The National Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the biggest events of the year in Washington D.C. I went down one year on a lovely Sunday evening and watched thousands of frustrated people stuck in their cars in a traffic jam. Don't be one of them!
The 2020 Cherry Blossom Festival will be held March 20-April 12. Check out the National Cherry Blossom Festival website for peak blossom dates and details on the opening ceremony, kite festival, and the festival parade.
Here are my insider tips for how to celebrate spring and enjoy the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Tips for Avoiding Crowds
If your goal is amazing family pictures with the cherry blossoms, you need to go EARLY. Weekends are the most crowded, but I've been during the day on a weekday and walked through areas so crowded it was hard to navigate my stroller.
Crowds also tend to thin later in the evening, but the early morning hours are definitely the calmest. Everywhere will be packed on Saturday and Sunday, but you can still enjoy the blossoms. Just expect crowds.
Another way to avoid crowds? Go on a rainy, drizzly day. Your pictures may not be perfect, but the blossoms will be there and the people will not.
Do not drive your car to the Cherry Blossom Festival on the weekend! I cannot stress this enough. It's just not worth it.
I usually drive into Washington D.C. with my large family, but this outing is so much easier on the Metro. Ride to the Smithsonian station (orange/blue line). From there, it's a short walk to the Tidal Basin.
If you decide to drive (early in the morning or on a weekday,) head toward Ohio Drive and follow the signs for the Cherry Blossom parking. Street parking is available along Ohio Drive all the way to Hains Point.
The walk toward the Tidal Basin along the Potomac is lined with beautiful cherry trees and is far less crowded than the Tidal Basin. Wear your walking shoes because you might walk well over a mile before you even arrive at the Tidal Basin.
The official Festival website offers more tips, including an option to reserve a parking space in advance.
Watch for Peak Bloom Time
The peak bloom time can last as few as two or three days or as long as a week. If you want to see the cherry blossoms at their peak, watch the forecast carefully. A strong rain or wind storm can pull most of the blossoms off the trees, so watch the weather.
The cherry blossoms start as white as popcorn, turning pink as they mature. Toward the end of the blossoms, you will find trees filled with pink blossoms and small, new green leaves.
These two pictures were taken exactly one week apart.
Wear Your Walking Shoes
The best way to enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival is on foot. You can savor the blossoms slowly and avoid a lot of traffic problems.
Blossom Kite Festival
This event is so fun for families! We went down early in the morning and found street parking, but the festivities run all day. We loved getting an early start and flying our kites near the Washington Monument before the sky got crowded. As the morning passed, the sky filled with hundreds of kites, including some pretty amazing trick kites we all loved watching.
If you go early, dress warmly. We were colder than we thought we would be at 9:00 AM on a spring morning. We wished we had hats and mittens.
Check Out the Paddle Boats
Paddle boat rentals on the Tidal Basin are a popular way to enjoy the cherry blossoms. Find reservation information at http://www.tidalbasinpaddleboats.com/.
Is a Cherry Blossom Cruise Worth It?
Knowing how much I love the National Cherry Blossom Festival, my husband surprised me with a Groupon for a cherry blossom cruise. In theory, this is a brilliant date night. These cruises are popular and you need to reserve your spot early.
We looked at the forecast and booked our cruise during the forecasted peak blossom time. But as our cruise date dawned, this is what the cherry blossoms looked like:
The trees blossomed three days later than their estimated peak time, so we were out of luck.
If you do take a cruise, be aware that the cruise is on the Potomac river, not inside the Tidal Basin. You won't see the trees up close.
Our cruise was crowded – not enough seats, people blocking your view, etc. I highly recommend walking around the Tidal Basin instead of taking a cruise if seeing the blossoms is your top priority.
There are lots of ways to enjoy these beautiful blooms in Washington D.C. However you choose to enjoy this celebration of spring, I hope these tips will help you make the most the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
How else can we help?
Need a place to stay? There are a lot of great hotels and vacation rentals in Washington D.C. Here are a few that Allison has tried. They are all near a Metro station, and within walking distance of popular attractions.
- Kimpton Hotel Madera – Stylish hotel in Dupont Circle neighborhood with family-sized rooms.
- Omni Shoreham – Beautiful historic hotel near the National Zoo, National Cathedral and Rock Creek Park.
- Hotel Harrington – Historic hotel in a great location, but it's showing its age. Good for families on a tighter budget.
Click the button below to check rates and availability for these hotels and others at TripAdvisor.
Do you know about the Go Washington DC Pass? Save up to 40% on admission to Mount Vernon, International Spy Museum and more attractions of your choice. Click the button to learn more.