Springtime is my favorite time of year in Washington DC! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know why. It’s because this is when the cherry blossoms in DC bloom and turn the city into a sea of blush!
Additionally, The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC hosts a ton of fun events around the city during this time to truly celebrate the blooming of the cherry blossoms in DC.
Keep reading for all the best events in Washington DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival, when the best time to see cherry blossoms in DC is, where to stay, and how to avoid all the crowds!
Best Place to See the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC 2021
Where can I see cherry blossoms in Washington DC?
The best place to see Cherry Blossoms in DC is the Tidal Basin. It’s definitely a beautiful time to be in the D.C. area but tourists coming to the area specifically to see the cherry blossoms might be disappointed without some preparations.
Cherry blossom trees line the walkway around the Tidal Basin and it is definitely the best place to see them.
While the Tidal Basin might be where tourist flock to see the cherry blossoms, there’s quite a few other spots without the crowds, such as Kenwood Maryland, East Potomac Park, and the National Arboretum.
History of the Cherry Blossoms In Washington DC
Japan gifted over 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the United States in a show of friendship in 1912. The gift included 12 varieties of cherry blossom trees from Japan but Yoshino was the dominant variety.
The first gift of 2,000 trees actually had to be burned because they were diseased and bug-infested, but undeterred Japan gifted another 3,020 trees which were successfully planted.
Today, there are over 4,000 cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin and in West and East Potomac Parks, on the Washington Monument grounds, and in several other park locations, but less than 100 of them are the original trees gifted from Japan.
Where to Stay in Washington DC
Washington DC is actually quite a large city and the yoshino cherry blossoms mostly bloom in one specific area, the Tidal Basin.
If you are here for the National Cherry Blossom Festival then you will want to stay near the Tidal Basin or stay near a Metro Station that directly goes to the Smithsonian Station without having to switch trains.
If you are here solely for cherry blossoms you will want to stay near the Tidal Basin. Penn Quarter is a great area right next to the White House.
Hotels in this area will put you near the Blue, Silver, and Orange lines on the DC Metro which take you to the Smithsonian Metro Stop, the closest Metro Station to the Cherry Blossoms on the Tidal Basin
The Willard – Check Prices is just 2 blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue and blends historic charm with unrivaled hospitality. The guest rooms are lavish with plush amenities.
Steeped in Washington DC history, Captain John Tayloe built it as a row house in 1816, then leased it as a hotel to Joshua Tennyson. The hotels name and operator changed numerous times over the past 30 years. For more on The Willard’s history click here.
I’ve personally stayed at The Willard in Washington DC twice for New Year’s Eve, and both times the hotel showed us a perfect stay! I highly recommend this iconic hotel if you are in Washington DC for Cherry Blossoms.
It is about a 20 minute (1 mile) walk from the Tidal Basin, but it’s a scenic walk through the National Mall where you will pass the Washington Monument.
You will have stunning views of the Washington Monument and an actual oval living room area that makes you feel like you are in the White House.
Or if you prefer, you can hop on the Metro at the Federal Triangle Station and ride the train down to the Smithsonian Stop.
The Willard is also just around the corner from POV on top of the W Hotel, which is a fun roof top bar in Washington DC.
Astro Doughnuts is just two blocks away and has some of the best doughnuts in the area, plus they usually have special cherry blossom doughnuts that are totally Instagram-worthy as well as delicious.
W Hotel Washington DC
The W Hotel in Washington DC – Check Prices is hip and swanky!
Like most W Hotels the one in Washington DC boasts modern design and posh amenities.
With over 3,000 reviews and 4.5 stars on Google, this hotel is home to POV, the super popular rooftop bar that boasts views of the White House.
The recently redeveloped Wharf area is just under a mile from the Tidal Basin and a budget friendly area to stay in Washington DC. The Wharf has plenty of amazing restaurants, and great sunset views over the water.
Plus it’s the location of the Petalpalooza! There’s 3 hotels right on the waterfront and they all have over 4 star reviews on Google:
Hyatt House Washington DC – Check Prices
Canopy by Hilton – Check Prices
InterContinenal Washington DC the Wharf – Check Prices
The closest Metro stop to the Wharf area is L’Enfant Plaza Metro. Though if you plan on visiting the National Mall, during your stay it’s easier just to walk.
Rosslyn / Arlington
If you are on a budget the Rosslyn and Arlington area in Virginia are great options for your stay in Washington DC.
This area of Virginia is just across the Potomac River from Washington DC and boasts many affordable hotels.
I would stay in a hotel that’s walking distance the Rosslyn Metro Station unless you plan on renting a car, which I do not recommend if you are here to see cherry blossoms.
The Rosslyn Metro Station is on the Blue, Silver and Orange Lines which will take you directly to the Smithsonian Metro Station (closest Metro Station to the Tidal Basin) without changing lines.
Hotels Walking Distance from the Rosslyn Metro Stop:
Hyatt Centric Arlington – Check Prices
Just 1 block from the Rosslyn Metro Station and has over 4 stars on Google. This is the closest hotel to the Rosslyn Metro.
Le Meridien Arlington – Check Pricees
A 2 minute walk from the Rosslyn Metro Station over 4 stars on Google.
Residence Inn by Marriott Arlington – Check Prices
This hotel is a 6 minute walk from the Rosslyn Metro and has over 4 stars on Google.
Neighborhoods Not to Stay In
If you are visiting Washington DC to see cherry blossoms there are 2 popular areas that I would recommend you NOT stay in.
These 2 neighborhoods are actually two of my favorites to hang out at in Washington DC but they are both NOT metro accessible and have a ton of a traffic and limited parking.
Number one is Georgetown which is absolutely the prettiest neighborhood in Washington DC, but traffic down M street is a nightmare.
There’s no metro station near here unless you are willing to walk very far. Also parking is quite limited.
The other neighborhood is Adams Morgan. The nightlife and café scene is great.
It’s also home to one of my favorite hotels in DC, the Line. But again traffic is awful here, there’s barely parking, and it’s not near any metro stops.
Transportation: How to Get to Cherry Blossoms in DC at the Tidal Basin
How to get to the cherry blossom trees surrounding the Tidal Basin?
You can take the metro, drive or take a scooter!
The Washington D.C. Metro’s Smithsonian stop on the Blue, Yellow, and Silvers lines is the closest to the Tidal Basin. You can walk over in about 10 minutes.
If you have a car you can also drive, but get to the Tidal Basin early or there won’t be any parking. When I say early I mean 6 or 7 a.m. on a weekend.
But if you get there late there is still plenty of parking you will just walk more.
There are several parking lots for Cherry Blossoms on Ohio Dr. Southwest, these fill up quickly, but if you keep driving down Ohio there will usually be street parking.
You can walk a scenic route along the river to the Tidal Basin. It’s actually a very nice paved path which is also lined with some cherry blossoms.
Scooters in Washington DC
There are quite a few dockless electric scooter services around DC now, but good luck finding one that’s charged during cherry blossom peak bloom on a weekday or a weekend near the metro or near the Tidal Basin.
I went twice during weekday afternoons and couldn’t locate a single scooter that was charged. Dockless scooters in Washington DC for 2020 include Jump, Lyft, Skip, and Spin. There are about 10,000 scooters throughout the city.
Each electric scooter company has its own app so you’ll have to download them all to see if there are any scooters available. I’d download the app and set up your account before you go just in case you happen to find a scooter that’s actually charged.
Driving Around the Tidal Basin During Cherry Blossom Season In DC
Please do not drive down to the Tidal Basin during the weekday for cherry blossoms. You will lose all of your sanity.
Not only is traffic terrible in DC on a normal weekday, add to that the thousands of tourists here for the cherry blossoms and you have a traffic nightmare.
I took the metro down and saw cars just lined up around the Tidal Basin not moving at all!
There are also tons of pedestrians walking around the area making traffic even worse.
In case you are thinking about Ubering or taking a Lyft, get dropped off away from the Tidal Basin, and just walk. It will be faster!
National Cherry Blossom Festival Washington DC 2021
The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC this year runs from March 20 – April 11. The Festival has canceled the 2021 Cherry Blossom Festival Parade because of on-going restrictions from COVID-19.
The Cherry Blossom Festival organization is currently developing a Festival
“with an innovative format that honors the tradition of the Festival while prioritizing the health and safety of attendees amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Designed to incorporate both virtual and personal experiences, the Festival will present a series of entertaining hybrid events and community outreach programs that adhere to city and CDC guidelines put in place to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. To ensure maximum engagement and event attendance, most 2021 Festival programming will be free and open to the public, including a one-hour nationally syndicated television show; 20 large, vibrant cherry blossom sculptures displayed in dozens of locations throughout the city; and locally curated community experiences that focus on music, cuisine, and visual arts presentations.”
Cherry Blossom Festival Events 2021
The 2021 Cherry Blossom Festival Events announced so far include:
- Opening Ceremony March 20, Virtual
- Art in Bloom Beginning March 20 – hunt for 25 giant cherry blossom sculptures flourishing throughout the DC area.
- Blossom Kite Fly March 15 – Virtual demos and workshops. March 27 & 28 Fly your kite in your backyard and contribute images to the online community
- Pink Tie party March 27, Virtual
- Petal Porch Parade March 15 – Register and decorate your porch
- Petal Porch Parade Tour March 20 to April 11 – Explore the creativity and cherry blossom spirit of your neighbors. A virtual map with the locations of all registered Petal Porches will be created.
- Celebration Show April 9 – Virtual
For more information on the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC go here.
Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Race DC 2021
The annual Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Race will be virtual this spring for 2021! You may complete your Virtual Run at any time during the entire span of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, extending from Saturday, March 20 through 11:59 P.M. on Sunday, April 11, 2021.
The in-person race has been moved to Sep. 12, 2021. More details on the race and how to register here.
I would avoid the Tidal Basin and driving to DC during this time because traffic will be insane with nowhere to park. There will be a number of road closures for the run.
We accidentally went last year during the run and had to turn around and go home. Well not exactly go home, we hit up another cherry blossom spot on the way back.
Book a Photo Session
Interested in capturing stunning photos of your family in a sea of cherry blossoms? Book a session with me today! I specialize in family, newborn, maternity, and portrait photography. Capture real smiles at picture-perfect locations! Space is limited.
Cherry Blossoms DC 2021: When is Peak Bloom for the Cherry Blossoms
When is the best time to see Washington DC’s cherry blossoms? When is peak bloom for the Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin in DC?
Average Peak Bloom
The average peak bloom is sometime between late March and early April.
The peak bloom period is definitely the best time to see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC. And peak bloom doesn’t necessarily coincide with the Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival which is planned well in advance of peak bloom dates.
Not all the trees around the Tidal Basin will bloom at the same time, some will bloom early and some will bloom late. During peak bloom, about 70% of the frees are in full bloom. But as time wears on the early blooms will fade while later blooming trees will be fuller.
The peak bloom period is completely weather dependent, and the last few years spring has been crazy in this area. It’s cold one minute and hot the next!
A few years ago we had 2 weeks of almost 80-degree weather in February followed by a huge freeze, which basically caused all the magnolias to start bloom then die! If you are planning a trip here just to see the cherry blossoms, I would make a backup plan.
Looking back through all the years I’ve photographed the cherry blossoms, the average peak bloom is from March 29th to April 4th.
Peak Bloom Forecast and Predictions
The National Park Service will usually announce peak bloom predictions sometime in early March. The Capital Weather Gang releases peak bloom forecasts around the same time.
I usually follow the NSP’s predictions and the Capital Weather Gang’s predictions very closely, checking on a daily basis when it gets close to peak bloom time for the cherry blossoms!
Do the peak predictions change?
YES, they do! The National Park Service will change their predictions based on the progress of the trees.
One year the NPS announced a change the day before the trees went into peak bloom because we had an unusual spell of warm weather.
How accurate are peak bloom forecasts?
Based on my experience, the first predictions are usually not super accurate.
They are usually about a week off. It’s really hard to predict peak bloom more than about 10 days out because the weather could change drastically.
How Long do Cherry Blossoms Last?
Average peak bloom can last 1-2 weeks depending on the weather here’s what they look like on the first day of peak bloom April 5, 2018, on the left and on the right is almost a week later:
When is the Best Time of Day to See the Cherry Blossoms in D.C.
When exactly is the best time to see cherry blossoms to avoid the crowds? Are weekends better or weekdays? What time of day is the best for seeing the cherry blossoms in DC without the crowds?
Cherry Blossoms in DC around the Tidal Basin on a Weekend
Once the cherry blossoms hit peak bloom be prepared for that weekend to be extremely crowded! Everyone and their mother will be at the Tidal Basin trying to get that cherry blossom selfie.
It’s so crowded it’s hard to even walk sometimes. And if you have kids, DO NOT BRING A STROLLER!! I repeat do not bring a stroller because you won’t be able to get anywhere.
My advice is if you are going on a weekend, go early in the morning. When I say early I mean get there by 6 to 7 am and you should have the place pretty much to yourself for about an hour.
The crowds start really rolling in at around 9 am and by 11 am you will regret having slept in!
Cherry Blossoms in DC around the Tidal Basin on a Weekday
Going on a weekday to see the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin will be better, but the time of day matters.
Last year I went during the week in the afternoon and the Tidal Basin was still pretty crowded. This is because you have both tourists and locals getting off work all descend onto the Tidal Basin at one time.
Your best bet is going in the morning on a weekday to avoid the crowds for cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin.
Weather also plays a huge role in the number of crowds. Last year we had really nice weather during peak bloom, which is why I think it was so exceedingly crowded.
I still remember over 10 years ago my boyfriend and I randomly skipped class one weekday afternoon to catch the cherry blossoms at sunset and there was literally no one there!
I have this awesome picture of me sitting on the edge of the Tidal Basin with beautiful cherry blossoms overhanging in the background and not a soul in sight. Unfortunately, those days are gone!
Weather for Washington DC Cherry Blossoms
Weather in the Washington D.C. area is beyond finicky in the spring.
Having lived here for the last 20 years, it’s snowed, rained, and been 80 degrees during the cherry blossom season.
For the past few years though I’ve yet to catch a weekend at the Tidal Basin during peak bloom where it wasn’t cloudy and threatening rain.
Dress accordingly in layers and with some waterproof gear.
As the weather is finicky and the cherry blossoms in DC are delicate, a huge rain or thunderstorm storm can completely wash the petals away.
Or a hot spell could make the petals drop and spring green sooner than predicted.
If you are coming here specifically to see the cherry blossoms, I’d watch the weather very carefully a few days could mean glorious pink trees, or a bunch of pink petals basically carpeting the ground.
Cherry Blossoms DC: What if I Miss Peak Bloom
One of the questions I get asked the most is:
What if I miss peak bloom?
Luckily there’s another blossom called the Kwanzan cherry blossoms that bloom literally everywhere in this area!
These blooms are a lot sturdier, bigger, and a deeper pink! They look almost like carnations on trees.
Peak bloom for the Kwanzan cherry blossoms in D.C. is just a week or two past the main blossoms.
Cherry Blossoms DC: If you are too early for Peak Bloom
As the cherry blossoms are so weathered dependent you might arrive in DC before they bloom.
The predictions for peak bloom have been pushed back twice in past years and then moved up rather suddenly with very little notice.
Fortunately, if a sea of blush is what you’re after the saucer magnolias bloom a week or two before the cherry blossoms in DC.
These beautiful trees truly put on a show and can be even more magnificent than the cherry blossoms themselves.
There’s a few locations to see that sea of pink in DC, but my favorites are Enid A. Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle and Rawlin’s Park both are free.
Enid A. Haupt Garden
Cherry Blossoms Not in DC
If you don’t want to battle the crowds at the Tidal Basin in D.C. during the cherry blossom peak bloom there are many other places to see the cherry blossoms not in DC. I’d suggest heading over to Kenwood in Bethesda, Maryland.
This cute little neighborhood has all the cherry blossoms and none of the crowds, see the details here. Also, the Kenwood neighborhood cherry blossoms in Maryland reach peak bloom a few days after the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.
Therefore if you happen to not catch the Washington D.C cherry blossom peak bloom you can still see cherry blossoms in Kenwood Maryland. This exact situation happened to us a few years ago and we still got to experience all the cherry blossom magic in Kenwood!
Another alternative to the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin in Washington DC is East Potomac Park.
East Potomac Park, also known as Hains Point is right next to the Tidal Basin and has plenty of Cherry Blossom Trees with no crowds.
Last year I went to the Tidal Basin during Peak and it was super crowded. But as soon as I was on Ohio Drive I had all the cherry blossom trees to myself.
Download the map of the spot I’m talking about.
East Potomac Park is also home to the beautiful Kwansan cherry blossom trees in Washington DC (pictured below)!
There’s a huge grove of them and it is breathtaking! If you happen to miss peak bloom the Kwansan cherry blossoms bloom about 2 weeks after the Yoshinos along with the tulips in DC.
Cherry Blossom Bar DC
Not to mention the Godzilla and a room covered with lanterns and butterflies. And the drinks are all excellent.
My favorites of the evening were the “A God, An Alpha Predator, Godzilla” and the “Yuzu Sour.” The “Beana Colada” comes in the cutest cat mug ever, and don’t let the red bean scare you, it’s perfect in this drink.
“The Way Of The Tea” is light with egg whites and as a nice strong matcha flavor. My least favorites were the “Love Crazed Monster Crushes World” and “There Goes Tokyo,” both were a bit too strong for my taste but those that like a good whiskey would enjoy it.
2021 Cherry Blossom Bar Update: The Drink Company has permanently closed its bars. Hopefully, someone will step up to the plate and take over this wonderful tradition!
How to Photograph Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC
I get this question a lot! How do you get cherry blossom pictures without anyone in them? How do you take cherry blossom pictures by yourself? If you follow me on Instagram, you know most of the pictures on there are pictures I took myself with a tripod.
It’s really not hard to take cherry blossom pictures in Washington DC without anyone in them. Here are some of my photo tips for cherry blossoms in Washington DC:
- Don’t go after 9 am on a weekend. It gets so crowded all around the Tidal Basin it will be impossible to get even a selfie without other people in them!
- Be patient. So you go on a weekday afternoon and there are still a ton of people. You just need to be patient and wait the people out. They usually come in droves so once a group passes you will get a few moments to yourself.
- Stay away from the monuments. The most crowded areas I’ve found are near the monuments. All the other areas are less crowded so that you can set up a tripod and take a picture of yourself with cherry blossoms without anyone in them! The shot below was taken at a point on the Tidal Basin that wasn’t near a monument and most people were just passing through!
- You can also download my map, see above, for some secret spots that I take my pictures at, like the bottom right one below.
Hope these Washington DC cherry blossom photo tips were helpful!
Washington DC Cherry Blossoms Peak Bloom Updates
Below are the updates from last year and you can see what to expect for peak bloom and a few days after as well.
Washington DC Cherry Blossom Update April 1, 2019 (First Day of Peak Bloom)
I made the trip to see the Washington DC cherry blossom on the first day of peak bloom and it was beautiful! Most of the flowers are in full bloom now. The cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin across from the Jefferson Memorial look to be a bit behind and not as full. Close to the boathouse, the cherry blossoms there look to be fully blooming! Some of my pictures of the Washington DC cherry blossoms on the first day of peak bloom.
Cherry Blossom Washington DC Update April 3, 2019
The weather was beautiful on Wednesday and so even more droves of people came out!! It was so much more crowded than it was on Monday!
This weekend is forecast to be perfect weather with sunshine and in the 60s to 70s so expect it to be EXTRA crowded. As in you can’t walk at all crowded.
And please do everyone a favor, don’t bicycle or scooter around the Tidal Basin, there’s no space! A note to all the parents bringing their kids to see cherry blossoms in Washington DC, PLEASE do not use a stroller you will drive yourself and EVERYONE ELSE nuts!!
Have a little decency! As a parent myself, I won’t be taking my toddler to see cherry blossoms in Washington DC this year because of the crowds. She absolutely hates crowds.
Instead, I’ll be taking her to see cherry blossoms in Maryland where some trees are already blooming and I think will be in full bloom next week. Kenwood in Maryland will be peak blooming this weekend!
As for the condition of the cherry blossoms in Washington DC, they are still looking really good. Though I noticed the cherry blossom trees near the concession stands to be turning green.
The side of the Tidal Basin with the Japanese Pagoda, however, is now in full bloom and looking amazing! When I was there Monday, that section was not fully bloomed yet. If you need a map see above and get access to my custom map!