Tips for the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.
The cherry blossoms are almost here! It’s hard to believe after this never-ending winter, but the cherry blossom trees are predicted to be at their peak bloom on April 5, 2018, with the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. starting March 17 and running through April 15.
Plan your trip to Washington, D.C. for the latter half of the festival to see the trees at their best. For future years, check with the National Park Service to get their prediction for the peak bloom time. This is an absolutely beautiful time to visit Washington, D.C., and here are some tips for enjoying the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Where to See the Cherry Blossom Trees
Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park
The most popular place to see the cherry blossom trees is the area surrounding the Tidal Basin, near the Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorials. More than 1.5 million people are expected to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival, so a little advance planning is critical. Given that most young children are up early, pack a picnic breakfast and hit the road as soon as possible.
The closest Metro stop, Smithsonian on the blue/orange line, is about a mile walk from the FDR and Thomas Jefferson Memorials; however, taxis in Washington, D.C. are actually fairly reasonable, certainly faster, and much less crowded than the Metro during peak season. When traveling with children, I’d opt for a taxi or one of the mobile app based car services such as Uber or Lyft. If you’re looking for a place to stay, Capital Hilton offers a central location and is less than two miles from the Tidal Basin.
The National Park Service has a detailed map of the Tidal Basin area that illustrates places to see the trees, as well as which varieties to find where. As of press time, the NPS only had available the 2014 map, but this is still accurate for the locations of the cherry trees. Children also can sign up to get a Cherry Blossom Junior Ranger Badge. Read more about the fun and educational U.S. National Parks Junior Ranger program.
Finally, consider joining a free, guided tour led by a National Park Ranger. The Rangers are very enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about the parks for which they are stewards. These ranger-led tours are always the highlights of our trips. You can find a listing of all ranger-led programs at the National Park Service website.
National Arboretum and Meadowlark Gardens
The Tidal Basin area is beautiful, but not the only place to see cherry blossoms in the Washington, D.C. area. If you want to escape the crowds, visit the U.S. National Arboretum or Meadowlark Botanical Gardens.
The National Arboretum is a short 15-minute drive from the center of Washington, D.C. and is home to many different varieties of cherry trees. They offer a self-guided tour of the cherry trees, ideal if you have a car, or you can take one of their tram tours for a small fee. While you may be here to see the cherry trees, make sure to also visit the bonsai collection. This is a gorgeous collection and children are fascinated with these ancient, miniature trees. Also, bring quarters to buy food to feed the koi at the Administration Building.
The Meadowlark Botanical Gardens are in Vienna, Virginia and can be reached by car in about 30 minutes from Washington, D.C. They have a paved pathway throughout the gardens, ideal for navigating with a stroller. Not only do they have cherry trees, but they have a lovely little children’s garden, a pond where you can feed the fish, and children can earn a small prize by completing the Official Junior Explorer Plant Checklist.
Blossom Kite Festival
The Blossom Kite Festival is always held as part of the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. and is simply amazing to see with the sheer number and variety of kites. This year it is being held on March 31 on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Make sure to bring your own kite for the kids to fly; once they see all the kites in the air, they will definitely want to try their hand at it! Go to the Blossom Kite Festival web site to see the list of activities planned for the day.
Navigating the Cherry Blossom Festival
To find out more information about the Cherry Blossom Festival, visit their website for general information about the Festival and related events. Also, check out the new Blossom Kids website, that helps kids learn about the trees, as well as play games and create artwork related to the cherry blossoms.
Finally, at the end of the long day of sightseeing, visit one of the many restaurants around town that offer special cherry blossom-themed drinks and food. A particular favorite is Jaleo, just a few blocks north of the Mall. They’re offering a few cherry themed tapas. It’s the perfect ending to a cherry filled day!
You may also enjoy:
- A Local’s Guide to Washington, D.C. Attractions for Kids
- Top Five Things to Do in Washington, D.C. with Kids
- Five Ways to See Washington, D.C. Attractions Without a Car
- Capital Hilton – A Great Family Hotel in Washington, D.C.
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