Each spring, more than 1.5 million people visit Washington, D.C., during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which in 2020 will be held from March 20 to April 12. Getting around the city during this popular event can be challenging, especially on the weekends. Parking is limited in the city, so the best way to get to the Tidal Basin (an inlet next to the Potomac River) and the National Mall is by public transportation.
A D.C. Circulator Bus (one bus in the fleet is painted pink for the occasion) will run every 10 minutes from Union Station to the Tidal Basin for $1. The hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The best way to get to the Tidal Basin is to take the Metro regional subway system to the Smithsonian Station. You should be prepared for long lines during peak visiting times, particularly on the weekends. To save time, purchase your Metro fare in advance either at a Metro station vending machine or online. Be sure to have enough fare value on your SmarTrip card or farecard to make a round trip.
From the Smithsonian Metro station, it's approximately 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) to the Tidal Basin Welcome Area. Walk south on 12th Street SW and turn right on Independence Ave SW. When you are near 14th Street SW, veer slightly left to stay on Independence Avenue SW until you reach the Tidal Basin.
If you choose to drive into the city, be aware that public parking is very limited near the National Mall so planning ahead is useful. On-street parking in Washington, D.C., is restricted during morning and evening rush hours, but you can reserve parking in advance through SpotHero and get a discount for the festival. If you choose to use a parking garage or public parking lot in the downtown area, expect to walk a good distance to reach the cherry trees on the Tidal Basin. The Hains Point parking lot in East Potomac Park has about 400 spaces and will fill up during peak times.
People with disabilities may park on West Basin Drive at the FDR Memorial, and on southbound Ohio Drive Southwest on the Washington Boundary Channel side of Hains Point (north of the intersection with Buckeye Drive Southwest).
The Cherry Blossom Shuttle—with a cost of just $1—runs from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial around Hains Point, making 11 stops along the route.
Bicycling to the Cherry Blossoms
During the National Cherry Blossom Festival, one of the best ways to get around Washington, D.C., may be by bicycle. Capital Bikeshare is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering various memberships such as single-day trips and three-day passes. The National Park Service will have bicycle parking areas at the Jefferson Memorial.
Seeing the cherry blossoms does require a lot of walking. If you do not get around so easily, you can always take a taxi to the Tidal Basin. Taxis and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are available throughout the city and will take you directly to the blossoms.
You can also take a water taxi from the Washington Harbour in Georgetown or from the Wharf to the Tidal Basin and enjoy viewing the blossoms from the water along the way. Try DC Water Taxi or Potomac River Boat Company. Sightseeing cruises are also a popular method of seeing the blossoms.