Washington, D.C. comes alive in the springtime and especially during cherry blossom season. These iconic flowering trees erupt in a riot of delicate pink and white blossoms in seemingly every corner of the city. They're easy to spot in recognizable locations like the Tidal Basin and National Mall, but they're also scattered throughout neighborhoods and line local parks. The city-wide sensation stems from a 1912 gift of 3,000 Yoshino Cherry Trees from the Mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki to the city of D.C. Now well over a century later, the trees are an integral part of the fabric of the city.
Part of the continued allure of cherry tree fervor is the flowers’ ephemeral beauty, with a peak bloom that lasts just a few short days, and which is closely monitored by a 27/4 “Bloom Cam.” For those peak bloom days ( predicted by the National Park Service to be March 23-25 this year ), as well as the weeks leading up to and following, the city celebrates with the National Cherry Blossom Festival which draws in well over a million people and turns the capital into a epicenter of budding spring.
While the iconic picture of cherries in DC may conjure up images of the path along the Tidal Basin leading to the Jefferson Memorial, there are plenty of places throughout the city, and just outside it, that offer luscious photo opportunities, picnic spots, and delightful strolls. Whether you’re planning your first trip to see the trees in bloom or are a repeat visitor, here are seven of our favorite spots in Washington D.C. to see the cherry blossoms this spring.
The Tidal Basin was the site of the district’s first cherry tree plantings over a hundred years ago, and today it remains the most iconic place in the city to see the blossoms. The path along the Tidal Basin, and the surrounding grounds adjacent to the National Mall, is home to nearly 4,000 cherry trees (mostly of the Yoshino variety). When in bloom, they form an elegant pink canopy that hugs the water. A stroll here is an obligatory Washington D.C. spring activity. Follow the path to the Jefferson Memorial and keep going to pass the Japanese Pagoda, Japanese Lantern, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
Dumbarton Oaks Garden
Charming, historic Georgetown is beautiful any time of the year, but it is especially colorful in the springtime. Plan a visit to Dumbarton Oaks, the neighborhood oasis that is a Harvard University research institute and museum. Dumbarton Oak’s 53-acres of grounds and gardens are carefully cultivated to showcase flowering trees and plants throughout the year. In the spring, Cherry Hill, a spot located on a remote slope of the gardens is awash in blooming cherries. Don’t miss the Prunus Walk for flowering plum trees and the Forsythia Dell. Purchase a $7 day pass in advance to reserve your stroll.
Hains Point Loop
Haines Point Loop, the area at the southernmost end of East Potomac Park, is the perfect destination for avoiding the more heavily trafficked areas like the Tidal Basin. Just over four miles, the loop is lined with cherry trees and offers views of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, as well as Washington D.C.’s newest neighborhood, The Wharf. The park is accessible by foot or bike from the 14th Street Bridge and by car via Ohio Drive.
Across the Potomac in
, cobblestoned Old Town is a picture-perfect spot to visit. Spend an afternoon meandering through the historic neighborhoods that are decked out in pink petals, and check out the grounds of the historic
, where dozens of blooming cherries make this a popular spot for photoshoots. From Alexandria you can catch a tide on the
Cherry Blossom Water Taxi
and sail to The Wharf in D.C. The ride will allow you to enjoy the views of the cherry trees from the water.
U.S. National Arboretum
A bit off the well-worn tourist track, the U.S. Arboretum covers 446 lush acres of fields, forests, and gardens, and it boats nine and a half miles of roadways. You can explore by car or pick up a Capital Bikeshare at the entrance gate. The public (and free) Arboretum is home to many varieties of cherry trees, including three different hybrid varieties that were developed on the grounds. Given the nature of the space, cherries are far from the only flowering trees you’ll find here, so make sure you take time to enjoy the early blooming dogwoods, magnolias, and crab apples. Navigate your visit with the Arboretum’s free app which offers guides to the flowering trees and plants, as well as a map to help you plan your visit.
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for over 400,000 American service members and their families. It is one of the most beautiful, peaceful, and reflective spots in the area. In springtime, Arlington’s flowering trees stand as a stunning tribute to America’s veterans and loved ones. There are over 417 spring-blooming cherry trees throughout the 600+ acre grounds and cemetery’s website provides a helpful guide to the landscape’s flowering trees.
More locals-in-the-know than tourist locale, Stanton Park is a compact four-acre park that may be small, but boasts walkways that are lined with cherry trees. Named for Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, the park has been a favorite neighborhood spot since the 1870s. Today it draws a wider than local crowd when the trees are in full bloom. It’s a great place to enjoy a picnic or snap some pictures while avoiding crowds.