Catching the cherry blossoms bloom in Washington DC was one of the many many “events” on my to do list, along with The Day of the Dead celebrations in San Diego, The Kentucky Derby, The running of the Bulls in Pamplona……Oh, I could go on and on! There are more than 3,000 cherry blossom trees lining the Tidal Basin in DC that bloom for a fleeting moment each year. They were actually a gift from Japan in 1912 and attract around 1.5 million visitors during peak blooming season (which can last up to 14 days from the beginning to the end) each year. Depending on weather conditions, the trees can bloom anywhere from mid March to late April and are monitored by the US Parks Dept. and updated on washington.org daily.
Depending on where you are coming from, DC has 3 major airports and a reliable metro system to get you around. From NYC it is an easy 4.5 hour drive (this does not take into account the mind-numbing traffic you will encounter as you reach the DC area).
Where To Stay
There are so many areas to stay in throughout the DC area.. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt which was in a fantastic location about a 10-15 minute walk to the Tidal Basin. Our room did not come with breakfast, but there is a Starbucks in the lobby. You can buy a small house for the price they charge to park there, but if you exit the hotel left and then a right, you will find a garage for a third of the price!
What to See
Ok…so obviously if you are down there during the cherry blossom season…then the Tidal Basin is the place to be! There are all kinds of festivities revolving around the blooming of these famous trees including a kite extravaganza and local sake tastings (say no more!). That trusty little Park Dept. website I gave you posts the times and dates of all events.
The Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials are within walking distance of the Tidal Basin, along with the White House and the National Mall with Smithsonian museums galore. (All of these sights can be visited with the low low price of FREE)!
City Bikes are readily available if you want to take a ride instead of walking! They are cheaper than bike rentals from a shop!
If you want a break from those blooming trees (and all of that POLLON) Just a quick metro ride away, or 10 minutes by car you will find Georgetown. JFK once lived here before becoming president, Georgetown University lives and breathes here…..and for my fellow horror movie connoisseurs, the “Exorcist steps” are here! Best place to eat in Georgetown? The Tombs! It was the hang out in the movie Saint Elmo’s Fire!! Oh how I love my 80s classics. The food is great and the atmosphere can’t be beat.
If you are up for a good hike, Great Falls National Park is about 30 minutes away from Downtown DC by car. There are tons of hiking trails, some chances for rock scrambling and even rock climbing classes that can be arranged beforehand. You can spend a few hours hiking here, so pack a lunch and water. Get there early on nice days because the parking lot fills up quickly. The park charges an entrance fee of $20.00 per vehicle.
The National Arboretum is another great place to see cherry blossoms in bloom, as well as a plethora of other spring flowers. It’s free to enter, much less crowded than the Tidal Basin and has tons of hiking paths. The arboretum is about 20-30 minutes from downtown by car.
There are way too many other things to see and do in Washington DC and the surrounding areas to mention…..I will just list a few of my favorites;
Fords Theatre (you can even catch a play here on certain evenings)
The Vietnam Memorial
The International Spy Museum
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is a short 1 hour drive from Washington. I made a new friend on a recent adventure who told me that she made it her goal to visit all 50 states before she turned 50. I loved it! Why didn’t I think of this?? Well, lucky for me, I have sooooo much time to meet this goal. Stop laughing. I still have some time to meet this goal! Why am I telling you this story? I have been to 37 states in the USA, West Virginia was not one of them. Therefore, this side trip took me closer to my new goal! Harpers Ferry has some great history, several really neat local shops and an awesome hike across an old steel railroad bridge and up the side of a mountain to gain a postcard view of the town below…I expected to hear John Denver singing ; “Take me home…country roads” as I approached the bridge. Nope…no John Denver, just the usual voices in my head. Some of them were singing though. So, West Virginia….now I have checked you off my list. 12 to go.
So, if you have always wanted to visit Washington DC during the Cherry Blossom festivities and sneak a peek at these magnificent trees as they explode in unison, it is a “to do list “event well worth the effort. Having a little flexibility will give you the best chance of catching them at their peak. The US Parks Dept. was pretty accurate as it got closer, but changed the original prediction several times in March due to temperature changes. Go as early as you can during the day, it gets very crowded at the Tidal Basin! Wear comfortable shoes. Washington DC is a walking city. Now, as for running with the bulls……. That’s for a later post!