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Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

Nothing says spring in DC quite like cherry blossoms! Every year, the thousands of cherry blossoms in Washington DC bloom and draw in millions of visitors to see the city awash in the pink and white petals.

If you’re visiting DC during the spring, here’s everything you need to know about where to see the cherry blossoms. I’ve answered all your questions, from when the trees bloom to where to get the best photos to the history of the cherry trees.

Cherry Blossoms with the Washington Monument in the background at the Tidal Basin in Washington DC

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms Guide

When Do the Cherry Blossoms Bloom in DC?

Pink cherry blossoms in Washington DC

DC’s cherry blossoms bloom in the spring. The full blooming period lasts for several days to up to two weeks.

If you want the best photos, you’ll want to aim for Peak Bloom. Peak bloom is when 70% of the cherry blossoms open on the Yoshino cherry trees around the Tidal Basin. Peak bloom for 2024 was announced as March 17, 2024.

The blooming period, and peak bloom, can be hard to predict, especially with weather conditions and the effects of global warming. Typically, peak bloom happens around the last week of March to the first week of April. But peak bloom has been happening earlier and earlier.

How long the blooms last depends on the weather. If DC gets a lot of hard rain or a hot spell, it can knock all the blooms off the trees. You can check the BloomCam to see the current state of the cherry blossom blooms.

Best Places to Photograph the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

Cherry trees are planted all over the city. So while the Tidal Basin is the most popular spot for seeing the cherry blossoms and tends to get all the press, there are plenty of other great places to photograph the cherry blossoms that may be less crowded.

Here are some of the best places to photograph the DC cherry blossoms:

  1. Tidal Basin — take a loop around the iconic Tidal Basin to get classic photographs of the cherry blossoms reflected in the waters with landmarks like the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial as the background.
  2. National Mall — you’ll find cherry trees dispersed throughout the National Mall, from the Capitol to the White House to the Washington Monument.
  3. Arlington National Cemetery — at Arlington National Cemetery, you can find over 400 cherry trees of a few different varieties throughout the grounds.
  4. East Potomac Park — head to East Potomac Park and Hains Point to see a huge variety of cherry trees. This area is usually used as parking for visitors heading to the Tidal Basin cherry blossoms, so it’s typically less crowded. Plus, there are kwanzan cherry trees that bloom two weeks after the Yoshino trees at the Tidal Basin, so this spot is perfect if you missed the Tidal Basin blossoms.
  5. U.S. National Arboretum — the cherry trees at the National Arboretum typically peak at different times than the ones at the Tidal Basin, so this is a good photography spot if you miss the Tidal Basin peak bloom.
  6. The Gardens of Dumbarton Oaks — head to the 10 acres of garden sat the historic Dumbarton Oaks estate in Georgetown to see the blooms at Cherry Hill.

How to Get to the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin

The cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin are the most popular. They are some of the most picturesque, with the water and the monuments in the background, and the sheer number of them. Luckily, they’re pretty easy to get to, but getting around the Tidal Basin itself requires a lot of walking.

Here are your options for getting to the Tidal Basin:

  • By Metro — The best way to get to the Tidal Basin is by taking the Metro. The closest station is Smithsonian (Orange, Blue, and Silver lines), and the second-closest station is L’Enfant Plaza (Orange, Blue, Silber, Yellow, and Green lines).
  • By Bus — The DC Circulator National Mall route has a stop at Ohio Drive and West Drive for the Tidal Basin Welcome Area.
  • By Car — If you choose to drive, be prepared for limited parking during peak bloom. Parking is available along Madison Drive NW, Jefferson Drive NW, Constitution Avenue NW, and at East Potomac Park.
  • Walking — DC is a great city for walking if you’re prepared for it. Bring along comfortable shoes and blister prevention. It is a 1 mile walk from the Smithsonian Metro station to the Tidal Basin Welcome Area. The Tidal Basin walkway is about a 1.8 mile loop.
  • Biking or Scootering — There are tons of DC city bikes and ride-share bikes and scooters that you can rent to get around the city.

Where to Find Stumpy

Stumpy is an old cherry tree that sits in a constantly flooded area of the Tidal Basin. The ebb and flow of the tide has deteriorated its roots, but he still holds on, sprouting one proud branch of cherry blossoms each season.

The poor stump of a tree has gained a cult following, spawning social media memes and his own mascot.

Stump is one of many trees that will be cut down as part of a much-needed seawall restoration project that will start May 2024. So if you want to see him for one last hurrah, here’s where you can find him.

Stumpy sits on the southern bank of the Tidal Basin, about halfway between the Jefferson Memorial and the George Mason Memorial. Currently, there is a fence around Stumpy, so he’s pretty easy to spot.

National Cherry Blossom Festival

National Cherry Blossom Festival with the White House in the background in Washington DC

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a 4-week celebration throughout Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

This year’s festival will take place March 20, 2024 through April 14, 2024.

The festival includes cultural events like Art in Bloom, the Blossom Kite Festival, Petalpalooza, an annual parade, and a Japanese Street Festival. You can attend different events on dates throughout the 4 week festival series.

Most of the festival’s events are free and open to the public!

Washington DC Cherry Blossom Tours

Cherry Blossoms at Arlington Cemetery with a view of the Washington Monument, Washington DC

Want to see the cherry blossoms in bloom along with Washington DC’s top sights? Take a cherry blossom tour! Here are some of the best cherry blossom tours where you can learn about DC history and the history of the cherry tree:

Where to Stay in Washington DC for the Cherry Blossoms

Pearl Street at night with an arch of cherry blossoms, The Wharf, Washington DC

Since you’ll find the majority of DC’s cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin and National Mall, you’ll want to pick out a hotel that’s near those areas.

You can also find hotels offering cherry blossom-themed deals and discounts during the springtime, with offers like a free spring-inspired cocktail, chocolates, or meals (most of the treats are cherry blossom-flavored!).

Here are a few great hotels near the cherry blossoms in Washington DC:

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms History

Cherry Blossoms at Arlington Cemetery, Washington DC

The idea to bring cherry trees to Washington DC began with travel writer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore who had fallen in love with the trees on a trip to Japan in 1885. She tried for 24 years to get trees planted in the barren parkland thatn had been reclaimed from the Potomac River’s mud flats, to no avail.

In 1909, Eliza Scidmore finally found an ally in first lady Helen Herron Taft. In just two days, Mrs. Taft was able to get approval for the trees. She had the idea to have them line a long avenue for the best effect. And just a day later, Dr. Jokichi Takamine, the Japanese chemist who discovered adrenaline, heard of the plan and offered to donate 2,000 cherry trees in the name of the City of Tokyo.

By 1910, the 2,000 cherry trees had arrived in Washington DC. Unfortunately, these trees were infested with insects and were diseased, and they had to be burned.

Undeterred, Tokyo mayor Yukio Ozaki made a second donation of 3,020 cherry trees from 12 varieties. These new trees arrived in DC in 1912.

Helen Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, helped plant the first two Yoshino cherry trees on the northwestern bank of the Tidal Basin on March 27, 1912. There was very little fanfare. In fact, no one much cared about the trees until a 3-day celebration in 1934 and the first Cherry Blossom Festival in 1935.

DC Cherry Blossoms Map

Ready to see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC? Use the map below to plan out where you’ll find all the best cherry trees!

I hope you enjoy visiting Washington DC for cherry blossom season!

Washington DC Cherry Blossoms FAQ

Where is the best place to see cherry blossoms in DC?

The best place to see cherry blossoms in Washington DC is at the Tidal Basin, where you can find 3,000 cherry trees lining the water.

What Metro station is best for cherry blossoms in DC?

The best Metro station for seeing cherry blossoms in Washington DC is the Smithsonian station (for Orange, Blue, and Silver lines), and the second-closest station is L’Enfant Plaza (for Orange, Blue, Silber, Yellow, and Green lines). It is about a 1 mile walk from the Smithsonian station to the Tidal Basin.

How long will the cherry blossoms last in DC?

Cherry blossom blooms can last up to two weeks after peak bloom. You can typically expect DC’s cherry blossoms to last 7-10 days.

What time of day is best to see cherry blossoms in DC?

The best time of day to go see DC’s cherry blossoms is in the morning on a weekday. Weekends get really crowded, so the earlier the better. You’ll find the biggest crowds around sunset on a weekend.

Do you have to pay to see the cherry blossoms in DC?

You do not have to pay to see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC. The cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin, National Mall, and other top spots are completely free to visit.

Is the DC Cherry Blossom Festival free?

The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC has mostly free events, though some of the events are ticketed. Poplar events like the Balloon Festival, Art in Bloom, and live music at the tidal Basin Welcome Area are free. Check out all events here.

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Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

Have you seen the cherry blossoms in Washington DC? Let me know in the comments!

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