DC’s Stunning Cherry Blossoms Are a National Treasure to Behold
From the iconic Tidal Basin to hidden gems, the best places to see cherry blossoms in DC this spring.
Spring in DC is all about one thing: cherry blossoms.
The city’s iconic trees were first planted in 1912 when the Mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gifted 3,000 Yoshino Cherry Trees to the city. While over a dozen tree varieties now grow throughout the DMV, the most commonly found is still the OG Yoshino—which is also what devoted residents of the District fastidiously monitor through the Bloom Cam—with its iconic white and pink flowers and light almond scent.
The National Park Service predicts that this year’s peak bloom (aka when at least 70% of the Yoshino Cherry Trees are in bloom) will occur around March 22-25. And this year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival, which marks 111 years since the trees were first gifted, is expected to draw upwards of 1.5 million people from March 18 to April 16.
Synonymous with the District as the White House and tourists on The Mall, cherry blossom viewing draws in crowds from all corners of the country and the globe. But the good news, enjoying them includes options beyond the jam-packed Tidal Basin (although it’ll always be one of our faves).
There are also pockets of cherry trees in neighborhood parks and spots well off the beaten path as well. So, whether you want the iconic view of trees in bloom around the monuments or to discover a new favorite spot instead, here are 12 of the best places to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom in DC, Maryland, and Virginia this spring.
Nowhere in the DMV region is more closely associated with cherry blossoms than the Tidal Basin. And it’s for good reason: The Tidal Basin was the site of The District’s first cherry tree planting over a century ago. Today, the area is home to nearly 4,000 cherry trees (mostly of the Yoshino variety) that line the Basin’s path and spill out onto adjacent National Mall. A stroll around the Tidal Basin to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (mercifully no longer covered in scaffolding) is an obligatory DC spring walk, but keep going and extend your roam to pass the Japanese Pagoda, Japanese Lantern, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. A walk here at the height of peak bloom is nothing short of iconic.
Tucked in on the far eastern edge of DC, the US Arboretum boasts 446 sprawling acres and 9.5 miles of roadways (both cars and bikes are allowed here). The Arboretum is home to several varieties of cherry trees, including three different hybrids that were developed on site. Cherries aren’t the only flowering trees at the Arboretum; visitors this spring will be treated to dogwoods, magnolias, crab apple, and other flowering trees. Find your way among the blooms with the Arboretum’s free app which offers flowering tree guides and maps. Heads up: pack a picnic and recline under the bloom cover.
The 600+ acre Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members and their families, and is one of the most beautiful and peaceful spots in the DMW. In springtime, the cemetery’s blooming trees stand as a stunning tribute to America’s service members. There are over 417 spring-blooming cherry trees throughout the grounds and the cemetery’s website provides a helpful guide to landscape’s flowering trees.
A far more understated place to see the cherries in their prime is Stanton Park in Capitol Hill. The compact four-acre park may be small, but its walkways, lined with blossoming cherry trees, pack a punch. The park is named for Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, and has been a public park since the 1870s. Today, it’s popular with locals out for walks and picnics. While it draws more people when the trees are in full bloom, it’s a good place to admire the blooms (or stop for an impromptu photoshoot) while avoiding crowds.
Dumbarton Oaks is an oasis in the city filled with blooms. The 53-acre property and Harvard University research institute is located at the highest point in Georgetown and boasts grounds worthy of a day’s wander. Meticulously cultivated to feature flowering trees and plants throughout the year, there are several spots not to be missed, perhaps most notably, Cherry Hill, located on a remote slope of the gardens and awash in cherry trees. Don’t miss the Prunus Walk (for flowering plum trees) and Forsythia Dell, as well. Purchase a $7 day pass in advance to reserve your stroll.
If you want to avoid tourists altogether, Hains Point Loop, the area at the southernmost end of East Potomac Park, is the perfect destination. Just over four miles, the loop is lined with cherry trees and offers views of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, as well as DC’s Wharf. The park is accessible by foot or bike from the 14th Street Bridge and by car via Ohio Drive.
The cherry trees at DC’s Congressional Cemetery are on a schedule of their own thanks to their unique varietals. The cemetery is home to both Okame Cherry Trees, which tend to bloom up to two weeks before the Yoshino cherries elsewhere in The District, and well as Kwanzan Cherry Trees which can bloom up to two weeks after the Yoshinos. The Congressional Cemetery is one the city’s best kept secrets, and now a popular place for dogs and their human parents to enjoy fresh air. Stroll through to catch a first or last glimpse of the city’s riot of spring color.
The Meadowlark Botanical Gardens offers walking paths through 95 acres of gardens, woodlands, and a lake. The gardens (there are 30 of them!) are home to approximately 100 cherry trees. The trees here tend to reach peak bloom a few days after those at the Tidal Basin. Take them in while enjoying views of Fairfax County’s Piedmont Hills. Make sure to walk by the Gardens’ Korean Bell Garden and visit the restored 18th century log cabin.
Old Town Alexandria
The 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail is an accessible biking and walking trail that runs from DC to Virginia. The scenic path leads you through waterfront and woods, past Old Town Alexandria, and eventually to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. You’ll find blooming cherries, and early spring flowers, intermittently along the path.
Old Town Alexandria
Any stroll through Alexandria’s Old Town during cherry blossom season will inevitably lead you past dozens of trees in bloom, but make sure to step into the historic Carlyle House Garden. This private house museum and gardens in Alexandria is popular for weddings and engagement photos, and for good reason: it’s flush with cherry trees.
Glenstone, while a good distance from DC, is a trip so worth the drive. The park/museum offers 300 acres of art, architecture, and gardens. Snagging a free, timed ticket here is nearly equivalent to an Olympic sport, but should you be so fortunate, make your way here at the first sign of the blossoms. In addition to its indoor museum, Glenstone offers walking paths that swerve artfully past contemporary sculptures, open meadows, and mossy forests.
Located in Maryland’s Montgomery Country, Brookside Gardens spans 50 acres of public gardens including an azalea garden (in bloom shortly after the cherry blossoms), rose garden, and a Japanese-style garden. Brookside is home to 26 cherry trees, a mix of Yoshino and the rarer weeping cherry. Notably, admission to Brookside Gardens is free.