The Washington, DC cherry blossoms are a most extraordinary gift. In 1912, Japan gave the United States 3,020 cherry trees in a grand show of international friendship. First Lady Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador planted two of the trees along the banks of the Tidal Basin. Little did they know the legacy they were creating. The first Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935, and has evolved from a small three-day affair into a multi-week extravaganza attracting over a million visitors each spring.
Between the opening ceremony and parade finale, there are a range of blossom-themed events. These usually include a 5K run, fireworks, and a kite festival on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Of course, the most popular thing to do is simply to stroll the two-mile Tidal Basin promenade and gape at the pretty pink blooms.
The Tidal Basin is home to several of DC’s most beloved memorials. These include the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial are a short walk away.
The period of peak bloom, when 70 percent of the flowers are open, spans just a few days. The trees are closely monitored by the National Park Service, which issues a prediction for peak bloom about a month in advance. On average, the DC cherry blossoms are at their peak around the end of March, but this is greatly dependent on the weather.
Tips for attending the Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival:
For specific information on the calendar of events, visit the official National Cherry Blossom Festival website. Many of the events are free, but some require advance tickets.
Free public restrooms and a large gift shop are in the basement of the Jefferson Memorial.
The Smithsonian metro stop is the closest to the Tidal Basin. However, it is a long walk and you will want to wear comfortable shoes. The Foggy Bottom metro is closer to the Lincoln Memorial.
If you don’t want to walk, bikes and paddle boats are available to rent.
Weekdays are best for visiting the Tidal Basin, as crowds will be much smaller. If you must go on the weekend, aim for early morning or late evening for a more peaceful experience.
Spring weather in Washington, DC, can be unpredictable, so dress in layers and pack some rain gear. If you’re lucky, you’ll need sunscreen instead. Note that the Tidal Basin usually floods at high tide.
Dogs are allowed on the National Mall and around the Tidal Basin, as long as they are kept on a leash. They are NOT allowed on the Metro (service dogs excepted).
Would you like to see the DC cherry blossoms?
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