How to Experience the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC

National Cherry Blossom Festival

 Taylor McIntyre / TripSavvy

Washington, D.C., welcomes the arrival of spring with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, an annual tradition that showcases the beautiful gift of 3,000 cherry trees that the city of Tokyo gave to our nation’s capital in 1912. The annual multi-week, city-wide event features over 150 daily international cultural performances and more than 90 other special events. From arts and exhibits to cuisine and sports, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this event that runs from March 20 through April 12, 2020.

Blossoming cherry trees symbolize the arrival of spring and brighten the area surrounding the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin with their vibrant pale pink and white flowers. The National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off the busy tourist season in Washington, D.C., and includes many special activities near the monuments and the museums on the National Mall.

The cherry blossom season is Washington, D.C.’s most beautiful time of year, and there are plenty of things to do to enjoy the season. If you are visiting from out of town, it is a good idea to make hotel reservations in advance.

Getting to the Cherry Blossom Festival

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 and the National Mall is by public transportation.

01 of 07

Explore the Cherry Trees Around the Tidal Basin

Tidal Basin

Kevin VoelkerPhotography / Getty Images

The cherry trees on the Tidal Basin are the main attraction during Washington, D.C.'s National Cherry Blossom Festival. Take a stroll along the Basin and enjoy the breathtaking views of the trees and the city's most iconic landmarks. Be sure to sharpen your photography skills so you can take some great photos. The best time to walk around and avoid the crowds is early morning. The East side of the Tidal Basin (between the National Mall and the Jefferson Memorial) tends to get the most congested.

02 of 07

Visit the Memorials on the Tidal Basin

Jefferson Memorial
Getty Images

The cherry blossom season is the most beautiful time of year to see the memorials on the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The Jefferson Memorial sits at a prime spot on the Basin. Learn about the life and contributions of our third president and writer of the Declaration of Independence. Sit on the steps of the Memorial and you will see some great views of the National Mall. You can even see the White House if you look directly ahead.

Take a walk over to the FDR Memorial to enjoy the park-like atmosphere with its waterfalls and bronze statues that honor President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. If you follow the Tidal Basin around farther, you will come across the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, where visitors honor the contributions of the most recognized Civil Rights leader in the U.S. All of the memorials have National Park Service programs that provide insight about the historic sites.

03 of 07

Go Pedal Boating on the Tidal Basin

Tidal Basin pedal boats

L. Toshio Kishiyama / Getty Images

As long as one of the passengers is at least 16 years old, visitors can rent a pedal boat for two or four passengers and enjoy spectacular views of the cherry trees and the monuments from the water. Advanced reservations are recommended during the National Cherry Blossom Festival due to high demand. This is a fun activity for all ages and is a good way to entertain kids while attending the festival.

04 of 07

Take a Guided Sightseeing Tour

Biking in West Potomac Park, Washington DC
Jason Colston / Getty Images

During the National Cherry Blossom Festival, guided tours are very popular so it is helpful to plan ahead and book your tour in advance. You can enjoy a wide range of excursions.

  • Guided City Tours: See the capital's top sights on a guided trolley or walking tour, by bicycle, by Segway, by duck boat, and more.
  • Free Cherry Blossom Walking Tours: Take a free tour with a National Park Service ranger and learn about the history of the cherry blossom trees and beyond. Tours available are Pups ‘n’ Petals Dog Walks and Lantern Tours.
  • Cherry Blossom Cruises: Enjoy spectacular views of the cherry blossoms from a boat. Excursions range from 40-minute sightseeing tours to a 2.5-hour dinner cruise.​
Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Try Some Cherry-Infused Food and Drink

Cherry Food

Zouryana Ivchenko / Getty Images

Enjoy a special meal at one of the eateries in the Washington's Cherry Picks program. Restaurants around Washington, D.C., add cherries to many of their recipes during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in everything from entrees to cocktails and desserts. Past dishes have included brie and prosciutto crostini with cherry chutney, Atlantic salmon couscous pistachio, dried cherries, or sherry cherry crispy goat cheese salad.

Enjoy some specialty cocktails like Pisco Macerado, a twist on the classic Pisco Sour with dried sour cherries soaked in Pisco.

06 of 07

Enjoy Free Cultural Performances

Japanese Performers

Masahiro Makino / Getty Images

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a celebration of spring but also a cultural event that honors the Japanese culture. More than 150 cultural performances and demonstrations are held daily during the festival featuring traditional and contemporary music, dance, song, and martial arts demonstrations.

The stage is located at the Tidal Basin Welcome Area with daily performances from noon to 6 p.m. The lineup will include a wide variety of cultural offerings including vocalists, bands, dancers, drum performances, exhibitions, and more. Live entertainment is also a big part of many of the special events that are held throughout the festival.

07 of 07

Attend the Special Events

Japanese cherry blossoms and Jefferson Memorial
Dennis Johnson / Getty Images

A wide variety of events are associated with the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The most popular gatherings include the Cherry Blossom Family Days, the Blossom Kite Festival, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, and the fireworks display on the Southwest Waterfront.

The 2020 National Cherry Blossom Festival Signature Events include the Opening Ceremony on March 21; the Blossom Kite Festival on March 28; the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 4; and Petalpalooza on April 11.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival Premier Events in 2020 include the SAAM Cherry Blossom Celebration on March 21; the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival on April 4, and the Anacostia River Festival on April 5.

Was this page helpful?