One of the most magical times to travel to Washington DC is during the Cherry Blossom Festival. Washington DC cherry blossoms originated from a show of friendship in which Japan gifted over 3,000 beautiful cherry blossom trees to the United States.
These cherry blossom trees turn the Tidal Basin in Washington DC into a sea of blush in spring. Pink canopies graze the water of the Tidal Basin creating a magical experience. If frolicking in a forest of pink trees is what you’re after, then Washington DC is the best place to be during spring!
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Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC
The best place to see cherry blossoms in DC is around the Tidal Basin. There are cherry blossom trees all over the city, but the Tidal Basin has the most trees in on area.
Be Prepared for Rain or Shine in Washington DC during Cherry Blossoms
The weather during spring in Washington DC is quite unpredictable. You could have torrential downpours or gloriously sunny days. A few days before your trip to see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC it’s best to check the weather and see what’s predicted.
If it’s rain then definitely bring a pair of rain boots because you will be doing a lot of walking outdoors to see the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin and some of the areas could flood and turn into mud.
Plan for Disappointment
The cherry blossoms in Washington DC can bloom anywhere from mid-March to mid-April. The NPS and the Washington DC Weather Gang put out predictions annually at the beginning of March but they are hit or miss. They have changed predictions at the last minute before.
Weather varies greatly in spring in Washington DC which is why peak bloom for the cherry blossoms is hard to nail down.
If you are flying and have to plan ahead, I would err on the side of coming later rather than earlier. Coming early will only give you bare branches with some pink buds. If you come later you may still have some beautiful cherry blossom blooms at spots on the Tidal Basin and probably a beautiful carpet of pink to walk on if the petals have fallen.
Additionally coming later another variety of cherry blossoms may be blooming that’s worth seeing. Check out my Washington DC Cherry Blossom Travel Guide to see where you can find glorious pink trees if you happen to miss the cherry blossom peak bloom in Washington DC.
Go During the Week or Early in the Morning
The most crowded time to visit the Tidal Basin to see cherry blossoms in Washington DC would be Saturday after 9 am. Visitors from nearby states and locals alike descend upon the Nation’s Capital to bask in the pretty pink blooms.
If you happen to be a visitor yourself, get up early and walk around the Tidal Basin at sunrise on a weekend and you’ll have all the beautiful pink blooms to yourself.
However, a weekday visit is even more ideal if you are not a morning person. After sunrise and before 3 pm the Tidal Basin should be pretty empty because most locals will be at work and you should have the cherry blossoms in Washington DC to yourself. During the week after 3 pm, most locals in DC and around the metro area will come down for a visit as well hoping to avoid the weekend crowds, making it more crowded.
Take Public Transportation to See Washington DC Cherry Blossoms
If you happen to not be staying in Washington DC or visiting from outside the city from Maryland or Virginia, I would recommend not driving into the city during the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
During the week the Tidal Basin area will be full of locals getting to and from work, and on the weekend you will face cherry blossom traffic. There’s also very limited parking.
You can take the Metro into the city and get off at the Smithsonian stop which is just a short walk from the Tidal Basin.
How to Get to the Tidal Basin
Washington DC offers a variety of transportation options. My favorites are Capital Bikeshare, Dockless Scooters, and the DC Metro System.
Capital Bikeshare offers docked bikes for rent, find docks all over the city and outside many Metro Stations.
Dockless scooters are also very popular in the city with 4 companies operating scooters, Jump, Lyft, Skip, and Spin. Each scooter company has its own app so be sure to download them all and add a credit card so you are ready to jump on a scooter when you find one that’s charged.
The Washington DC Metro system is also a great way to get around the city. For the Tidal Basin, the closest stop is the Smithsonian Station which is on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines. If you are looking at a place to stay that’s not walking distance from the Tidal Basin I suggest you stay near a metro stop that’s on one of these lines to avoid having to transfer lines.
Don’t Bring a Stroller to Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival
If you happen to be traveling with kids to see cherry blossoms in Washington DC I would recommend not taking a stroller around the Tidal Basin. The walkway around the Tidal Basin is rather narrow and can sometimes flood. It will be hard to maneuver a stroller, especially in the crowds.
Though if you visit at sunrise a stroller would be feasible because there won’t be any crowds.
Experience Washington DC Cherry Blossoms on the Water
Enjoy the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin from the water! You can rent a paddleboat right on the Tidal Basin. You will have to make reservations and these tend to book up quickly, but they do keep a number of paddleboats for walk-ups. More info here: https://boatingindc.com/boathouses/tidal-basin/
Alternatively, if you are up for a real adventure, rent a kayak. You can rent your own or join a cherry blossom kayaking tour more info here.
Explore Gardens in Washington DC for Uncrowded Cherry Blossoms
There’s more than one place to see cherry blossoms in Washington DC. Most people head straight to the Tidal Basin, but there are quite a few places that have beautiful cherry blossoms in Washingon DC without the crowds. Take a look at my guide to 5 Secret Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC.
Check the Cherry Blossom Festival Schedule Before You Go
The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC is running from March 20 – April 11 2021. There’s a schedule of events and some require tickets.
You can definitely plan to attend these events, but some of these events will cause extra crowds, road closures, and traffic.
So if you’re intent is to visit the cherry blossoms in Washington DC and bask in the peak blooms without crowds, I’d avoid visiting when there is an event on a weekend.
The Cherry Blossom Festival has canceled the Cherry Blossom Parade for 2021 as well as made a number of events virtual to prioritize health and safety.
Cherry Blossom Festival Events 2021
- 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.
Book a Photo Session
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Where to Stay in Washington DC
The best area to stay in Washington DC for cherry blossoms is in Downtown and Penn Quarter. You will be within walking distance of the Tidal Basin.
Mandarin Oriental – Check Prices
You probably can’t stay closer to the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin than the Mandarin Oriental with just an 8 minute walk.
Willard InterContinental – Check Prices
Hilton Washington DC – Check Prices
JW Marriott – Check Prices
W Washington DC – Check Prices
If you are on a budget, Rosslyn/Alexandria just across the river is a great place to stay because of the Metro. The orange, blue, and silver line will take you directly to the Smithsonian stop which is the closest metro stop to the Tidal Basin. Rosslyn is closer and the Rosslyn Metro has service from all 3 lines that go to the Smithsonian. The Alexandria King Street station has service from the Blue and Yellow lines. The blue line will take you to the Smithsonian stop. If you take the Yellow line get off at L’Enfant Plaza stop to get to the Tidal Basin.
Hyatt Centric Arlington – Check Prices
Le Meridien Arlington – Check Pricees
Residence Inn by Marriott Arlington – Check Prices
Westin Old Town Alexandria – Check Prices
Hilton Old Town Alexandria – Check Prices
Residence Inn by Marriott – Check Prices