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Visiting Washington DC to see the cherry blossom trees is something I would recommend anyone to go to if they can! When in bloom, the whole Tidal Basin area is covered in beautiful pink and white flowered trees. Walking underneath that canopy of flowers is a really incredible experience!
Where to see cherry blossoms in Washington DC
The best place to see the cherry blossom trees is at the Tidal Basin. You can walk around it and visit the monuments there, and just enjoy the blooms that are completely surrounding it! It’s a short walk from the National Mall, with the closest metro station nearby being the Smithsonian Station.
When is the best time to visit Washington DC to see the Cherry Blossoms so you don’t miss them?
According to the National Park’s Website, the cherry blossoms have bloomed as early as March 15th, and as late as April 18th. That’s a pretty big range of time if you can’t go on a last minute trip! If you’re trying to plan ahead and book a hotel, or flight, it is impossible to get the exact date of when they’ll bloom, as they only last for maybe a week once they do flower. You could wind up disappointed like I was this year, and arrive before, or after, the peak bloom time.
Your only true solution to be guaranteed to see them is to keep a close eye on the forecast sites, and plan a trip at the last minute.
Visiting the Tidal Basin in Washington DC before the peak bloom
Oh beautiful Cherry Blossom trees! How much I wanted to see you this year, but alas this year I came too soon! 🙁
I got up bright and early Tuesday morning. Well not too early, but I was off on the metro around 8:30am, hoping to arrive at the Tidal Basin early enough to get there before the crowds of people to see the cherry blossom trees. The festival had started this weekend, and unfortunately the peak bloom time got pushed back, but I was still hopeful to see at least maybe 10-20% bloomed by now, it was March 27th already!
I arrived at the Mall and headed off towards the Washington Monument-really easy landmark to see everywhere and orient yourself by. Right beyond the Monument to the left hand side is the Tidal Basin, the round body of water that’s surrounded by monuments and of course, the famous Washington DC Cherry Blossom Trees! Yay, I couldn’t wait to see them! I had packed my pencils and sketchbook, even some watercolors as I had high hopes to find a nice place to sit down and paint some of these lovely trees!
I walked ahead in the crisp 40 degree morning air, it was definitely chillier than I expected, crossed the street to get to the Tidal Basin, and.. My heart sank a little. Well maybe more than a little. Not a single tree bloomed in sight! 🙁 Well…ok, maybe one. In the distance. Way across the basin there. Yeah, that’s gotta be one!
Well, I woke up early, walked all this way, I wasn’t going to just turn around and go back. I was going to go and see that one tree dammit!! Up close and personal!
So, I walked and walked, the whole Tidal Basin is only about 2 miles around, but it felt like longer in the chilly weather. I passed an older couple taking a similar disappointed stroll. Passed the empty park ranger stands, that were all geared up and ready for the festival. A couple other people walked passed me. Perhaps 10 in total before I reached the Jefferson Monument. Quite a difference to my trip in 2014 where I think I passed 10,000 people on the way there.
Lucky me though, as I neared the monument, I found another tree in bloom! This was a different one than the one I saw across the tidal basin. Yay, 2 trees! I got to see 2 cherry blossom trees in bloom this year!
The one good thing about this all this was simply that it wasn’t crowded. I actually got to walk up to all the monuments, take my time exploring them, actually enter the gift shops and get my National Parks Passport booked stamped, without hordes of people all around me! Of course this is easy to do if you live in D.C. as you can visit any time. But if you’re not from the area you’d have to make a separate trip at another time of the year.
Visiting During Peak Bloom
If you’re lucky enough to come during peak bloom, you need to be prepared for one big thing however: massive crowds! There were people EVERYWHERE along the Tidal Basin. It was hard to walk along the edge of it at times.
It’s worth going to see at least once in your life however, and if you can get up to go really early for sunrise the crowds won’t be so bad. I luckily did get to see the Cherry Blossoms in peak bloom back in 2014, but we got there in the late morning, so it was a struggle to get good photographs without tons of people in them. I still thoroughly enjoyed it however, and getting to see the monuments framed by the beautiful blooms was all worth it!
What to do in Washington DC if you miss the peak Cherry Blossom time
So obviously planning a last minute trip isn’t possible to do for everyone. Most people know about all of the Smithsonian Museums around the Mall area, the Capitol building, Library of Congress, etc.. I won’t go into all of those here, because you came to DC see the flowers in bloom, right?
Enid A. Haupt Garden
Well, you might be in luck, because another tree blooms around this time of year too: the beautiful Magnolia trees! You can see them here and there around the Mall, in front of the Washington Monument, and at the Enid A. Haupt Garden, located behind the Smithsonian Castle! This pretty little park is well worth a visit, and the trees if in bloom are just as beautiful as the cherry blossoms!
National Botanic Gardens
Another place that you can visit if you’re a fan of plants and flowers, are the National Botanic Gardens. This building is open year round, so it’s not quite as exciting as seeing the cherry blossoms or magnolia trees, but I still highly recommend going and walking around, it’s beautiful inside!
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