Washington DC in Bloom: Essential Cherry Blossom Viewing Tips

Yvonne Jasinski Avatar
cherry blossoms washington dc
Washington DC cherry blossom trees in peak bloom. Photo credit: Pixabay

Did you know that famous cherry blossom festivities of Washington D.C. are a result of one woman traveler’s dream to bring the trees to America? She became so fascinated with blossom celebrations that she developed a plan to create a similar tradition in Washington D.C. Her vision resulted in one of the biggest springtime festivals in the USA, attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world.  

Here are the cherry blossom tips you’ll need to see the gorgeous spring display, plus the story behind the famous blooms.

Read More: Where to stay on your next trip to Washington DC.

Branch full of cherry blossoms in peak bloom in Washington DC
Washington D.C. cherry blossom tree in full bloom. Photo credit: Yvonne Jasinski

Cherry Blossom Peak Bloom in Washington DC

One of the biggest decisions to make is timing your trip. The 2024 National Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled for March 20-April 14..

The historic average peak bloom date is April 4, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. But the best advice for timing your trip is to bookmark the DC Peak Bloom Forecast page and follow it for bloom predictions.  

Cherry blossom trees in peak bloom in Washington DC at sunset in front of the Jefferson Memorial.
Sunset view of the Washington DC cherry blossoms. Photo credit: Yvonne Jasinski

Best Place to See the DC Cherry Blossoms

There are approximately 3,800 cherry trees clustered along Washington DC’s Tidal Basin Loop Trail. It’s where you’ll find the Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. And all the tourists.

The trail is just over two miles long, flat and paved. The area is maintained by the National Park Service and there are public restrooms along the way. But they’re spread out. So be sure to check in with your party when you run across them so no one needs to go when there’s none to be found.

If you’re wondering how these Japanese cherry trees wound up in Washington in the first place, we have Eliza Scidmore to thank.

Crowd of people enjoying the Washington DC cherry blossoms.
Celebrating the arrival of spring during cherry blossom season in Washington D.C. Photo credit: Yvonne Jasinski

Eliza Scidmore – Woman behind Washington D.C.’s Cherry Trees

Eliza Scidmore, a journalist working in DC, visited her diplomat brother in Japan. That visit became a turning point in her life. She fell in love with the country and its culture. In particular, she became fascinated with Japanese cherry blossoms and traditional seasonal celebrations of the blooms called hanami. She loved the idea of people gathering under the trees to celebrate the arrival of spring. In Japanese culture, cherry blossoming is a metaphor for life. It serves as a reminder of how beautiful and fragile life is and how little time we have to enjoy it.

Fascinated with the tradition, Eliza developed a dream of bringing cherry trees to Washington DC. Soon after her return from Japan, she started to petition the government to plant flowering cherry trees along the Potomac River. It took almost 30 years for her vision to become a reality. Her initiative was finally recognized in 1909 by the incoming First Lady, Helen Taft. The trees were incorporated in the city’s plan to create Potomac Park.

The planting of cherry trees took place in 1912 when 3000 trees arrived from Japan as a gift of friendship to the people of the United States. Since then, Eliza’s dream is reignited annually during the National Cherry Blossom Festival – one of America’s great spring celebrations.

Brilliant pink Tidal Basin cherry tree in bloom.
Washington D,C. Cherry Blossoms. Photo credit: Yvonne Jasinski

Attending the National Cherry Blossom Festival

The highlight of the festival is the National Cherry Blossom parade, to be held on Saturday, April 13, 2024. Tickets are available now and you can purchase them here. The parade runs for 10 blocks and features floats, bands and balloons.

Other festival events include the Opening Ceremony, Blossom Kite Festival, Petal Palooza and the Pink Tie Dinner Party.

Pale pink blossoms of a Washington DC cherry tree in peak bloom.
Washington D.C. cherry blossom trees appear white up close. Photo credit: Yvonne Jasinski

Can’t Get to DC for the Cherry Blossoms?

You can enjoy the DC cherry blossom trees in the comfort of your own home. Tune into #BloomCam, a live feed from three cameras of the unfurling of the pink petals around DC.

The #BloomCam is made possible by a partnership between the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the Trust for the National Mall. Check it out here.

Junior Ranger Cherry Blossom Activities

The National Park Service website has information about the Tidal Basin cherry trees, including information about the differences between Kwanzan and Yoshino cherry trees, the two primary species located in DC.

Additionally, kids can participate in cherry blossom activities and earn an NPS Bloomin’ Junior Ranger badge by solving the Mystery of the Broken Branch. This activity can be completed in person by visiting the Tidal Basin or online.

#1 DC Cherry Blossom Tip

Start your day early. Like REALLY early. I’m talking before sunrise. This certainly isn’t practical if you’re wrangling littles or grumpy grands. But, if you can squeak out a little” me time” during your trip, sacrifice the sleep and head out pre-dawn.

You can drive over and find free parking in the area of the Tidal Basin. You’ll be alone enough to enjoy the solitude and the beauty as dawn breaks over the nation’s capital. But there will be enough other brave souls to feel safe. Enjoy the quiet minutes, savor the beauty and appreciate the true Japanese sensation of hanami.

Dress for Cherry Blossom Viewing

The weather conditions in DC in late March and early April can be just like the cherry blossoms — unpredictable. Dressing in layers will let you transition from chilly mornings to mild afternoons. A lightweight waterproof jacket will come in handy in case April showers in the form of rain (or snow) decide to appear.

The most important item you’ll need? The most comfortable walking shoes you can find. You’ll be on your feet most of the day. Once you’ve done the Tidal Basin, you’ll probably continue exploring West Potomac Park by heading over to the Lincoln Memorial and then going to the Washington Monument and the National Mall. It’s a lot. Take breaks when you need them.

If the littles need to run off steam, there’s a playground and picnic area at Hains Point, the tip of East Potomac Park. You’ll need to drive there from the Tidal Basin.

The Washington Monument framed by a cherry blossom branch at night.
Washington Monument at night. Photo credit: Yvonne Jasinski

What You’ll See During the Blooming Period

I was expecting the trees to be pink but the majority of them were not, at least at the stage I witnessed. They looked mostly white with just a delicate tint of pink. They were beautiful nevertheless. Grouped close to each other, they created an almost heavenly atmosphere. With wind, their petals were gently floating in the air looking like a snowfall.

For those who prefer intensely pink trees, there were some, but they gathered the most crowds. I circled the basin at least three times and found beauty everywhere. My favorite spot was around Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial where almost every tree had its own unique dramatic shape.

Read More: https://shebuystravel.com/cherry-blossoms-near-me/Want More Cherry Blossoms? Here are the Top Spots in the US and Abroad!

Get Your Full Bloom On!

If you’re taking the trip to Washington, you might as well check out other cherry blossom spots in the D.C. area too.

The US National Arboretum has more than 70 species of cherry trees scattered around its grounds. You can take a self-guided tour using the Arboretum’s app. Don’t expect the explosion of blooms you’ll find at the Tidal Basin. The Arboretum’s cherry blossom display unfurls over an extended blooming period.

Alexandria, DC’s charming next-door neighbor, also celebrates cherry season. Hop on a water taxi to see the cherry blossoms from an enclosed boat on the Potomac River. Or pop into one of the city’s restaurants offering cherry-themed cocktails and specials like cherry blossom gelato.

Still need more? Philadelphia’s cherry blossom season is slightly less famous than DC’s and New York City has a number of great locations, including Central Park, where you can check out cherry trees in full bloom.

Find Places to Stay Near Washington DC

There are lots of options for hotel stays near Washington DC, including vacation rentals. Use this interactive map to help you find a place to stay in the area.


Yvonne Jasinski passed away on June 19, 2021 from complications of cancer. She is greatly missed. See more about Yvonne and her legacy here. SheBuysTravel continues to update her articles to keep sharing her thoughts and advice with the world.
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2 responses

  1. 5. Consider booking a bike or segway tour. Covers more ground in less time than walking.

    I took a segway tour when I visited the cherry blossoms in DC two years ago. Fun way to enjoy the blossoms.

    1. Great idea, as long as you do it very early in the morning. I wouldn’t want to have to navigate those crowds on wheels.

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