Cherry blossom season in Washington, DC is a much anticipated time in the nation’s capital signifying the start of spring. The cherry blossoms are one of the biggest tourist attraction to the nation’s capital with over 1.5 million visitors.
Every year, the National Park Service predicts the much anticipated “peak bloom,” which is the period when 70% of cherry blossoms flower along the Tidal Basin. NPS has updated information for the latest. Peak bloom varies annually depending on weather conditions. The most likely time to reach peak bloom is between the last week of March and the first week of April, but if you visit DC outside this time frame, you may still catch sight of blossoms around the city. With self-guided walks to admire the blossoms up close plus lots of related events throughout the capital, cherry blossom season in DC will be sure to capture your heart.
Planning Ahead & Getting to the Blossoms
When it comes to one of the busiest times of years in DC, earlier is typically better (booking accommodations, visiting in the early morning, etc.). Plan accordingly!
The highest concentration of cherry blossom trees is along the Tidal Basin, which is a narrow path on the National Mall near the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thomas Jefferson Memorials. Given the high volume of tourists, walking is the least stressful if it is an option. Metro to the Smithsonian (blue/silver/orange lines) or L’Enfant (blue/silver/orange & green/yellow lines) stations or bus to West Basin Drive near Independence Avenue SW. Enter the Tidal Basin area path from anywhere. Keep in mind that the area by the MLK Memorial is typically the most crowded. Equally beautiful spots can be found on the opposite side of the basin near the Jefferson Memorial.
If you want to take a break from walking, hop in a paddle boat from Tidal Basin Paddle Boats (1501 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024) — see photo bombers in background below.
Cherry Blossom Activities
The Cherry Blossom Festival is March 20 – April 12, 2020 and is full of events that honor both American and Japanese cultures. Highlights of the festival include the Blossom Kite Festival, which sees hundreds of kites take to the sky on the National Mall, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, and Petalpalooza.
In addition to the official festival, there are lots of other special events and drink and food specials around town to celebrate. One of our favorite cherry blossom related experiences is the seasonal exhibit at Artechouse, an art space displaying interactive technology. Bonus: sip on a creatively themed drink at their augmented reality bar. Restaurants and bars will also be getting in on the fun with themed food, drinks, and decor.
DO NOT TOUCH THE BLOSSOMS. Really, please don’t. The flowers are very delicate and only last for a short time. The blooms die a lot faster when people touch them. You may see others touching the blossoms or branches, but please be respectful and do not touch so that others can continue to enjoy. OK, we’re done.
It will be crowded throughout the city and especially near the cherry blossom trees, so be courteous and mindful as you snap photos away to your heart’s content!
Fun facts about Washington, DC’s cherry blossoms
- The first donation of 2,000 trees, received in 1910, was burned on orders from President William Howard Taft. Insects and disease had infested the gift, but after hearing about the plight of the first batch, the Japanese mayor sent another 3,020 trees to DC two years later.
- First Lady Helen Herron Taft planted the first tree in West Potomac Park. Many First Ladies, including Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, have officially commemorated the blossoms. On March 27, 2012, Michelle Obama took up the cause by planting a cherry tree to mark the centennial of the blossoms.
- One of the earliest recorded peak blooms occurred on March 15, 1990, while the latest recorded peak bloom occurred on April 18, 1958.
- The majority of the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin are of the Yoshino variety. But another species, the Kwanzan, usually blooms two weeks after the Yoshino trees, giving visitors a second chance to catch the blossoms.