Where to See Cherry Blossoms in DC: Washington’s Secret Spots!

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Cherry blossoms have become a hallmark of the chic spring trip these days. Originating in Japan, these beautiful trees and their fabulous blossoms were special as they marked the start of rice-planting season. Their blooming was also taken as a signal of how the years harvest would fare. With the import of cherry trees to America, many people today flock to Washington DC to bask in their beauty. But with so much attention popular spots become over-crowded. And you don’t want those picture postcard photos you take to be spoilt by crowds, do you? Never fear, we are here to arm you with all the knowledge: where to See cherry blossoms in DC, plus those secret hidden spots for 2021.

So, join us on our virtual tour of this glorious city! Where we will explore top touristy locations you can see cherry blossoms in the nation’s capital, what time of year is best to visit, and the secret spots to get the best pictures! Plus, a little dive into cherry blossom species, and how you can tell them apart.

Are you ready to become one of Washington DC’s seminal cherry blossom experts? We thought so, let’s go!

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Are there Cherry Blossoms in DC right now?

Whilst there are a few times you can spot cherry blossoms throughout the year, the biggest and best times to see then is in March and April. As in Japan, cherry blossoms bloom throughout spring, which is why they have such gravitas. They herald warmer weather, the coming of summer, and lighter days ahead! No wonder they bring so much joy to everyone who beholds their beauty.

In Washington DC, this is no different. Every year, the citizens of the city mark the time with gusto, holding the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This runs from March 20th to April 12th. Expect to see cherry blossom tours, family friendly parades, live music, and picnics and much more!

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The festival is held over this period as this is when trees are expected to be in peak bloom, though this differs each year and is dependent on temperature and rainfall. Peak bloom has been known to happen as early as mid March, and as late as mid April. There really is no hard an fast rule with nature!

The event is organised by the national park service, and you can find lots of updated information for each years festivities on the official website.

However, there are also some species which can be found to flower in short bursts around mid autumn. So, let’s have a look at the kinds of cherry trees you can expect to see in the capital.

What Types of Cherry Blossom are found in DC? Where to spot them

The bulk of the cherry trees in Washington DC can be found in Potomac Park where there are around 3,800 trees, and 11 species in total. These were gifted to the capital by the Japanese Government in 1912. Here, we will focus on these 11 species as these are the most likely to be spotted on your walks around the city.

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Yoshino Cherry

The largest amount of cherry trees in Potomac park are Yoshino, roughly three quarters of the total in Washington. When in bloom, white almond scented flowers grow in clusters of between two and five. The trees themselves can grow to be 50 foot tall!

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Kwanzan Cherry

These make up one seventh of the population, and the trees often grow to be wider than it is tall! Blushing pink flowers that take on the appearance of a powder puff, with a green stamen reaching out from the centre of the flower. These hang low and often congregating in clusters of three to five.

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Takesimensis Cherry

Making up 5% of the population, these tree grow tall, and can be around 40 foot tall at maturity. Flowers a formed of a small number of white petals with collection of pink stamens in the centre.

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Autumn Flowering Cherry

So named for their ability to flower randomly in warmer winter spikes, then flower outright the following spring. These are very obvious to spot in winter, in spring they can be discerned by their pinkish white petals, which form a wide semi-double layered fan around the central cluster of small green stamens.

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Akebono Cherry

These cute flowers are formed of a single layer of fanned petals fading from pink to white at the tip. Trees can also grow to anywhere between 30 and 50 feet at maturity, and formulate around 3% of the total population.

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Weeping Cherry

This is an obvious one to spot as the branches hang down like that of a willow, spilling its pinkish flowers toward the ground and trailing close to the floor. Trees can grow between 20 to 40 feet tall, and create a great photo opportunity! There are a huge variety of flower varieties in weeping cherry trees, so these are rather special. A fun game is to spot the different kinds as you walk through parks. Though there are a very small number in DC, making up around 2% of the total population.

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Usuzumi Cherry

These are generally found in West Potomac Park, and make up around 1% of the total population of cherry blossoms. The flowers are easy to spot for its single frame of small white to grey petal clusters, congregating along the ends of boughs. These have special importance as Usuzumi tree is National Treasure of Japan, and has been so since 1922.

This makes up 1% of cherry blossom population, with trees growing between fourty and fifty feet, with branches often reaching out as far to the sides, forming a boxy shape. Flowers grow to form a fan of single petals, and hang together in large clusters.

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Afterglow Cherry

Emulating its soft colouring, the afterglow cherry tree has a collection of single white petals arranged around a yellow centre. The boughs often dip quite low to the ground, and form an almost cloud like shape when in full bloom.

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Shirofugen Cherry

This tree is usually flatter on top, with double petal flowers that fade from white to pinkish white at the tips, clustered in large bunches.

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Okame Cherry

This is an upright tree, reaching twenty to twenty-five feet at maturity. Bright pink petals in a semi-double formation surround long pinkish yellow stamens and are often the earliest flowering cherry blossom!

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Top Spots: Where to see Cherry Blossoms in DC

Washington DC has a lot of interesting museums, monuments and memorials dotted around its centre. Here, you can find some very satisfying photo opportunities when the cherry trees are in bloom.

West Potomac Park

Around the Tidal Basin, at the top of Potomac Park, is where you can see the bulk of these cherry trees. Most importantly, here is where you will find the very first cherry blossom tree planted by then President William Howard Taft, first lady Helen Taft and the Japanese Ambassador!

You can locate this tree by first finding the Japanese lantern statue in West Potomac park. Fun fact, the Japanese lantern is 369 years old. That is, 150 years older than Washington DC itself! This was gifted to the city along with the cherry trees. It’s twin lantern still sits in Tokyo today, and every year the Washington lantern is lit to mark the start of the cherry blossom festival. To find this secret spot, start at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It is only a few short steps away! This memorial is also another great spot for those cherry blossom photos.

If you are a fan of biking, this is the perfect location to get out and about on two wheels and explore the city in spring! Wide open spaces, plenty of pathways lining the parks and monuments, and Capital Bikeshare make it easy for rides based on daily and hourly hire.

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This section of the park is where the Usuzumi and Yoshino cherry trees can be found, amidst many others! Catch great views of the blossoms whilst snapping photos around the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson memorial. If you are lucky, you could even take an iconic image of Washington Monument from across the basin, surrounded by blossoms. This monument is also where you will find the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s entertaining ‘Blossom Kite Festival’!

East Potomac Park

The bulk of the remaining cherry blossoms extend to hug the curve of East Potomac Park’s shoreline, stopping just short of Hains Point at the very bottom of the park. You can also find some lovely cherry blossom trees surrounding the National Mall, and the Lincoln Memorial.

But, if you are wondering where to see cherry blossoms in DC and escape the crowds, we have something up our sleeve. There are some other locations that might just be the cherry on top of your trip. If you’ll pardon the pun!

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The National Arboretum

This is not accessible by public transport, and not many locals even know of its cherry blossom prowess. Nevertheless, if you have a day spare and are willing to rent a car or take a 25 minute taxi-ride to the very east side of Washington D.C, you will find a quiet spot to take in the blossoms. There is no admission fee, and the gardens are open from 8am to 5pm each day. Here, the cherry blossoms have the ability to bloom earlier, and for longer. Yes, guests can spot cherry trees blossoming from early March, extending into late May! If you are planning your trip based on where to see cherry blossoms in DC, this is a great fail safe, and avoids the insane crowds!

At the National Arboretum there are reportedly over 30 species of cherry trees blossoming, and with over 400 acres of land, you are likely to find vast swathes of the gardens all to yourself! These are also lined with a patchwork of pathways which make these gardens super accessible for those with mobility issues, or young children in strollers. This is most definitely where to see cherry blossoms in DC if you want uninterrupted views of cherry blossoms with almost zero humans!

What you can spot:

There are quite a few species in this park. Here are just a handful

  • Autumn flowering Cherry (suitable to visit in autumn to see them flower briefly)
  • Akebono Cherry
  • Yoshino Cherry
  • Weeping Cherry
  • Dumbarton Oaks

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Dumbarton Oaks

The gardens, located in Georgetown, were founded in 1920 by Mildred and Robert Bliss, who had a dream to bring the best and most ornate gardens to the people of Washington. They worked tirelessly, and today the fruits (or rather, flowers) of their labour has paid off! Throughout spring the historic gardens, designed by Beatrix Ferrand are open daily, welcoming visitors to take in the splendour. Today, the grounds also house the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections, specialising in landscaping, gardening, Byzantine and pre-Columbian studies. Both Library and Museum are a marvel in themselves, so well worth checking out!

Take a walk on the pathways, through the extensive gardens lined with cherry trees. Revel in their beauty an snap away without feeling overcrowded! This is certainly the most picturesque location in DC to see cherry blossoms, where the best views are from the hillside aptly named ‘Cherry Hill’. Many gorgeous varieties are seen here.

A special mention also goes to Foxhill Village in Georgetown. Here, the cherry lined streets give a majestic quality to your morning stroll. Grab coffee and wonder as you look up at their superior spring beauty!

What you can spot:

  • Sargent Cherry
  • Weeping Cherry
  • Yoshino Cherry
  • Anacostia Park
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Anacostia Park

The park is just a one-hour walk from the Tidal basin, on the south bank of the Anacostia river. There are lots of fun things you can do in the park besides the cherry blossoms. Lots of locals like to come here to roller-skate, play sports, meet with friends and even have a BBQ. There are also kids playgrounds and an aquatic park, all with cherry blossoms close by! Kenilworth park, and all along the banks of the river you will see cherry blossoms. It is one of the best places in DC where you get to see cherry blossoms amongst all the best outdoor entertainment you could ever ask for!

That being said, it is one of the busier secret spots. But, with so much to do it is a fun place to spend the whole day. Pack a picnic and enjoy the sun!

What you can spot:

  • Yoshino Cherry
  • Weeping Cherry
  • Takesimensis Cherry
  • Stanton Park

Stanton Park

Standing in Capitol Hill, these small gardens are perfect for families with young children wanting to take in the beauty of the cherry blossoms. The park is a modest 4 acres in size, and has a lovely children’s play park to keep them entertained. It is also not far from local amenities, should you need to grab coffee or a bite to eat.

The cherry blossom line the park’s well-kept lawns and pavements, standing tall and proud against the green. The park is also famous for its statue of the revolutionary war hero, General Nathanael Greene. So tourists can get two must-sees checked off their list while visiting this spot!

What you can spot:

  • Sargent Cherry
  • Yoshino Cherry
  • Oxon Run Park
Washington DC
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Oxon Run Park

Situated on the east side between Congress heights and Washington Highlands, Oxon Run park is a slightly busier park as it is great for families and is a featured location as part of the Cherry Blossom Festival line-up. However, it is a great way to spend the day. And with over 200 trees lining the park, you will have lots of time to spot a host species! There is also a pretty little stream running through which is perfect for dipping toes in on those balmy spring days.

The park also features tennis and baseball courts, and amphitheatre, picnic pavilions and children’s playground, making this a great spot for families!

What you can spot:

  • Yoshino Cherry
  • Sargent Cherry
  • Weeping Cherry
  • Meadowlark Park

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Meadowlark Park and Botanical Gardens

Whilst actually located in Vienna, just outside of Washington DC, this is a great spot to see the cherry blossoms if you are up for an adventure! The 95 acre park features the gorgeous Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, winding walkways across the lawns and two small lakes. There is a small admission fee for the botanical gardens, but it is well worth the ticket price. The park also features over 20 varieties of cherry tree, so it is perfect for spring-time viewing!

What you can spot:

Again, there are a huge variety of cherry blossoms you can spot here. Below are just a handful you can expect to see!

  • Weeping Cherry
  • Yoshino Cherry
  • Afterglow Cherry
washington dc river cruise
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The Potomac Riverboat Cruise

Take a public cruise put on by the Potomac Riverboat Company, and relax as you take a tour of the top spots to see the cherry blossoms bloom! All whilst beating the crowds and getting those perfect snaps of tree-lined riverbanks sailing past. Cruises depart from three different locations: Georgetown, the Wharf, and Alexandria. You can even board a boat on April 6th for the Cherry Blossom Festival’s Petalpalooza Fireworks show! However, if you are wanting a bit more of a luxury experience you could try out the dinner cruise. This one also departs from the National Harbour! Spirit Cruises and DC Cruises also offer similar tours by boat.

What you can spot:

With the changing scenery on board, this is a top spot for where to see cherry blossoms in DC! This also affords a different view to the city and gives you a chance to rest your legs whilst still seeing the different sides of nature and city life. Minus the hustle and bustle!

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Is The Washington DC Festival Still on?

Washington DC has a huge draw as the capital city of America. It has history, politics, and contrary to popular belief, loads of art and musical culture! But it also has some fantastic natural beauty in the gardens and parks surrounding the city, and its 8,000 plus cherry trees that burst into bloom every spring.

Whilst the festival didn’t happen in 2020 due to the pandemic, this does not spell the end of the festival! All signs are pointing to a festival in the spring of 2021, even if we are still to observe social distancing.

By now, you should feel confident enough to navigate DC like a local, finding those secret spots on the outskirts of the city, and those hidden in plain site within its centre! Whether you are planning a trip specifically to see the cherry blossoms, or the season happily coincides with your holiday, you are sure to find a perfect spot to take it all in. One that suits you perfectly! If you love big crowds and family fun activities, wide open spaces with very few people, bike rides or a spot of boating, there is something for everyone.

 

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