washington dc cherry blossoms

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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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Coronavirus (COVID-19) UPDATE Cherry Blossom Festival Events

Some events are postponed or canceled due to the Coronavirus through March 31st, see below for a list of cancellations.  Though the cherry blossoms are blooming as scheduled and it’s still completely free to see them anytime!

Be Prepared for Rain or Shine in Washington DC

Weather during spring in Washington DC is quite unpredictable.  You could have torrential downpours or gloriously sunny days. A few days before your trip 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.

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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.

UPDATE:  NPS has revised it’s peak bloom prediction to March 21-24 and the Capitol Weather gang has revised their prediction to March 20-24.

This year the NPS predict peak bloom to start from March 27-30 and the Capitol Weather Gang predicts around the same, March 25 – 29.

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 they 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 blossoms peak bloom.

cherry blossom 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 9am.  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 3pm 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 3pm 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 crowed.

washington dc cherry blossom
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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 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.

Washington dc cherry blossom
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How to Get to the Tidal Basin

Washington DC offers a variety of transportation options.  My favorite 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 it’s 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.

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Don’t Bring a Stroller

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.

washington dc tidal basin

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

washington dc cherry blossom paddle boat

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.

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Check the Cherry Blossom Festival Schedule Before You Go

Coronavirus (COVID-19) UPDATE:  Events are postponed or cancelled through March 31st:

From The National Cherry Blossom Festival the following event updates:

  • The Pink Tie Party presented by ANA and hosted by TCMA (a Drew company)
    on March 20, is postponed. The Festival is looking at future dates to reschedule.
    However, the silent auction fundraiser will still take place online.
  • The Opening Ceremony co-presented by the Japan Foundation on March 21, will
    not take place as planned at the Warner Theatre. The Festival is looking at
    options including live streaming the event.
  • The Blossom Kite Festival on March 28, presented by Otsuka American
    Pharmaceutical, Inc. is cancelled.
  • The Tidal Basin Welcome Area presented with the National Park Service and
    ANA Stage is cancelled.

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC is running from March 20 – April 12 this year.  There’s a schedule of events and some require tickets.

https://nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/

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.

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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.

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

Booking.com

The newly developed Wharf area is also walking distance from the Tidal Basin and has plenty of restaurants and nightlife and affordable accommodations. 

InterContinental Washington DC – Check Prices

Hyatt House – Check Prices

Canopy by Hilton – Check Prices

Booking.com

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.

Rosslyn Hotels:

Hyatt Centric Arlington – Check Prices

Le Meridien Arlington – Check Pricees

Residence Inn by Marriott Arlington – Check Prices

Alexandria Hotels:

Westin Old Town Alexandria – Check Prices

Hilton Old Town Alexandria –  Check Prices

Residence Inn by Marriott – Check Prices

Booking.com
washington dc cherry blossom tips

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