Everyone knows that the best cherry blossoms are in Japan, but when you can’t make that dream trip, there’s another option for you. Washington DC is home to thousands of cherry blossom trees, giving you the perfect destination for a quick visit (while still dreaming about that bucket list Japan trip someday).
Ever wonder why there are so many cherry blossom trees in DC? Well the Mayor of Tokyo gifted 3,000 of them back in 1912. They serve as a symbol of friendship and peace between the US and Japan.
When do the cherry blossoms bloom?
The thing about cherry blossoms is that their peak window is sort of small. Peak is generally defined as when 70% of the trees are at full bloom. The ideal views are usually within 4-7 days (but perfect weather can help it last to 2 weeks). This window can fall anywhere between March 15 (if the spring has been warmer) and April 18 (if it’s been a cold spring). Usually, peak cherry blossoms occur in the last week of March to the first week of April. Last year’s peak bloom was March 21-25.
Because the blooms are so dependent on how the springtime weather is, predictions can’t pin down when that 70% peak will be more than 10 days in advance. The good news is that the cherry blossoms will still be gorgeous to look at outside of that 70% peak viewing and you can usually count on about 14 days worth of beautiful blooms when you include the days that lead up to peak.
When is the cherry blossom festival?
This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival will run from March 20 through April 16, 2023. The festival includes all kinds of events centered around the pretty pink blooms and the spring weather. Some of the free events include PetalPalooza on April 8, featuring art, music, entertainment, and fireworks, Blossom Kite Festival on March 25, and the parade on April 15 (there’s also options to spots in the grandstands for $25-30 or along the area with the telecast performances for $40).
Where are the main spots to see them?
The Tidal Basin is THE spot to see the cherry blossoms. However, with that status comes something less exciting: crowds. While you’re going to get amazing views of the blooms as well as the water, reflections, and sights of the various monuments, you’ll also likely see a lot of other people doing the exact same thing. If you want to see less people, try going on weekdays, as well as in the early morning or evening (then you might catch some pretty golden hour lighting too!) Alternatively, check out some of the other spots around DC with cherry blossom trees like:
- Washington Monument Grounds
- US Capitol Grounds
- East Potomac Park
Flying into DC
One of the best parts of flying to DC is that you have 3 great airport options to choose from, and more options generally means good deals. So what are the airport options and what’s the benefit of each?
- Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is the closest airport to the heart of DC. Also, it has its own metro station spot meaning you can quickly and easily hop on public transit to get to your destination.
- Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) is the busiest of the three airports and is an international hub meaning there are tons of flights in and out to pick from. However, it’s further out from the city and will require a rideshare, car rental, etc. to get into DC.
- Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) is also a large international airport, serving both the Baltimore area, as well as DC. It’s about the same distance from DC as IAD is, but it has train service into DC meaning you can get from the airport to the city in around 25 minutes.
Where to stay in DC
There are loads of great areas to stay in when you visit DC. The key thing to keep in mind is that the closer you are to downtown, the more expensive it can get. However, the great thing about DC is that the metro system is one of the best in the country: it’s clean, it’s timely, and it’s pretty well spread around the city. The best tip for staying in DC is to stay somewhere within a few minutes walk of a metro station, that way you don’t have to stay in the more expensive parts, but you can get to those areas super easily.