Tips for Seeing the Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

Every year, thousands of people come to Washington DC to see the famous cherry blossoms that are all around DC. As someone who has lived here for four years, it’s one of my favorite times of year. There’s so much to do and see in DC this time of year. Every year I get a lot of questions about what to see and do while here to see the cherry blossoms so I wanted to make sure I put together all my tips before the cherry blossoms bloom in DC! This post if full of helpful info for anyone who is trying to see the cherry blossoms and get the best experience while here.

For more about the best things to see and do in DC, check out my post of favorite things to do in DC for first time visitors!

Where to See the Cherry Blossoms

The most famous place to see the cherry blossoms in DC is around the Tidal Basin located right near the National Mall. There is the highest concentration of them here and they are beautiful reflecting on the water. You can also see them in some other spots around DC. On your first visit you can’t miss seeing them along the Tidal Basin. However, you can escape the crowds and see beautiful trees (especially if you’re looking to get great photos) in these spots listed below.

  • Around the National Mall 

Steps of Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and Washington Monument on the National Mall

  • National Arboretum

3501 New York Avenue NE

  • Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna, Virginia

When To See the Cherry Blossoms

Peak season for the cherry blossoms is typically between March 15 and April 15. If you are planning a trip, then sometime within this window is best. The timing can be really tricky, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled for March 20 through April 14. Want to know more about the forcast for peak bloom this year? Check this link for the latest info from the National Cherry Blossom Watch.

Also, if you miss peak bloom try seeing them in Howard County! Peak bloom is typically two weeks or so after the National Mall at Howard County Cherrybration10000 Rt 108 in Ellicott City.

How to Get There

If you are planning on going to the National Mall, you have a few different options. During the week, you can fairly easily park along the National Mall and walk, especially in the evening. During the weekend, you definitely do not want to try and drive unless you have reserved parking, want to pay (typically) $20 to park, or walk really far. The best options are to take the Metro to Smithsonian Station, grab an Uber, or use Capitol Bike Share.

Ways to See the Cherry Blossoms

There are a bunch of different ways to experience the cheery blossoms while in DC and below are listed some of the most popular ways to see them. I’ve done them all!

Every year there is a big festival that happens for two weekends in the spring. The video above is the reason I do not recommend just coming for the Cherry Blossom Festival. It is insanely crowded! The Cherry Blossom Festival is definitely the most popular time and place to see the Cherry Blossoms. This past year I went to the festival and was very under whelmed. There were huge crowds, no where to sit, bad food, and there were very few good photo spots because of all the people there. If it is your first time and you really want to see the cherry blossoms, the festival can still be worth it, but I would definitely take the time to go see them again at a different time. Week days are way less crowded and the trees are just as beautiful.

I have been on a cherry blossom viewing cruise that was lots of fun. There are options leaving from the Wharf and from Georgetown. The boat I rode was from Georgetown (check TravelZoo and Groupon for deals!) and we did have fun. There are drinks available and food for purchase that make the ride even better. Pretty views are all over and if you go in the evening you can see a really nice sunset. Note that this time of year it can be really chilly, especially on the water so wear a jacket and pants if you go in the evening especially!

In the Tidal Basin you will find the famous paddle boats that are a really unique way to see the cherry blossoms. If you go during the Cherry Blossom Festival on the weekend, you can wait over three hours for a paddle boat. If you go during the week you will wait far less and still get the same view. If you want to take a paddle boat, go on the weekend!

  • Walk the National Mall

Walking along the National Mall is the perfect way to see the Cherry Blossoms. There are a bunch of spots near the Tidal Basin that are great for viewing the cherry blossoms. You can get really great views of the trees around the Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the Washington Monument.

Avoiding Crowds

As I’ve mentioned, crowds can be crazy during the Cherry Blossom Festival. This past year, I went down to the area three different times to see the trees around the Tidal Basin.

The best time I had was not during the festival, but during a week day evening. I was able to see the trees during peak time and get incredible pictures without a crowd as well as park!

I also went with friends in the morning which helped us avoid crowds too. We were also able to see the magnolia trees while there at the Smithsonian Castle which were beautiful! Make a stop here if you can to see all the beautiful flowers and trees there too (even though they aren’t cherry blossoms they are worth your time!).

Being Prepared

When going to the National Mall to see the cherry blossoms during the peak time can be crazy, there are some things you can do to help yourself out.

  1. There are not many bathrooms available around the National Mall. Port-a-potties and public bathrooms in Smithsonians will be your only options during the festival. Go before you come and avoid long lines.
  2. Be prepared to walk. Even getting dropped off near by still means lots of walking. The tidal basin is large and the festival is located near the trees but toward the National Mall so it is a walk.
  3. Parking is very difficult. If you want a chance to park, try using ParkMobile’s reserve a spot feature or do not drive!
  4. There will be crowds. Be prepared to wait a long time for food, drinks, and any thing you want to buy. There are street vendors who sell drinks and ice cream that have no line and sell for cheaper than stands along the National Mall.
  5. You can buy cherry blossom souvenirs at a bunch of different shops all around DC. Don’t feel like you have to buy something at the actual festival.
  6. It can get hot or be cold. Spring in DC is a time when the weather is constantly changing. Bring a light jacket to wear and short sleeves for during the day.