A Quick Guide to Washington, D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival

What to see, do and eat during D.C.’s Biggest Spring Event
Cherry Blossoms/Jefferson Memorial
Courtesy of the National Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossoms/Jefferson Memorial

Every spring ushers in not only warm weather, but pink cherry blossom trees that are sprinkled throughout the Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin—nearby some of D.C.’s most iconic sites. The festival celebrates the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to Washington, D.C. in 1912 and the relationship between the United States and Japan. D.C.'s biggest spring celebration has grown since its humble beginnings with more than 1.5 million people visiting D.C. to see the trees in bloom and participate in the festival’s diverse events. 


How to Get There: As parking will be a hassle due to crowds, D.C.’s public transportation system, the Metro, is a good bet. Visitors will want to get off at the Smithsonian or L’Enfant Plaza station stops and walk over to the Tidal Basin from there. To view Metro maps and schedules, please visit wmata.com.


When to Visit: The festival runs from March 20 to April 14, but when to visit depends on what visitors would like to see and do. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade is on April 13, but the National Park Service is currently predicting peak bloom, or when 70 percent of the blossoms on the trees will be open, from April 3 to 6. For more current information on the bloom watch, please visit nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/about/bloom-watch


What to Do: The options really are endless, but visitors can take cruises or go on photo safaris to help make lasting memories of the festival. The festival’s liveliest event, the parade on April 13 from 10 a.m. to noon, rain or shine, features giant helium balloons, floats, marching bands from across the country and performers that will fill Constitution Avenue. Tickets to the parade are available here.


What to Eat: Many D.C. area restaurants participate in the “Cherry Picks” program and include blossom-inspired dishes on their menus. 2100 Prime will serve a cherry lambic cobbler, made out of sour cherries, dark cherries and lambic beer, during the festival. Nick’s Riverside Grill will be dishing out cherry chipotle barbecue ribs and a cherry soda and vanilla ice cream float. The Hamilton will be pouring a Washington’s cherry temple cocktail, a libation made with vodka, cherry juice, a liqueur and vanilla syrup, and a sour cherry Pavlova, a dessert made with Amaretto sour cherries, pistachio meringue and almond cream. To view a more complete list of the participating restaurants, please visit http://eatsdc.org/cherrypicks.


What to Photograph: Founder and Director of Washington Photo Safari, David Luria, said in an email that the best times to snap images of the blossoms are early morning, or one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunrise and during the late afternoon, or one hour before sunset to one hour after sunset. For scenic shots, the sun should be behind the photographer, falling on the scene across the Tidal Basin. For shots of the water, wait until a colorful paddleboat with people in orange life vests paddles into the picture to break up the monotony of the gray water.


For travelers who are using phone cameras, Luria recommends that they get in low and close and tight to the subject, are careful not to get too many extraneous items in the photo and hold their phones tight for sharper photos.


Teresa Tobat is the Washington, D.C. Travel City Editor for The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @ttobat88. View her website at teresaktobat.com.