The most popular (and arguably the best) time of year to visit Washington DC is in the springtime, during cherry blossom season, when the city comes alive with the iconic pink flowers. The cherry blossoms line the Tidal Basin, the National Mall, as well as many of DC’s streets, and spring in the District is not something to be missed.
History of DC’s Famous Blossoms
The Cherry Blossom Festival takes place every year to commemorate Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to Washington DC in 1912 to mark the friendship between the two cities. The festival has grown into a celebration of spring as the trees begin to bloom and new life returns to the District of Columbia each year.
When / Where to View
The estimated peak time to view DC’s famous cherry blossoms this year is between March 17-20 (National Park Service estimate) or between March 23-27 (Capitol Weather Gang). However, barring unusual weather conditions such as a late frost, the beautiful blooms will be visible for several weeks in late March and early April.
The “peak” time is when experts estimate that 70 percent of the blooms will be visible, making all of your springtime on the National Mall Instagram dreams come true. However, peak cherry blossom season also brings peak crowds down to the area. The best and most popular places to view the blooms are along the Tidal Basin and the National Mall, with Washington’s famous monuments rising dramatically in the background. If you choose, you can also rent a boat and paddle around the Tidal Basin for another angle on DC’s most famous attraction.
Typically, the National Mall and the Tidal Basin will be less crowded on weekdays, early in the morning, or later in the evening, so plan your visit accordingly.
Also, make sure you book accommodation early if you’re planning to spend a weekend in DC, as this is the most popular time of year to visit the District and rooms will book up quickly.
2018 Cherry Blossom Festivities
The return of the cherry blossoms also marks the return of DC’s annual springtime celebrations. The National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off on March 10th and runs through April 15th, with events every weekend (full schedule here).
The major events to note are:
- March 24: Blossom Kite Festival
- Experience the beauty and skill of kite makers and kite fliers in a variety of competitions and demonstrations on the National Mall.
- April 6: 20th Annual Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk
- This non-competitive walk around the National Mall commemorates the role of Japanese Americans in World War II and encourages the defense of civil liberties for all Americans.
- April 7: Petalpalooza
- Head down to the Wharf on the Southwest Waterfront for a day full of live music, games, interactive art, and of course, fireworks.
- April 14: National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
- Head to Constitution Ave to watch floats and live music meander down the parade route in the Cherry Blossom Festival’s most popular event. You can sit in the grandstands for $20 per person, or you can stand along Constitution Ave to watch the spectacles for free!
In addition the the festivities along the Tidal Basin and the National Mall, be sure to visit BloomiaMarket, a pop-up tulip festival at DC’s City Center from March 15 to April 15, and hit up the Cherry Blossom Pop-up Bar in Shaw between March 1 and April 29.
Be sure to look for cherry blossom-themed events and discounts at hotels and restaurants throughout the city to continue your celebration of spring throughout your visit. For more on what to see while you’re in town, be sure to check out my guide on how to spend 48 hours exploring Washington DC.
Hanna (Bubu Backpacks)
P.S. – For more DC photo inspiration, be sure to follow me on Instagram at @bubu_backpacks!
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, all of my photos of the cherry blossom festival were lost when my phone was stolen back in 2016. Unless otherwise noted, the photos in this post are from the creative commons and are not my own.