Do you dream of seeing the beautiful cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.? One of the most beautiful times to visit America’s capital is in Spring when the trees are blooming with white and pink flowers. It has been an event on my bucket list for years, and it probably is on your travel bucket list, too.
However, cherry blossoms are not located everywhere throughout the nation’s capital so you need to know where to look. There is a very short time frame to enjoy nature’s show, as well. Here’s our ultimate guide of how to see Washington D.C. cherry blossoms, including when to visit, best blossom locations, hotels near the blooms and where to get the best souvenirs.
Our essential cherry blossom guide was developed from all of the research and planning that we did as visitors trying to fly into Washington D.C. to see the blossoms at peak bloom. We understand the frustration of trying to time your travel to see the flowers, as well as finding the best bloom locations. Our guide is based on our week-long stay in the capital during peak bloom, and trying to find the best locations to stay at an affordable price.
Where to See the Cherry Blossom Blooms
Cherry blossom trees are located throughout Washington D.C., however there are a few special places to see a lot of trees with famous views. These are the best blossom locations:
The Tidal Basin is the number one place to see the cherry blossom trees at peak bloom. The entire Tidal Basin is surrounded by blooming trees close to the water’s edge. A sidewalk surrounds the entire Tidal Basin, making it easy to stroll under the cherry blossoms and get great photos.
You will find the iconic views of cherry blossoms and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial or the Washington Monument along the Tidal Basin. These are the images you will most likely see on social media or videos. It is easy to take a picture of the cherry blossoms with the Jefferson Memorial or Washington Monument in the distance across the water.
The sidewalk around the Tidal Basin is relatively flat and an easy walk for those with disabilities, using a wheelchair, or pushing a stroller.
For a unique view, rent a paddle boat to float on the water and see the cherry trees from a unique angle.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located along the Tidal Basin, as well. It deserves a special call out for the amount of beautiful cherry blossoms surrounding the plaza.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Another National Park Service memorial that is also located along the Tidal Basin. If you don’t walk the entire length of the Tidal Basin, be sure to visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial which is surrounded by cherry trees.
Washington Monument Area
The Washington Monument towers above the entire Washington D.C. skyline. Though views of the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin often show the Washington Monument in the distance, it is located in a different area. It is not a far walk to go to the Washington Monument from the Tidal Basin. Once there, you will find a row of cherry trees surrounding the base of the monument. The spacious green space does not have a huge amount of cherry trees, but it is a different view for the blossoms.
Watch this video of where to see the best cherry blossoms:
When Do The Cherry Blossoms Bloom?
When is the best time to go to Washington D.C. to see the cherry blossoms? Weather is a huge factor is predicting when the flowers will bloom, however late March to mid April seems to be the best time to plan a visit. Peak bloom time will only happen for one week, but a variety of cherry trees will be blooming for about four weeks in March and April.
There are a variety of different cherry blossoms to enjoy in Washington D.C. The first fluffy white flowers are what most visitors want to see. After the white flowers have peaked at the beginning of the season, other varieties of trees will start to bud, too. These flowers are often deeper pink.
When Is Peak Bloom?
The National Park Service horticulturists look after the famous cherry trees in Washington D.C. Based on weather forecasts, historical patterns and closely looking at the trees emerging from winter hibernation, they offer a “Peak Bloom” estimate each year. The estimated dates are when the NPS believes that 70% of the Yoshino Cherry blossoms will be opened.
Peak bloom time is a prediction, not a guarantee. It is impossible to know when Peak Bloom will occur until about 10 days before it happens. When the National Park Service horticulturists start to see green buds forming on the trees, they will then publish their prediction with a date range of when Peak Bloom will occur.
The date range offers several days during which the most blossoms will be open. Somewhere within this range will be the day when the cherry blossoms are technically at their best. However, the cherry blossom blooms will be beautiful for about 7-10 days around this Peak Bloom date, so don’t worry about missing the exact day.
In March 2022, Peak Bloom was March 21. The estimated Peak Bloom date range was predicted to be March 22-25. So in this year it actually peaked pretty early.
We planned our D.C. trip to include the entire peak bloom date range. We arrived on March 22 and found the day was absolutely gorgeous and the cherry trees were incredibly fluffy and white. On March 23 and 24 the trees were still very beautiful. In our visit, the weather turned rainy and very windy. Even after all of the inclement weather blowing the cherry blossom petals off, the trees were still nice to look at by March 26 and 27. This is all to say that even if you are not in town on the Peak Bloom date, you will still have really beautiful blossoms to enjoy.
The average peak bloom time has been April 3, using dates going back to 1921. However, current weather patterns and increased warming have made the peak bloom season much earlier for several years. Here are some examples from the past decade:
- 2022: March 21
- 2021: March 28
- 2020: March 20
- 2019: April 1
- 2018: April 5
- 2017: March 25
- 2016: March 25
- 2015: April 10
- 2014: April 10
- 2013: April 9
It can be difficult to plan a trip to Washington D.C. to enjoy Peak Bloom if you need to fly. You will have to be flexible and able to book tickets when the NPS announces the estimate date. It is wise to plan your visit during the entire date range so that you are not disappointed.
Where to Park
Parking in Washington D.C. during Cherry Blossom time can be a nightmare. Traffic comes to a standstill with an influx of visitors arriving by car and bus, along with normal daily traffic and commuter traffic. Large crowds of visitors walk across the city streets, slowing down cars and preventing them from passing. Traffic cops and National Park Service traffic control will be in the streets directing traffic and enforcing pedestrian walkways.
One of the largest parking areas near the Tidal Basin (located next to the paddle boat rentals) was completely shut down in 2022 to provide more area for visitors to walk, along with portable toilets to be set up. That is a lot of parking spaces that are removed from public use during the festival.
If you can, park outside of the city and take public transportation, such as the Metro, into Washington D.C. This will save you time and frustration, along with reduced parking fees.
We chose to fly into Washington D.C., rather than drive, to avoid the hassle of driving through the capital and parking. The overnight parking fee at our hotel was $55 a night. So, though the flights were more expensive than driving, we did save a lot of money by not having to pay parking fees.
It is much faster to walk from the hotels that I have listed below than to try to drive and park. We did find that the on-street parking around the Spy Museum near where we were staying was always completely full. Whether or not that was traffic for the museum, The Wharf or locals parking there and walking to the Tidal Basin I do not know.
National Cherry Blossom Festival
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is held for four weeks from mid March to mid April to celebrate the blooming trees with fun, food, and cultural events. The festival is held during the time frame when the cherry blossoms are usually blooming.
The 2022 National Cherry Blossom Festival is held March 20-April 17.
A variety of events are held throughout the month-long festival, including the opening ceremony, a kite festival, parade and more. The non-profit organization partners with the National Park Service for some events. See the entire list of festival events on the official Cherry Blossom Festival website.
Hotels Near the Cherry Blossoms
There are a variety of hotels located within walking distance of the cherry blossoms. No hotel is located on the Tidal Basin or by the National Monuments. The best hotels with close proximity to the blooms are:
- Mandarin Oriental (The absolute closest you will get to the Tidal Basin bloom area; the hotel overlooks the Tidal Basin and also has lovely cherry blossoms blooming in their courtyard.)
- Intercontinental – The Wharf
- Hyatt House – The Wharf
- Canopy by Hilton – The Wharf
- Hilton Washington D.C. National Mall / The Wharf
We stayed at the Hilton Washington D.C. National Mall/The Wharf for a week during our visit. It is a great centrally located hotel that is close for walking to the Tidal Basin and the Smithsonian museum area. The hotel is located right behind the Spy Museum. It was a 7 minute walk to The Wharf and about a 20 minute walk to the Tidal Basin.
While we enjoyed our location at the Hilton, it did have a few things we didn’t like. You can see our entire review with photos and understand why if I went back, I’d probably try to book at the Hyatt House (a comparable price to the Hilton), or the Canopy by Hilton or Intercontinental, which are a little bit more.
Cherry Blossom Gifts to Buy
Want to bring home a souvenir of your time enjoying the cherry blossoms? Most of the gift shops in Washington D.C. do offer items celebrating the famous blooms. However, there might not be as much variety as you’d expect from places such as Disney World or major festivals.
We enjoyed shopping for cherry blossom gifts and found a fun selection of postcards, magnets, pins, t-shirts and ornaments. The picture below shows some of the items we bought.
Not every gift shop will have the exact same merchandise. We found that some items could only be found in one location, so if you see something you like, get it!
Here are the best locations to buy cherry blossom souvenirs that we found:
- National Cherry Blossom Festival Gift Shop This temporary tent selling souvenirs had one of the biggest selections of gifts. It was located along the Tidal Basin where the food trucks and photo props were located. Their online gift shop also sells much of the same gifts.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Gift Shop We bought the majority of our cherry blossom gifts in this building that also sells presidential memorabilia by the memorial.
- National Archives The gift shop in the National Archives building is HUGE! They have a large selection of fun gifts.
- Freer Gallery of Art This Smithsonian museum showcases Asian art. Their gift shop has a large variety of cherry blossom gifts, which is fitting as the original cherry blossom trees are a gift from Japan.
Helpful Tip: The National Park Service is not using free plastic bags for you to carry your souvenirs. You will need to bring your own bag or purse to hold the gifts, or purchase a reusable bag. We had to purchase a bag and it cost $1.
Ready to plan your visit? Be sure to check out our Washington D.C. Packing List for all of the helpful things we brought (and those we wish we had).