I was once in a cafe in Berlin sipping a coffee, my waiter clearly sensing I was a foreigner came up to my table to strike up a conversation “where are you from?” he asked. “Washington D.C.!” I enthusiastically replied. “Ah” he responded, “cherry blossoms!”. Love them or hate them, there are few things more integral to the Washington D.C. experience than being in town during cherry blossom time.
Originally a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo as a gesture of friendship to the people of the United States, the 3,000 trees bud every year in early spring. The city goes mad for the blooms, in shades of pinks and whites, so much so that there’s an entire month long festival dedicated to the flowers (the National Cherry Blossom Festival), a cherry blossom themed bar (Cherry Blossom Pub in Shaw), and so much more.
Luckily we’re here to help you make sense of the myriad of cherry themed activities. This year the festival runs from March 17- April 15th, and peak bloom will also begin on March 17th.In order to help you make the most of blossom season in D.C., we put together the best of the best of the flowery offerings around town.
For a full up to date schedule head over to Brightest Young Things to check out the Cherry Blossom Everything Guide!
Tips to See the Blossoms
So, the secret (sorry everyone in D.C.) to seeing the cherry blossoms tourist-free is to go very very early in the morning. The Tidal Basin is essentially open 24 hours, and sunrise is absolutely stunning. Get up early, enjoy the trees, and then you can be comfortably eating breakfast before the first tourist has even complained about the lack of parking. To catch some extra shut-eye spend the weekend at the new Canopy by Hilton at the Wharf and enjoy staying right on the southwest waterfront, mere steps from the blossoms.
If you’re unable (or just unwilling) to get up early, there are ways to see the sakura trees even during normal hours that will still result in a great experience. Prepare for crowds, bring water and snacks, use uber/lyft/ or Metro (get off at Smithsonian Station) to get to the Tidal Basin, and be patient. Weekdays are going to be better than weekends, and early is still best. If you’re coming in from out of town stay at the The Washington Hilton to experience some true D.C. history (and be in a prime location for experiencing the city).
Skip the Tidal Basin. You may be thoroughly confused as to why we would suggest this, but you can still get amazing views and great pictures by skipping the Tidal Basin, and heading directly to Hains Point. We recommend renting a bike from Capital Bikeshare and biking around East Potomac Park for a truly unforgettable (and less crowded) blossom experience. Book a staycation at The Darcy and enjoy some extra cool amenities for kids (and boozy ice cream sandwiches for adults).
The Night Owl
It’s a long held local secret that the monuments in D.C. are best experienced at night. However, slightly lesser known (so much so that you will probably be only one of a handful of tourists), is that the blossoms are also beautiful in the dark. Bring your flash, and finish off your walk with one of the best nighttime views in D.C. at the Jefferson Memorial. Stay at the DoubleTree in Crystal City and finish off the night with more great views at the Iwo Jima memorial, and appreciate the D.C. skyline from the revolving restaurant on the roof.
Cherry Blossom Highlights
Cherry Blossom Pop-Up Bar (PUB) @ Mockingbird Hill and Southern Efficiency through April 29
This year, the locally famous (and very popular) Cherry Blossom Pub is back and possibly cooler than ever. Watch an enraged 10ft tall animatronic Godzilla breathe smoke while you sip on a cocktail featuring Calpico, a Japanese soda. After defeating Godzilla, enjoy a meal at Robert Wiedemer’s Siren in Scott Circle.
National Cherry Blossom Festival’s One Giant Meditation – March 25th
Held at the National Building Museum, 2018 is the first year that the National Cherry Blossom Festival will be kicking things off with a giant meditation. Enjoy a sound bath meditation in one of the coolest venues in D.C. $10. 9:00am – 10:30am
Blossom Kite Festival – March 31st
One of the more iconic festival events, the kite festival fills the sky around the Washington Monument with kites of all shapes, sizes and colors. The myriad of colors is a photographer’s dream and kids (of all ages) will love making their own kites at the Make-Your-Own kite station. 10am – 4:30pm.
Petalpalooza at The Wharf – April 7th
A new event for 2018, the free event will take place at the very new (and home to the new Canopy at the Wharf) District Wharf, the event features fun and games throughout the day and will be capped off with a fireworks display. Grab dinner afterwards at Requin (also at the Wharf), which will be featuring a special menu during Cherry Blossom Season. Petalpalooza runs 1pm – 9:30pm, with fireworks at 8:30pm.
Head over to Constitution Avenue for the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. Take in the sights of massive colorful balloons and elaborate floats, and enjoy performances throughout the 10-block span of the parade. What’s a national festival without a parade anyway? 10am – 12 noon – Arielle Witter
Where to Get the Best Instagrams of the Blossoms
This is the reason (or one of them) you’re here right? Useful hashtags are #CherryBlossoms, #MyDCCool, and #BYThings. Also useful is this super handy map that the National Park Service and the National Cherry Blossom festival put together, check it out here.
The Washington Monument from the Tidal Basin
Grab this (very iconic) shot midway between the FDR memorial and the Martin Luther King memorial.
The Crowded but not too Crowded Crowd Shot
Depending on the time of day, there may be people all over the Tidal Basin, the best place to grab a still gorgeous crowd shot is from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. Grab shots of your friends, random strangers lazing about
The Tidal Basin (from the basin itself)
Rent a paddle boat and paddle your little heart out into the center of the basin, take all the shots. Be careful having your cell phone out on the water (we recommend bringing a plastic bag to keep it in, just in case).
The Jefferson Memorial between branches of blossoms
So there’s a few different opportunities to get this shot. Either between the Tidal Basin Welcome Area on your way to the memorial, or from across the basin in front of the FDR memorial.
The Japanese Lantern + Pagoda
Located on opposite sides of the basin, if you get these stone sculptures from the right angle you can completely fool people into thinking you are actually in Japan. The Pagoda is located on the basin trail between the Jefferson Memorial and the FDR Memorial, and the Lantern is located on the Washington Monument side of the Martin Luther King Memorial.
Happy Cherry Blossom-ing! Stay tuned throughout the season as we update with more exciting events and blossom enjoyment opportunities.
Brightest Young Things is a legitimately cool and useful editorial presence in DC offering the go-to tool for audiences seeking to live their best life in Washington, online and offline. Throughout 2018, we’ve partnered with them on local area guides, recommendations, and insider tips to help both locals and tourists get the best out of the DMV from the people who know the city best!