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 3,000 cherry trees given to our nation's capital in 1912 as a gift of friendship from the people of Japan. This multi-week, city-wide festival features international cultural performances and other special events, from art exhibits to foodie gatherings. Blossoming cherry trees symbolize the arrival of spring and brighten the Tidal Basin area with vibrant pink and white flowers.

It's the city's most beautiful time of the year, which, historically, makes it D.C.'s busiest tourist season. Be sure to make hotel reservations far in advance to assure they don't sell out and utilize public transportation whenever you can to avoid parking issues.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival will take place from March 18 through April 16, 2023. Please check the event's website for up-to-date information.

01 of 07

Explore the Tidal Basin's Cherry Trees

Tidal Basin

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People flock to the National Cherry Blossom Festival primarily to view the cherry trees located along the Tidal Basin. Experiencing the breathtaking views of the trees backdropped by the city's most iconic landmarks is a bucket list endeavor. Sharpen up your photography skills before you come, so you can post a few high-quality photos on your social media page.

The best time to walk the Basin without crowds is in the early morning (this time of day also provides the best light for photos). Additionally, the East side of the Tidal Basin (between the National Mall and the Jefferson Memorial) tends to get more congested as the day goes on.

For those who prefer to view the blossoms from home, you can enjoy the blooms from anywhere in the world with the Bloom Cam.

02 of 07

Visit the Memorials on the Tidal Basin

Jefferson Memorial

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Cherry blossom season is the prettiest of year to see the memorials and learn about the life and contributions of historical presidents and leaders. The Jefferson Memorial, in particular, resides at a prime spot on the Tidal Basin. From the steps of the memorial, you can enjoy great views of the National Mall and the White House.

Take a walk over to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial to revel in the park-like atmosphere with waterfalls and bronze statues that honor the iconic president. Next, follow the Tidal Basin to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, where you can pay tribute to the contributions of the most recognized civil rights leader in the United States. All of the memorials have National Park Service programs that provide insight into the historic sites.

03 of 07

Paddleboat the Tidal Basin

Tidal Basin pedal boats

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Rent a paddleboat for two or four passengers to enjoy spectacular views of the cherry trees and the monuments from the water. This gets you away from crowds and closer to nature, as you experience the serenity of floating on a man-made reservoir. Advanced reservations for paddleboats are recommended during the festival due to high demand, and you must be at least 16 years old to operate one without an adult. This fun family activity is a good way to entertain kids while tiring them out at the same time.

04 of 07

Take a Guided Sightseeing Tour

Biking in West Potomac Park, Washington DC
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Guided cherry blossom tours give a detailed account of what you are seeing, making your National Cherry Blossom Festival experience more holistic. However, they are popular, so it is helpful to plan ahead and book your tour in advance.

  • See the capital's top sights by booking a guided city tour via trolley, Segway, bicycle, boat, or by foot. These tours, usually run by knowledgeable locals, will give you the details of every site you pass by.
  • Enjoy free ranger-led cherry blossom programs with the National Park Service to learn about the history of cherry blossom trees. Programs run from March 18 through April 15. The Park Service also offers junior ranger programs.
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05 of 07

Taste Cherry-Infused Food and Drink

Cherry Food

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During the National Cherry Blossom Festival, food purveyors throughout the city add cherries to many of their recipes, incorporating the fruit into everything from entrees to cocktails to desserts. Past menus have included a brie and prosciutto crostini with cherry chutney, Atlantic salmon with pistachio and dried cherry couscous, and a cherry and crispy goat cheese salad. You can also enjoy specialty cocktails like Pisco Macerado, a twist on the classic Pisco Sour with dried sour cherries.

06 of 07

Enjoy Japanese-Centric Presentations

Japanese Performers

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The National Cherry Blossom Festival is not only a celebration of spring but also a tribute to Japanese culture. Special events and performances feature Japanese art and history, as well as the longstanding friendship between the United States and Japan. On March 25, 2023, the opening ceremony features performances from acclaimed artists showcasing Japanese culture, like Travis Japan, a pop performance group from Tokyo.

07 of 07

Attend the Festival's Other Events

Japanese cherry blossoms and Jefferson Memorial
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In addition to the opening ceremony, the festival showcases a variety of fun events. There's a kite festival, taking place at various parks in the D.C. metro area; the two-day Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, which boasts plenty of food vendors; and the Anacostia River Festival. On top of that, there's a cherry blossom parade, a fireworks show, and more to enjoy.