DC cherry blossoms fever hits me each year during the last cold weeks of March in Washington DC. Paint my city pink!
Frail white Yoshino petals rain down in flower showers on the bumpy path along the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. Gnarled branches trap you in a tree’s embrace or trip you on the path. Dive into puffy floral clouds. “Spring it on!”
The DC cherry blossoms are legendary. This year peak cherry blossoms occurred March 22-25. The Tidal Basin and the surrounding Washington Monument grounds are filled with revelers who come down to pay homage to this ephemeral tree.
“From pink lighting to blossom images, the whole city comes to life.”National Cherry Blossom Festival
Bop around the grounds of the Washington Monument to admire DC cherry blossoms. Pose for a selfie in front of an 80-year-old Yoshino tree at the Tidal Basin. Roam the streets of historic DC neighborhoods, like Cleveland Park, to admire the old Japanese cherry trees.
There is no better time to visit the nation’s capital than late March and early April. And if you want to escape the crowds, consider visiting the Tidal Basin at sunrise. Paint my city golden as the sun rises over the water. The rays pour down on the pale white petals shaking in the breeze.
Cherry Blossom History
The original Japanese cherry trees were given to the Taft administration. There are many ancient trees that still can be seen around the Tidal Basin walkway.
“The plantings of cherry trees originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages,” according to the National Park Service (NPS).
“In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or ‘Sakura,’ is an exalted flowering plant. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages. ”National Park Service
NPS Walking Tours
The NPS offers free daily Cherry Blossom Talks during the festival (March 18-April 3). Meet the ranger at 10 am, 11 am, and 1-6 pm at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Plaza.
From a more ghostly experience, consider coming out after nightfall for the weekend Lantern Walk. Between March 18 and April 2, NPS rangers lead a nighttime tour of the Yoshino trees on Friday and Saturday nights. Participants should bring a flashlight to guide them on the evening stroll. The path around the Tidal Basin is uneven and bumpy so exercise caution. Meet at the National Park Service Information Tent in the Tidal Basin Welcome Area.
Don’t Break The Law
Many visitors might want to pose their children on a tree branch or break off a flowering branch as a memento. DON’T DO THIS. Leave DC cherry blossoms alone.
“It is against the law to touch or climb the cherry trees. Please help us continue to enjoy these beautiful trees for many generations to come.”National Cherry Blossom Festival
Most local residents turn into vigilantes when DC cherry blossoms which their peak. It is important to warn tourists not to hurt or damage these fragile trees.
Since the soil around the cherry trees has washed away, the cherry trees’ roots are exposed. The NPS has placed fencing around some trees as well as protected roots with wood chips.
National Cherry Blossom Festival
The 2023 National Cherry Blossom Festival began Saturday, March 18. Events run through April 15. Come experience this four-week extravaganza celebrating DC cherry blossoms.
There are five signature Festival events:
- Tidal Basin Welcome Area & ANA Stage (March 18-April 2)
- Opening Ceremony co-presented with Japan Foundation (March 25)
- Blossom Kite Festival (March 26)
- Petalpalooza (April 8)
- National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (April 15)
The Tidal Basin Welcome Area and the ANA Stage are open March 18-April 2. This is the place to start your cherry blossom tour.
Visitors will experience musical concerts and shows representing Japanese, American, and other cultures on stage.
See performances run on the ANA stage between 12 pm – 6 pm during Peak Bloom, rain or shine. April 2 is the final day of the Cherry Blossom Festival. The entertainment features dancing and concerts.
12:00PM-12:30PM: Pitches Be Trippin’ (https://pitchesbetrippin.com/)
12:45PM-1:30PM: East of the River Boys & Girls Steelband (https://www.eotrsteelband.org/)
1:45PM-2:15PM: Sachiyo Ito and Company (https://dancejapan.com/)
2:35PM-3:35PM: Motherland House Concert (www.motherlandculturalconnections.com)
3:55PM-4:40PM: Calista Garcia (www.calistagarcia.com)
5:00PM-6:00PM: The Midnight Anthem (https://www.themidnightanthem.com/epk.html)
Food trucks also sell snacks near the Welcome Area.
Blossom Kite Event
There is no scene quite as glorious as watching adults and children fly (and yes dogs chase) their kites during the Festival’s annual kite-flying event on the grounds of the Washington Monument.
I previously videotaped the scene on March 27. My favorite memory is the toddler running away from his dad as he chased a kite up in the sky.
“Come fly a kite so high/up to the highest height . . .”
Yes, I expect to see Dick Van Dyke dancing a jig on the Washington Monument grounds, just like a scene out of the Mary Poppins movie.
Washington DC is known for its July 4 fireworks on the National Mall, but you can also enjoy a show at the Official National Cherry Blossom Festival Fireworks show at the Capitol Riverfront at the Yards. It starts at 8:30 pm on Saturday, April 8.
This all-day event features entertainment at multiple outdoor stages, art, and music. Meander down “Petalpalooza Art Walk” to see interactive art installations. Lick a cherry popsicle while you walk along the banks of the Anacostia River. Shake hands with DC sports mascots. End the evening with the choreographed fireworks show.
Cherry Blossom Parade
Everyone should experience the National Cherry Blossom Festival parade at once in their life. Events DC presents this event, known as “the nation’s springtime parade.
Visitors and residents should flock to Constitution Avenue NW (between 7th and 17th Streets) on Saturday, April 15, 2023, at 10 a.m. to see the legendary floats, helium balloons, and 12 marching bands (including DC’s own Ballou High School).
Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse are the Grand Marshals. Pink attire is required, but mouse ears are optional!
Dog Guide to Cherry Blossoms
An estimated 1 in 4 families brings their canine to see the trees and participate in the National Cherry Blossom Festival, according to this canine correspondent’s unofficial survey.
Dogs. Pooches. Canines. Everywhere. Under trees. Sleeping on grass. Barking. Chasing. Growling (bad). Climbing (worst).
In the interest of protecting our national treasure, our Golden Retriever “cub reporter” Parker and his staff traveled to the Tidal Basin three times during the peak season to observe. Check out our article on the rules for pups and their parents to remember.
So don’t step on the tree roots. Don’t pee on the tree. Don’t munch on a low-hanging tree branch.
Now we know there are a few people who are thinking about breaking off a delicate white Yoshino blossom to stick on top of your dog’s bandana . . . Stop! First Lady Helen “Nellie” Taft did not go through all the trouble to negotiate with Japan during her husband’s administration to get cherry trees imported in 1912 just to see them plucked.
My final advice if you come to see the DC cherry blossoms is to go visit a spindly weird little tree located near the Jefferson Memorial. Its nickname is Stumpy. WAMU called it “the little tree that could.”
This is my favorite tree on the Tidal Basin walk. I love to visit Stumpy during all four seasons. But I am overjoyed to see the puffy white cherry blossoms open on its frail branches in March, because the tree has survived another harsh winter.
To the world, Stumpy shows a stout stump but it is gutted. Its roots burrow into the packed wet mud. Two branches lean far to the left, a Yoga tree bending in the wind. Inhale. Exhale. Bend with the wind.
I don’t really know how Stumpy is alive given that it has so few branches. But I think it is so lovely and asymmetrical. And I marvel at how it stands so strong as a beacon.
Linnea JordanMarch 25, 2023 at 9:57 am
Great post! I used to intern for this festival years ago! I would also encourage visitors to look up all the cherry blossom theme cocktails, dishes, and desserts around the city!
TerriMarch 25, 2023 at 10:15 am
What a fun job to intern for the Festival. You are correct. There are wonderful tie-ins between the Festival and the local restaurants and bars!
Patricia (Tish) MikanMarch 25, 2023 at 1:12 pm
I love the beautiful cherry Blossoms!! So much to do in DC and a lot of fun too
Looks like Parker agrees with that
Thank you for sharing
TerriMarch 25, 2023 at 2:42 pm
I am not sure who loves the cherry blossoms more – my dog or me? Woof!
Margarita IbbottMarch 25, 2023 at 1:26 pm
Another bucket list item to add. Maybe next year! Lovely pictures!
TerriMarch 25, 2023 at 2:41 pm
Thank you! The cherry blossoms turn everyone into an amateur photographer!
AnitaMarch 25, 2023 at 1:33 pm
WOW! It looks really spectacular! I would love to visit Cherry Blossom Parade and see Stumpy. Thanks for sharing!
TerriMarch 25, 2023 at 2:41 pm
It is a magical time in the nation’s capital when our Japanese cherry trees bloom. I love it!
DeirdreMarch 25, 2023 at 1:55 pm
I like how stumpy is growing strong, despite his challenges
TerriMarch 25, 2023 at 2:40 pm
Stumpy is DC’s beloved Yoshino tree. He has shown up all week on TV!
MayiMarch 25, 2023 at 4:28 pm
The cherry blossom period is such a spectacular time. I love seeing them. I have never been to DC, but I would love to go there while the flowers bloom.
TerriMarch 25, 2023 at 7:15 pm
It is the most magical time of year in DC. And it never gets old. Blossom fever is real. 🌸🌸
CarlyMarch 25, 2023 at 6:08 pm
I would go full vigilante if I saw someone breaking a branch off a cherry tree! Are those people crazy?!
TerriMarch 25, 2023 at 7:15 pm
Exactly! How do parents actually put their kid up in a tree and let them climb around? Are they nuts?
MarikaMarch 25, 2023 at 6:16 pm
I would kill to see the cherry blossoms in DC!
TerriMarch 25, 2023 at 7:14 pm
I absolutely understand! I feel the same way about destinations on my bucket list! I hope you get to participate in the festival one day.
KimMarch 25, 2023 at 6:36 pm
When I plan to travel to Washington D.C., I’ll organise around the Cherry Blossoms. This is definitely on my bucket list.
TerriMarch 25, 2023 at 7:13 pm
As a photographer, you will be challenged and elated to capture the ephemeral cherry blossom as a photo essay! DC’s cherry blossom festival should be on your bucket list.
A Capone ConnectionMarch 25, 2023 at 11:38 pm
I lived not too far from DC for most of my life and I never made the trip to see the Cherry Blossoms. Now I regret it. I went yesterday to see them in Macon, GA and they aren’t ready yet. Your pictures are so stunning. I think I have to go back up north to see them at some point.
TerriMarch 26, 2023 at 5:17 am
I think this is a good life lesson in doing something when we have the chance because we regret it later (if we don’t). We lost the physical National Cherry Blossom Festival for 2 years due to the pandemic. I didn’t realize how much I would miss all of the things that I took for granted, like the Blossom Parade. Now I make sure that I do everything! Book a flight to DC for March 2024! You won’t regret it.
BrittanyMarch 26, 2023 at 11:29 am
The cherry blossoms are so beautiful! It is on my bucket list to visit DC during cherry blossom season. Thanks for sharing all these places to see the cherry blossoms!
TerriApril 9, 2023 at 4:36 pm
Everyone should see the cherry blossoms in the nation’s capital at least once!
IrmaMarch 29, 2023 at 5:24 pm
It was my first trip as a new Mom to go and see the Cherry Blossoms with my brand new Carla ( about a month old ….) 💖.
Thank you for bringing back such a dear memory!
TerriApril 9, 2023 at 4:35 pm
What a wonderful memory to bring your baby to see the cherry blossoms as a new mom. I bet you had brand new Carla dressed in a pink sweater!