingbird’s decadent cherry blossom tea service is lots of fun. Watergate guests can also experience blooms firsthand with a Potomac River private boat ride from the historic hotel.
  2. Love, Makoto’s Hanami Picnic offers a savory spread that includes 16 pieces of sushi and accompaniments, one seaweed salad, two bottles of strawberry ramune, and for something sweet, two cherry blossom donuts (one cherry and one vanilla). Order the Hanami Picnic for pick-up in person at its Love on the Run food hall or for delivery for $50. And its seasonal Sakurambo Cherry dessert, wrapped around a cherry jam center, is a sweet ending to the omakase menu at Love Makoto’s Dear Sushi.
  3. Promising views of the blooms from the room, the Salamander doesn’t skimp on glamour. Before making the short stroll to the nearby Tidal Basin, enjoy afternoon tea featuring a glass of bubbles, homemade scones, tea sandwiches, and pastries served with a selection of premium loose-leaf teas.
  4. This month, Residents has festooned its heated streatery with a canopy of cherry blossom branches, and have drink offerings like a Sakura Spritz (sakura shochu, Japanese bermutto, sparkling sake, morello cherry, and lime).
  5. Hook Hall (Park View) transforms their courtyard, filling it with pink trees and flowers, and guests can book floral cabanas for gatherings.
 
How to Avoid Crowds
 
As I’ve mentioned, crowds can be crazy during the Cherry Blossom Festival. This past year, I went down to the area three different times to see the trees around the Tidal Basin.

The best time I had was not during the festival but during a weekday evening. I was able to see the trees during peak time and get incredible pictures without a crowd—and easy parking!

I also went with friends in the morning which helped us avoid crowds, too. We were also able to see the magnolia trees while there at the Smithsonian Castle, which was beautiful! Make a stop here if you can to see all the beautiful flowers and trees there, too (even though they aren’t cherry blossoms they are worth your time!).

Tips for Being Prepared

  1. While going to the National Mall to see the cherry blossoms during the peak time can be crazy, there are some things you can do to help yourself out.
  2. There are not many bathrooms available around the National Mall. Port-a-potties and public bathrooms in the Smithsonian’s will be your only options during the festival. Go before you come and avoid long lines!
  3. Be prepared to walk. Even getting dropped off nearby still means lots of walking. The tidal basin is large and the festival is located near the trees but toward the National Mall, so it is a walk.
  4. Parking is very difficult. If you want a chance to park, try using ParkMobile’s reserve-a-spot feature or do not drive!
  5. There will be crowds. Be prepared to wait a long time for food, drinks, and anything you want to buy. There are street vendors who sell drinks and ice cream that have no line and sell for cheaper than stands along the National Mall.
  6. You can buy cherry blossom souvenirs at a bunch of different shops all around DC. Don’t feel like you have to buy something at the actual festival.
  7. The weather can be hot or cold. Spring in DC is a time when the weather is constantly changing. Bring a light jacket to wear and short sleeves during the day.
Planning to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC? Find out where to see the blossoms, tips for avoiding crowds, and more from a local.
Planning to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC? Find out where to see the blossoms, tips for avoiding crowds, and more from a local.

 

Planning to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC? Find out where to see the blossoms, tips for avoiding crowds, and more from a local.
Planning to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC? Find out where to see the blossoms, tips for avoiding crowds, and more from a local.

 

Now you’re prepared to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC 2024! I know you’ll have an awesome time here in DC whether it’s your first visit or your fifth, DC has something for everyone

Meghan

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