Washington, D.C. residents start to get an itch around mid-February. We know spring is on the way. We start stalking our gardens and watching for tulip bulbs to peek out of the layers of fall mulch that kept them warm all winter long. Most important of all, we go on watch for the DC cherry blossoms.
DC Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin
Everyone knows about the DC Tidal Basin. The Japanese cherry blossom trees are famous and plenty of domestic and international visitors show up each year to look at, climb (even though it’s forbidden) and photograph the spectacular cherry blooms.
There is no “best time” to see the cherry blossoms unless you want to get up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise. This is when the pros go out to photograph without the crowds. Normal humans don’t like to do that though.
I suggest you head out before sunset and start walking. Many people stay close to the Jefferson Memorial to watch the sunset. You should keep walking around the basin to get the 360 views this walk provides.
Washington Monument Cherry Blossoms
Just a short walk from the Tidal Basin you will find the Washington Monument. Not many visitors know that there are cherry blossom trees here. The Monument can be a great place for families to hang out, especially if they don’t want to deal with the crowds. Mom and dad can snap their photos before letting the kids fly a kite on the National Mall.
National Arboretum Japanese Cherry Trees
The National Arboretum, on the east side of the city, is better known for its azaleas, but there is a beautiful cherry blossom walk or bike ride you can take throughout the park. This is one of the best spots to see cherry blossom trees if you don’t want to deal with the crowds.
Even during peek blooms (70% of the blooms are open on a tree), you can wander in on a weekday and only have a handful of people around you. To really get away from everyone, pop up to the Asian Gardens Collection. This is not the most well known cherry blossom spot in the Arboretum, but may be the most beautiful.
The Arboretum provides a printed cherry blossom guide to take you through acres of fields and woodlands. The guide is also handy as a makeshift scavenger hunt for energetic kids. Make sure you pack a few snacks or even a picnic lunch to make the most of your trip.
What to do if it rains in DC
Chances are it WILL rain at some point during the DC cherry blossom festival. It’s springtime. It happens. Although most people will stay indoors and avoid the Tidal Basin, this is actually the best time to go during the day if you want the place virtually to yourself. Throw on your rain boots, rain coats and grab an umbrella and start exploring.
National Cherry Blossom Festival in DC
Washington DC cherry blossoms are so beloved that we had to create a month long festival just to celebrate the blooms. Events include the Blossom Kite Festival, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, Southwest Waterfront Fireworks and art exhibits throughout the city. While almost all of the events are kid-friendly, do be mindful of the crowds.
Cherry blossom season is big in DC. If your child gets nervous when surrounded by thousands of people, you may want to find alternative ways to celebrate the spring blooms. There are several hotels, spas and restaurants that offer cherry blossom specials, including afternoon teas, massages and scrubs, and tasting menus. When the crowds keep you away, there is always an alternate to celebrate the DC cherry blossoms in the spring.
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Washington, D.C. Travel Resources
Your Washington, D.C. vacation doesn’t have to be stressful. We’ve got the resources you need to plan your trip and make the most out of your time in the city and surrounding area. If this is your first time to the capital region, check out our Washington, D.C. trip planner and itineraries.
For transportation, check out our D.C. driving guide and our guide on how to ride the metro. For those flying in, you’ll want to read our guides to BWI, DCA and IAD airports.
Dive into our things to do in D.C., which is always being updated and evolving to make sure you have the latest and greatest activities to fill your checklist of things to do. Don’t forget about food, the real reason we all travel, right? Our Washington, D.C. restaurant guide will get you started and lead you into neighborhoods full of delicious treats.
For more resources, check out our pages on Baltimore, Richmond and beyond.
Where to Stay in Washington, D.C.
Budget: When it comes to Washington, D.C. budget hotels, prices vary depending on the season. In the middle of October, a four-star hotel could be under $150, while in December it may be over $400. At any given time of year, though, Hotel Hive is a safe bet for value when it comes to resting your head. If you are looking for a hostel, Hi Washington D.C. Downtown is well located for exploring all of the D.C. museums, restaurants and bars at the fraction of the price of a hotel. Check rates and availability here.
Mid-range: Every USA hotel chain can be found in Washington, D.C., but stay at the St. Gregory Hotel when you want a local touch. The modern, light-filled rooms will welcome you to the city, whether you are in a studio or suite with wraparound terrace. The hotel is walking distance to Georgetown, the National Mall and Embassy Row, making it easy to explore without a rental car. Check rates and availability here.
Luxury: You are spoiled for choice when it comes to luxury hotels in Washington, D.C. We love cozying up at the Graham Georgetown, a sweet little boutique hotel in one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city. Check rates and availability here. Major hotel brands like The Fairmont, Mandarin Oriental, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons Hotel Washington D.C. and St. Regis Washington D.C. all have outposts here as well. If you want something a bit more historic, we recommend The Jefferson, Washington D.C. Ninety-nine rooms in this luxury boutique hotel bring together an attentive staff, petite spa, and the Michelin-starred Plume restaurant with all of the history you could hope for when you are in the nation’s capital. Check rates and availability here.
Family-friendly: We always gravitate towards the Kimpton hotels whenever we are traveling with kids. Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington D.C., once the General Post Office building, is located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood just four blocks off the National Mall near the National Gallery of Art. Price point is mid-range, depending on the time of year you visit. Parents will love the nightly wine events and evening nightcap perks as well as complimentary coffee and a tea bar each morning. Kids will love that they can borrow a fish friend for their stay, and that there is always a treat on hand that they can enjoy, and the robes are just their size. Kimpton also has adult and child-size bikes to borrow so you can cruise around town during your stay. Check rates and availability here.
Planning a Trip to Washington, D.C.? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Whether you are traveling domestically or coming from an international destination, travel insurance is a must for anyone coming to Washington, D.C. You will be exploring both inside and outdoors; hiking may even happen if you get adventurous. You could find yourself on a Segway or bike tour. The city is highly populated and accidents and crime do happen. This is not to scare you, but to prepare you for what could occur when you are checking out the free museums, exploring neighborhoods, finding the best food and learning about the local street art. Should something happen, travel insurance has you covered. Check rates and availability here.
We recommend and use Allianz Travel insurance. Our family is covered under a household plan, but their individual plans are just as robust if you are a solo traveler or a couple looking to get away. I’ve been a customer for more than five years and have always been in good hands with the Allianz team.
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