The Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual, city-wide event in Washington, D.C. in the spring featuring more than 200 international cultural performances and more than 90 other special events.
In 1912, the people of Japan sent 3,020 cherry trees to the United States as a gift of friendship. First Lady Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two cherry trees on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin. These two original trees are still standing today near the John Paul Jones statue at the south end of 17th Street. Workmen planted the remainder of the trees around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park. In the early 1990s, the Cherry Blossom Festival became a two-week long celebration, and now it's expanded into a multi-week celebration. To learn more, read Ann McClellan's book "The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration."
Visiting Washington, D.C. during cherry blossom season is truly a sight to behold. Here's what you need to know about planning your trip to the nation's capital during this special season.
When to Visit
The date when the cherry blossoms reach their peak bloom varies from year to year, depending on the weather. The dates of the National Cherry Blossom Festival are set based on the average date of blooming, which is around April 4th. The dates are predicted each year by the National Park Service.
How to Get There
The best way to get to the Tidal Basin and the National Mall is by public transportation. It is about a 10 minute walk from the Smithsonian Metro Station. From the station, walk west on Independence Avenue, continue until you reach the grassy area of the Basin or to stay on a paved walkway, turn left on Raoul Wallenberg Place SW and follow it to the Basin. Additional Metro stations nearby include L'Enfant Plaza and Foggy Bottom.
It is very difficult to drive there during this time of year due to the crowds and lack of parking, but if you must, here is a map and driving information.
The Type of Trees You Will See
There are approximately 3,750 cherry trees on the Tidal Basin. Most of the trees are Yoshino Cherry. Other species include Kwanzan Cherry, Akebono Cherry, Takesimensis Cherry, Usuzumi Cherry, Weeping Japanese Cherry, Sargent Cherry, Autumn Flowering Cherry, Fugenzo Cherry, Afterglow Cherry, Shirofugen Cherry, and Okame Cherry.
Some cherry trees are also located in some quieter places around the region.
The Best Tips for Avoiding Crowds
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the more heavily attended annual events in Washington, DC. Visit the Tidal Basin early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the largest crowds. The largest crowds visit on the weekends. Many of Washington’s most popular attractions will be very busy as well. Plan ahead and make reservations or buy admission tickets in advance.
Where to Stay
The Washington, D.C. area has a wide range of places to stay, including hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts. You can find cheap hotels and luxury accommodations near the National Mall or you may consider staying in the nearby suburbs.
What to Eat Nearby
Washington, D.C. has hundreds of fantastic restaurants featuring cuisine from all over the world. Many local restaurants offer special dishes and add cherries to some of their recipes during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. For details, see a guide to Washington's Cherry Picks. The museum cafes are expensive and often crowded but are the most convenient places to dine on the National Mall. There are a variety of restaurants and eateries within walking distance to the museums as well.
What Else to Do in Washington, D.C. During the Spring
The spring is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy a variety of family fun activities in the Washington, D.C. area. From outdoor recreation to community events to visiting historical and cultural attractions, there are endless opportunities for fun around the region, including some hidden gems.