Fun & Weird
Tips For Visiting the DC Cherry Blossom Festival
The DC cherry blossoms are peaking in the next couple of days and the National Mall and Tidal Basin are going to turn into a beautiful madhouse with bumper to bumper traffic. The silver lining for drivers? At least you’ll have plenty of time to take in the blooms.
Here are my tips for maximizing the experience and minimizing your inconvenience.
Getting to the DC Cherry Blossom Festival
One way to see the blooms is to drive around the National Mall and Tidal Basin. Be aware that depending on time of day, this could take several hours, walking is faster mid-day. I remember over a decade ago having a work lunch picnic under the trees. I tried to repeat that for my department 4 years ago and we wound up sitting in traffic on Haynes Point for 2 1/2 hours.
So unless you’re blessed with lots of patience and a big gas tank, I recommend other options.
- Reserve a parking space a few blocks north of the National Mall. Both ParkNow and Parking Panda have handy cherry blossom festival DC maps that allow you to see all your options and reserve a space in advance, saving you the frustration of driving around trying to find an empty lot with the best price. New Parking Panda users can get $5 in credits signing up with this link.
- Be ready for on-street parking. Most DC street parking meters are equipped with ParkMobile, an online app that lets you pay via your phone, saving you the frantic search for spare change.
- Take the metro to the Mall. You can park far outside of the city and metro in, saving hassle. Just be prepared, it’s not exactly “easy” walking distance. Even getting off at the Smithsonian, L’enfant Plaza or Federal Triangle, which are closest to the Mall, is still a 20+ minute hike to the Tidal Basin.
- Take a tour bus. You’ll still be sitting in traffic but you’ll be able to jump on and off and won’t be the one driving. Plus options like Big Bus Washington offer open-top buses perfect for catching the sunshine and falling blossoms.
- Rent a bike. This is probably the easiest way to see the most! There are plenty of bike rental companies and you can even grab one from the Metro’s Capital Bikeshare option which allows you to pick up and return at different metro locations.
Other Ways to Experience the Cherry Blossoms
- Potomoc Cruise — there are a ton of discounted river cruise options on sites like LivingSocial and Groupon that offer refreshments and great views of both sides of the river.
- Easter Sunrise Service — if you observe Easter, there’s no better way to celebrate the Resurrection then the sunrise service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the reflection pool and trees in the background.
Alternative Places to View the DC Cherry Blossoms
If you want to avoid crowds by the Tidal Basin and traffic there are other places in the DC area to see some beautiful cherry blossoms.
- Haynes Point — you’re still going to have to deal with traffic, but if you go all the way to the end there’s usually fewer people and plenty of grass to spread out and picnic.
- The National Arboretum offers more 40 different varieties of flowering cherry trees.
- Meadowlake Botanical Gardens out in Vienna, VA feature walking paths around a lake surrounded with cherry blossoms
- Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown has beautiful gardens and historic sites.
- Chevy Chase’s Kenwood neighborhood offers beautiful homes and trees to stroll by.
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