People travel from all over the world to see the iconic cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C., which bloom around the city’s most famous landmarks every Spring. Accordingly, the best places in Washington, D.C. to see cherry blossoms is a matter of somewhat personal preference.
Most locals have their favorite spots, but the fact is you can’t go wrong with the three cherry blossom viewing locations in this list.
Before you plan your visit, start checking the National Park Service’s Bloom Watch in March. The NPS’s cherry blossom tracking service keeps readers up to date on when the cherry blossoms are in peak bloom. This is the optimal time to visit, as the blossoms will be lush and full, and all of the trees will be in bloom at the same time.
The ancient practice of viewing blooming cherry blossom trees is known as hanami in Japan, and it’s all about stopping to appreciate the ephemeral beauty of nature.
Cherry blossom season has been observed every spring in D.C. since 1912, when the Mayor of Tokyo gifted 3,000 cherry blossom trees to then-President William Taft. (The gift comprised a variety of Yoshino cherry trees, Akebono cherry trees, and Weeping cherry trees.)
The trees were swiftly planted along the border of D.C.’s Tidal Basin and Arlington National Cemetary, where they bloom every spring to much national fanfare.
Today, D.C.’s cherry blossoms are considered to be in “peak bloom” when 70% of the blossoms are open. This usually takes place in the window between the last two weeks in March and the first week of April.
So, it’s a short-lived window, but a beautiful one. Get out and enjoy the blossoms while they last! Below are the best places in Washington, D.C. to see the cherry blossoms in bloom.
In & Around The Tidal Basin
Walking the perimeter of the Tidal Basin is one of the premiere ways to enjoy cherry blossom season in Washington, D.C.. It’s also a great backdrop for photo taking as couples, families, and individuals love taking selfies with the water in the background.
Even better, observe the blooms from the Swan-themed Tidal Basin Paddle Boats! These are available to rent on a first-come, first-serve basis and are an absolutely romantic way to take in the basin’s fluffy pink cherry blossom perimeter without the crush of crowds. Get more info here.
My suggestion to first-time cherry blossom viewers is to start your visit at the Washington Monument, and then walk the perimeter of the tidal basin until you reach the Jefferson Memorial.
^ There, you can enjoy waterfront views of the monument steps before circling back around the waterfront. It’s a nice way to get a sense of the scale and abundance of cherry blossom blooms this time of year.
Runners may also be interested in running the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in April, which circles the Tidal Basin when it’s in bloom. As a result, it’s considered one of the most beautiful road races in America. Get more information here.
While you’re here, mosey on over to the Floral Library on Independence Ave SW (the Northeast corner of the Tidal Basin) for great pictures of tulips with cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial in the background. For a certain type of flower lover, it’s absolute bliss.
From the Steps of The Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is an iconic fixture of the tidal basin and D.C.’s waterfront in general.
The beautiful rotunda harkens to the signature dome at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, which was Jefferson’s signature European-inspired architectural feature. (As such, design lovers and aesthetes tend to love taking pictures here, either of the memorial from a distance like the above-shown image, or from the steps looking across the water in the opposite direction.)
Here, you can take in the views and lessons from the memorial while simultaneously getting your cherry blossom fix. Fewer people venture all the way up to the monument early in the day, so it’s a great place to go first if you want to beat the crowds.
Also, the sun sets to the West of the monument, which illuminates the water quite beautifully. As a result, it’s a beautiful place to hang out during golden hour. (And this is why, during cherry blossom season, you tend to see lots of proposals over here around this time.)
At The Base of The Washington Monument
The base of the Washington Monument is the epicenter of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. every year. It’s here that all the vendors, cultural programming, food trucks, and people flying kites tend to gather as a starting point for their cherry blossom viewing experience.
You can also climb to the top of the monument to take in sweeping views of the National Mall from above. Tickets must be reserved in advance. For more info on that, go here.
Ultimately, the roads around the monument will be blocked off and crazy during the weekends, especially towards the end of March and early April, when select programming like Japanese drumming (aka Taiko) takes place on the temporarily constructed stages.
Thus, it’s best to walk, bike, take an Uber, or have someone drop you off in the middle of the chaos so that you don’t have to worry about parking. It can be crazy, but much like Times Square in New York, you sort of just have to see it.
Vendors, meanwhile, sell food, drink, and various souvenirs like kites, beaded bracelets, and cherry-blossom-flavored sweets.
Nearby food trucks lining the Mall will often feature cherry blossom flavored items as well, from Cherry Blossom Boba bubble tea to Cherry Blossom ice cream. It’s a lot of pink on pink on pink— but during cherry blossom season in Washington D.C., you should expect nothing less.