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Washington DC's Cherry Blossom Festival: What You Need To Know

Updated Apr 01, 2016

On a blue-sky day the millions of puffy white cherry tree blossoms compete with DC’s famous monuments for your attention. As you stroll the path millions have walked before you, it feels like a walk in heaven. The scent of fresh grass, eager to greet the warmer weather, calms your senses as you see yet another perfect bough grabbing your attention. It is another world you have entered, one there is no hurry to leave.


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To start your day

With a whole day to enjoy this spectacle of nature, it is best to have a hearty breakfast and head for the trees with camera in hand. No worry about lunch, since there is a gathering of food trucks standing by to provide a picnic lunch under the blossoms. A good starting point is the Washington Monument, where a circular path- 1.8 miles/ 2.9 km takes visitors around the Tidal Basin for the best blossom viewing. From the National Mall, walk towards the Washington Monument and veer left. Soon you will see the trees in bloom along 15th Street NW. From there, it is easy to follow the trail of trees towards the Jefferson Memorial. Now you are in the thick of it and the degree of pleasure is increasing even though you might be in the midst of hundreds of fellow blossom viewers.


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A great view

The first grand vista is when you reach the water and see the Jefferson Memorial from an opening in the trees. Groups of paddle boaters have chosen a watery approach to viewing the blossoms as they splash about looking for the best view. Tidal Basin Paddleboat Rentals will be happy to show you a way to see the blossoms apart from the crowds bustling along the pathways. Consider both viewing options to get the most out of your visit. After all, for many this is the only time they will ever get to see this spectacle. The rental rate for a two passenger boat is 16 USD per hour and 30 USD per hour for an elegant Swan Boat. Four passenger boats are available also. See the link below for more information.

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A quieter stretch

As the trail continues on towards the Jefferson Memorial, take a short break from the walk, and if needed, public restrooms are available for those wanting to avoid using the porta-potties along the path. Spend a few minutes to see this memorial to our nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson. This is a great place to sit for a few minutes on the steps of the memorial and take in the view across the water where you started your journey. On calm days the fluffy white blossoms are reflected in the water, making you feel part of a famous landscape painting. With a few minutes of rest, it’s time to head towards the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.

This stretch of the walk is usually less crowded than the part nearer to the Washington Monument. Take your time and really look at each tree and guess how old it is. It’s hard to believe some of the original trees are still alive after more than 100 years. Each one has its own character and charm. Try and find the most perfect bough hanging low and have a friendly passer-by take your photo with it as a backdrop. Remember the rules that picking blossoms or climbing on trees is forbidden. Some of the original trees from 1912 are still living and blossoming and must be treasured. With so many visitors, it would not take long to damage these trees if the rules weren’t obeyed.


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A rolling food court

Next stop in the walk back towards the Washington Monument is the Martin Luther King Memorial. Here is a good place to pay tribute to one of our nation’s bravest leaders and read some of his quotes on peace and goodwill etched upon the memorial. You are nearing the end of this forest of popcorn and fluff, but before you leave, a great way to end it is to head towards the army of food trucks for lunch. Choose a delicious meal with a full view of the Tidal Basin and blooming cherry trees on the lawn by the Washington Monument. Take your pick of ethnic foods from food trucks with names like, Kimchi BBQ, Chef Alex-sandwiches, Kabob Square, Señor Taco, Peruvian Brothers and more. With lunch in hand, enjoy the view and be glad if you get a sunny day to do so. If not, there are dozens of excellent restaurants nearby to shelter you from spring rains.

Try Paul, a French bakery restaurant, with soups, salads, sandwiches and decadent pastries. Two locations are nearby to serve you. One is at 801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, and another at 1000 Connecticut St NW. For one of the best Spanish eateries in the US, head over to Jaleo on 408 7th Street NW where this hotspot will take you on a food tour of Spain. Be sure and try one of the tasty paellas, like the black rice and cuttlefish, or one of many vegetarian options, and wash it down with a glass of Rioja.

Getting there

The easiest way to arrive is by air to DC Reagan Airport, and then catch the Metro to a hotel. If you are driving, be sure to check what the parking rates are as they can be quite expensive. The Omni Shoreham is good choice as the rates are reasonable and they are close to the Woodley Park Metro. It’s just three stops to the Metro Center, which is close to all the action. The Omni is also very close to the Smithsonian National Zoo. If luxury and location are important, try the Willard Intercontinental Hotel at 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. This will put you in walking distance of the cherry blossoms and the National Mall. With rooms starting around 279 USD, this is an excellent choice, especially if you like elegant-historic hotels. One more choice to consider is The Tabard Inn at 1739 N Street NW. This old brownstone has a variety of rooms from singles to doubles, with each room being unique. It’s a country themed inn with a restaurant onsite serving some of DC’s best breakfast, lunch and dinner. Live it up and book the one-and-only suite they call “the penthouse” for a grand stay.

Over 1.5 million visitors came to see the cherry blossoms last year! If you have seen the photos and heard stories of walking amongst these puffy white ambassadors of beauty, why not join in on the fun? The Cherry Blossom Festival runs from March 20th to April 17th. Most activities and events are free. On April 9th, come for the live music, food truck rally, sailboat making and more. The big parade is on April 16th plus a Japanese Street Festival and Cherry Blast. For information on average “peak bloom” dates, go to the cherry blossom festival website link below. There’s still time to catch the fun this year even as the blossoms fall to the ground. Is this the year you will join us? The trees are calling you to visit.

This article was originally published on Mar 30, 2016

Kurt Jacobson is a former chef traveling the world in search of great food, interesting people, fine wine, nature, fishing and skiing. New Zealand, Japan and Europe are his favorite international...Read more

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