Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Cherry Blossom Peak Bloom in Washington DC
- Attending the National Cherry Blossom Festival
- Can’t Get to DC for the Cherry Blossoms?
- Junior Ranger Cherry Blossom Activities
- #1 DC Cherry Blossom Tip
- Dress for Cherry Blossom Viewing
- What You’ll See During the Blooming Period
- Get Your Full Bloom On!
- Find Places to Stay Near Washington DC
Kick off spring with a visit to Washington DC for cherry blossom season. The iconic capital monuments and buildings are even more magnificent when viewed in contrast with the graceful cherry tree branches festooned with pale pink and white blooms. This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival dates are set. Check out the info you need to plan your visit. It’s a popular time of year to visit DC, so it’s important to get an early start on booking your reservations.
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. I wanted to know more about the woman behind the trees and what a fascinating story I found.
I had visited Washington D.C. many times before but never during cherry blossom season. It was a trip long overdue. Normally I plan my travels well in advance, but with this one I wanted perfect weather for great photos, so I made a last minute decision. I took off from work, made a hotel reservation and next day, early in the morning, jumped into my car and headed for an overnight solo adventure to Washington D.C.
Before I left, I did my homework. You’ll want to do that too. Here are the cherry blossom tips you’ll need plus the story behind the famous blooms.
Cherry Blossom Peak Bloom in Washington DC
One of the biggest decisions to make is timing your trip. The DC cherry blossoms usually bloom the end of March and continue through the beginning of April. But, when you’re dealing with Mother Nature, nothing’s predictable. So, don’t rely on the bloom from last year to pick your dates.
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. The 2023 weather in Washington has been warmer than normal, so the peak bloom date may come a bit earlier this year.
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.
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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.
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 plantings 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.
Attending the National Cherry Blossom Festival
The 2023 National Cherry Blossom Festival will be held from March 20 – April 16. The highlight of the festival is the National Cherry Blossom parade, to be held on Saturday, April 15, 2023. 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.
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 is 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 own. 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 on over to the Lincoln Memorial and then going to the Washington Monument and the National Mall. It’s a lot. Take breaks when you’re pooped.
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.
What You’ll See During the Blooming Period
I was expecting the trees to be pink but 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 snow fall.
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: Want More Cherry Blossoms? Here are the Top Spots in the US and Abroad!
Get Your Full Bloom On!
If your 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 over 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.