The Washington DC cherry blossoms festival had been on my list for a while. I’d seen so many beautiful shots of cherry trees in full bloom that I couldn’t take it anymore. We had to go!
So we went. We chose the last weekend of March, which fit our schedule the best. However, the dates for the 2019 edition of the National Cherry Blossom Festival are March 20 to April 14.
The National Park Service has a bloom watch page that will help you plan your trip, as it predicts peak bloom, among other things. This is great if you have some flexibility. If not, do what we did: choose a date, book a hotel and commend yourself to your favourite deity.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon. We used the Sunday and Monday to see the cherry trees and other stuff, and flew back to Texas on Tuesday. Since we’d already been to DC, it was the perfect amount of time to do what we came here to do.
Why are there so many cherry trees in Washington, DC?
In 1912, the governments of Japan and the U.S. coordinated the gifting of more than 3,000 cherry trees. Later that year, the First Lady and the Japanese ambassador’s wife planted the first two trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin. In 1915, the U.S. reciprocated the gift by shipping dogwood trees to Japan. Years later, the original planting was reenacted, from which the current Festival developed.
Where to see the cherry blossoms
The majority of the trees are around the Tidal Basin. However, I was pleaseantly surprised to discover that there are clusters of cherry trees everywhere.
All the blogs and articles I read recommend going first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to beat the crowds. Sunday morning was rather wet and miserable. We decided to head to the National Mall anyway. There were few people, which made visiting some of the monuments easier.
However, by the time we made it to the Tidal Basin, after noon, the weather had begun to clear up and people started to trickle in. It wasn’t horrible but I could have done with fewer people.
We walked around the Tidal Basin. The views of the Washington and Jefferson monuments behind the flower-laden trees were magnificent. It almost looked like snow. I understand that we all wanted to get the perfect shot, but some poeple need to be mindful of others. Blocking the only path to pose for the ‘Gram isn’t very considerate.
Some of the best spots are the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Japanese Lantern, or the Jefferson Memorial.
Bear in mind that not only is it inconsiderate to pick cherry blossoms, it is also against the law! Don’t be that person.
Don’t forget about the magnolias!
The magnolia trees bloom at around the same time and are a wonderful sight. There’s a particularly pretty grove behind the Jefferson monument.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival
There are many activitites planned in different parts of Washington, DC throughout the duration of the festival. Digital art installations, crafts classes, concerts, ikebana workshops, and conferences are some the activities.
We missed the kite festival on the Washington Monument Grounds on Saturday, although we saw many “casualties”, i.e. kites entangled in the trees. Sunday was the Sakura Taiko Takeover, which we enjoyed.
We saw what looked like school choirs or college bands or srum lines at the Wolrd War II Memorial and below the Lincoln monument. It was lovely, although I felt a bit sorry for them, as it was cols and wet and not many people showed up.
What else did we do
Monuments along the National Mall
In between cherry trees, we got to see the Korea War Memoriual, which I hadn’t seen before. If you have time, I do recommend that you visit every memorial and monument. They are a sobering and beautiful tribute
National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum has some really cool objects on display. Some of the highlights are the 1903 Wright Flyer 9the frame is original, they sails are modern), a Viling Lander, a Lunar Module LM-2, the Spirit of St. louis, with which Charles Lindbergh flew over the Altlantic for the first time, or a V2 bomb. To my chagrin, the World War I and II rooms were closed for renovation.
Arlington National Cemetery
A visit to Arlington National Cemetery is a must when in Washington DC. The day we went, the rolling grounds were awash with blooms. It was a beautiful yet poignant sight. Those who served the nation in different capacities are buried here. It is a working cemetery, so please be mindful that there could be a funeral service close to you. The visit is free, but we took a tour. We saw some highlights, like changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
National Geographic Museum
I popped into the NatGeo Museum to see the Queens of Egypt exhibition. It was fascinating.
Where we ate
We did not have a bad meal in DC! This are my recommendations based on our experience.
Old Ebbitt Grill
Old Ebbitt Grill can be a bit touristy, but that doesn’t impact the quality of their food. Our steak salad and mortadella cannelonni, washed down with beer and a blossomrita signature cocktail, were delicious. Make reservations in advance, as this place gets croweded. There was a 45-minute wait on a Monday at 3pm!
We loved The Pig, a nose-to-tail restaurant located in Logan Circle. The ambiance is fun and modern, but the food is the real star. We had their house-made sausages, a burger, and roasted artichoke appetizer. Lots of great flavours.
St. Anselm is, according to their website, “an American tavern devoted to the pleasures of grilled meats and great ingredients simply cooked. ” I couldn’t agree more. Our steak was delcious, and the sides -creamy spnahc and pan-fried mashed potatoes- were phenomenal.
I loved the atmosphere at recently renovatedThe Pembroke, very elegant and sophisticated. We had the most delicious and creamy burrata with our drinks. Ideal for a pre-dinner drink at the bar. The Pembroke is part of the Dupont Circle Hotel.
More stuff to do in Washington DC
Here are some suggestions of things to do in Washington, DC.
- Stroll along the National Mall and see all the iconic monuments.
- Visit any or all of the Smithsonian museums.
- Go on a tour of the White House.
- Visit Arlington National Cemetery.
- Go to the Washington National Cathedral.
- Admire the beautiful houses of Dupont Circle, stroll along Embassy Row, visit local coffee shops and stores.
- Spend an afternoon in cool Georgetown.
- Plan your trip to see the Washington DC cherry blossoms!