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How to See the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C.

After a grey and gloomy Northeast winter, there’s nothing more welcome than the sight of beautiful blooming flowers, bringing color and life back to the stark landscape.

Cherry blossoms are one of the most quintessential harbingers of spring, and the most famous place to see them in this corner of the world is Washington, D.C.

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

I was originally planning to visit D.C. to see the cherry blossoms in March of 2020, but we all know how that story ends. I finally made it last year and they were absolutely stunning!

There are so many online sources for planning your trip to see the cherry blossoms, and plenty of posts that go very in-depth on every aspect you could think of. I decided to put together this mini guide as an alternative for those looking for a few quick pointers to get started, and who may want to see other parts of the city during their visit as well.

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

Keep reading for your mini guide on how to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom History

Jump to the main tips.

Traveler, writer, and diplomat Eliza Scidmore began campaigning for the planting of cherry trees in D.C. in 1895 after visiting Japan. Two decades later, plant explorer and USDA official Dr. David Fairchild imported 100 cherry trees from Yokohama to see how they would fare in the local climate. Scidmore and Fairchild continued to advocate for planting more trees, with Fairchild suggesting the planting around the Tidal Basin and Scidmore contacting then-First Lady Helen Taft to share her ideas.

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

Japanese Chemist Dr. Jokichi Takamine happened to be in D.C. when Mrs. Taft received Scidmore’s letter, and he offered 2,000 trees to D.C. as a gift of friendship from the city of Tokyo. The trees made it to Seattle in December of 1909 and to D.C. in early 1910. Tragically they were then found to be diseased and not viable for planting, having to be destroyed. In March of 1912, a second shipment arrived in D.C., this time of 3,020 trees.

The trees have been beloved ever since and the festivities around them have only grown, with the first Cherry Blossom Festival in 1935, an event that has since grown into a weeks-long extravaganza.

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

Additional trees have been sent from Japan multiple times since the planting of the first shipment, and the US has also sent trees back to Japan to restore damaged groves there, continuing to honor the spirit of friendship the original trees were donated in.

How to See the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C.

Make the most of your cherry blossom trip to D.C. with these tips.

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

1 | Choose your dates

The trickiest thing about planning your trip will be the timing. Every year, the National Park Service and the Washington Post Capital Weather Gang predict peak bloom dates based on weather conditions. That said, an accurate prediction is hard further than 10 days out, and things can always change with nature. Still, this gives you a starting point to narrow down dates.

Keep an eye out for the official prediction from the National Park Service to be announced this year on February 29th.

Use the peak bloom forecast as a guide, but don’t feel too much pressure to choose the perfect dates. The 2024 National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place from March 20th through April 14th, so there will be related festivities happening throughout that entire 3.5 week period. If you end up in the city on the early side, you may catch peak magnolia bloom instead. If you’re there “late”, you might still be right on time for a different variety of cherry tree instead: the fluffy pink Kwanzan blooms two to three weeks after the Yoshino, which make up the majority of the famous Tidal Basin trees.

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

2 | Make your plans

I’m only putting this step before finding a place to stay because knowing where you want to spend the most time will help you decide where to book.

Where to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.

  • The Tidal Basin
  • U.S. National Arboretum
  • Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
  • Stanton Park
  • Hains Point Loop Trail
  • Dumbarton Oaks Gardens
seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

The Tidal Basin

The Tidal Basin is likely at the top of the list for anyone wanting to see the cherry blossoms in D.C., and for great reason. You get a lot of bang for your buck here – a wheel-accessible and almost entirely flat ~2 mile loop trail lined with historic monuments and almost 4,000 cherry trees, all situated around the water offering beautiful views and reflections. You can even rent a paddle boat to escape the sidewalk crowds.

You’ll see the Washington Monument (not directly on the Basin, but visible from many points), the Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial – to name a few – along with the Japanese Pagoda and Japanese Lantern, both symbols of Japanese-American friendship. Click here for Tidal Basin Loop Trail details from the National Park Service.

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc
seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

You’ll also be a short walk from other points of interest like the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and World War II Memorial on the National Mall.

If it has rained recently, be sure to wear proper footwear because it will be muddy (as you can see in some of these photos). And brace yourself for having lots of company – it’s pretty much inevitable that during cherry blossom season, this area will be super busy.

Try not to let the crowds bug you too much. The cherry blossoms are a major attraction in one of the most-visited cities in the U.S. Just focus on the stunning blooms and remember to enjoy them in person and not just through taking hundreds of photos (talking to myself here, too!).

U.S. National Arboretum

This is a recommended spot for seeing the cherry blossoms in bloom with much smaller crowds than the Tidal Basin.

Download the Arboretum’s free app to take advantage of their self-guided cherry tree tour, a 3-mile loop that you can drive, walk, or bike. And definitely consider the Arboretum if you’ve missed the short peak bloom window at the Tidal Basin – while the majority of the Tidal Basin trees are Yoshino trees that bloom at the same time and for just a few days, the number of tree varieties at the Arboretum paired with their longer bloom duration means you’re more likely to find some in bloom during your visit.

The Arboretum is chock-full of blossoms, and different sections of the park bloom at different times. I’ve visited March through May the past couple of years and there have always been blossoms.

– Dia Adams for The Points Guy

You can also see the National Capitol Columns while you’re here. This set of 22 Corinthian columns was originally a part of the US Capitol Building but had to be replaced due to proportion issues when the Capitol Dome was constructed much larger than originally envisioned. The columns were placed at the Arboretum in the 1950s and found their permanent home there in the 1980s thanks to Arboretum benefactor Ethel Garrett.

Keep in mind that the Arboretum is much easier to reach by car than by public transportation, so it’s ideal if you have a car during your visit or hop into a cab to get there.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Enjoy ~150 cherry trees with the backdrop of this Byzantine-Romanesque Revival church and national shrine built in the 1920s.

While easier to get to via Metro than the Arboretum, it’s still much faster to drive or take a cab to get here.

Stanton Park

This public park is located in D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. There’s a great playground here if you’re traveling with kiddos, and the surrounding area is perfect for a scenic walk.

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

Hains Point Loop Trail

Located directly south of the Tidal Basin, this 4.1 mile loop lines the perimeter of East Potomac Park. This is another great spot if your D.C. trip lands after peak bloom at the Basin, because it’s home to almost 500 Kwanzan cherry trees that tend to bloom ~two weeks after the Yoshinos. That said, there are Yoshino trees here, too – best of both worlds!

There are free parking spots at different points throughout this area that many visitors use to access the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season, but being so close to the most popular viewing area means that there is a lot of traffic and you may encounter detours or direction changes. If you want to avoid all of that, consider renting a bike or walking (though it is a big area, so if you decide to walk I would recommend choosing one or two spots of interest instead of doing the whole loop).

Click here for Hains Point Loop Trail details from the National Park Service and click here for their trail map visual.

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

The grounds of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum are home to beautiful gardens with different plants and trees in bloom throughout the year. A popular spot for Wisteria in April and May, you can also visit the Cherry Hill section during cherry blossom season.

From November 1st to March 14th, the gardens are open Tuesday through Sunday from 2 to 5 pm and are free to visit with no ticket required. From March 15th to October 31st, they’re open Tuesday through Sunday from 2 to 6 pm. Admission is $7 and tickets must be purchased in advance because they are not sold at the gate.

Throughout the City

While this list gives you a handful of great places for seeing the cherry blossoms, it is by no means exhaustive, so keep an eye out for other recommended options as you plan!

You’ll also find plenty of cherry trees at other points throughout the city – along the National Mall, outside Smithsonian museums, in other squares and parks – so keep an eye out as you’re exploring.

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

3 | Find a place to stay

D.C. has a great Metro system, so don’t feel like you have to stay directly in the areas you’ll be visiting. Accommodations can get really expensive, so some flexibility is key. I’ll share more about this below, but I spent some time in Logan Circle, Georgetown, and Capitol Hill in addition to exploring the National Mall and Tidal Basin, and they were all beautiful neighborhoods with a lot going on.

seeing cherry blossoms washington dc

I like using Booking.com (not sponsored!) because you can filter results depending on your needs and also use a map view instead of list view if there’s a specific area you’re interested in. I put in my criteria and then checked any promising properties on Google Maps to see how convenient they were to my sightseeing plans.

I chose the CitizenM Washington D.C. Capitol and it was great for my quick one-night trip, especially considering how affordable it was to similar options at just under $200/night. It’s close to multiple Metro stops and a short walk to multiple sites along the National Mall I knew I also wanted to visit, including the Enid A. Haupt Garden, Hirshhorn Museum, and United States Botanic Garden.

united states botanic garden washington dc

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enid a haupt garden washington dc

Tip: At ~2.5 miles long, with the Lincoln Memorial at the western edge and the Capitol Building in the east, the National Mall is huge! Since it encompasses such a large area, it’s always better to navigate to or from a specific monument on the Mall if you’re planning a walking route.

I will say the area directly surrounding the hotel was quiet – don’t expect a bustling neighborhood with shops and restaurants kind of vibe – and I was grateful that after a late dinner my friend drove me back to the hotel, because I probably would have felt a little nervous walking solo here late at night.

citizen m capitol washington dc

4 | Check for other festivities happening during your trip

The National Cherry Blossom Festival offers a lot of unique activities spread out over several weeks, so check their website to see what’s scheduled during your visit.

I visited from March 26th to 27th in 2023, and due to rain the day before I arrived, the Blossom Kite Festival was rescheduled for my first day in the city. It was a gorgeous and sunny spring day and it was so special to see friends and families flying their kites over the National Mall with the monuments in the background.

blossom kite festival cherry blossom fest washington dc

blossom kite festival cherry blossom fest washington dc

This year’s Blossom Kite Festival is scheduled for Saturday, March 30th with a rain date of Sunday, March 31st.

5 | Visit other parts of the city

My trip to see the cherry blossoms was not only a solo trip but also my first solo trip since becoming a mom in the fall of 2021. I’ll be the first to admit that I likely overextended myself during my two days in the city simply because I was so excited to explore and see as much as possible.

bartholdi fountain united states botanic garden washington dc tulips

In my classic trip planning fashion, I started off focusing only on seeing the cherry blossoms, but quickly expanded into checking out other parts of the city as well. I simply have zero chill when it comes to things like this.

While you should definitely have some additional ideas in mind in case you miss peak bloom or need indoor activities, there’s nothing wrong with letting yourself take it easy!

Here are a few things I managed to squeeze into my trip in addition to seeing the cherry blossoms:

  • Lunch and a walk around the Capitol Hill neighborhood with my wonderful friend and honorary D.C. tour guide, Cindy
  • A visit to the United States Botanic Garden *free admission!
  • A quick stop at the National Gallery of Art and a walk around their outdoor sculpture garden *free admission!
  • A walk around the Logan Circle neighborhood to see colorful row homes and street art
  • A visit to the Enid A. Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle (especially if you’re there during magnolia bloom) *free admission!
  • An elevator ride to the top of the Old Post Office Building for panoramic city views *free admission!
  • A visit to the Hirshhorn Museum to see One With Eternity: Yayoi Kusama in the Hirshhorn Collection (now closed, but D.C. has so many museums the possibilities here are endless) *free admission!
  • A self-guided walking tour of Georgetown, D.C. – follow the link for my full post with all the details!
  • A walk along the National Mall

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national gallery of art washington dc

Have you visited Washington D.C. before, during cherry blossom season or otherwise? Let me know in the Comments!

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