Activities U.S. Walking Washington DC

DC Cherry Blossoms: “Spring It On!”

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 are projected to occur in third week of March. 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 the spring. The 3-week National Cherry Blossom Festival attracts over 1.5 million visitors. 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 20-April 14). Meet the ranger at 10 am, 11 am, and 1-6 pm at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Plaza.

Tidal Basin Jefferson Memorial cherry blossom trees

From a more ghostly experience, consider coming out after nightfall for the weekend Lantern Walk. 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.

National Park Service sign

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 opening ceremony for the National Cherry Blossom Festival occurs on Saturday, March 23. Events run through April 15. Come experience this three-week extravaganza celebrating DC cherry blossoms.

There are five signature Festival events:

  • Tidal Basin Welcome Area & ANA Stage (March 23-April 7)
  • Opening Ceremony co-presented with Japan Foundation (March 23)
  • Blossom Kite Festival (March 30)
  • Petalpalooza (April 6)
  • National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (April 13)

Festival Entertainment

The Tidal Basin Welcome Area and the ANA Stage are open March 23-April 7. 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 14 is the final day of the Cherry Blossom Festival. The entertainment features dancing and concerts.

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.

Blossom Kite event

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.

Petalpalooza

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 6.

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.

The National Archives displayed 2021 festival sign.

Visitors and residents should flock to Constitution Avenue NW (between 7th and 17th Streets) on Saturday, April 13, 2024, at 10 a.m. to see the legendary floats, helium balloons, and 12 marching bands.

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).

Parker presents a “Dog’s Guide to DC Cherry Blossoms”

In the interest of protecting our national treasure, our Golden Retriever “cub reporter” Parker and his staff have traveled to the Tidal Basin during previous peak seasons in 2022 and 2023 to observe. Check out our article on the rules for pups and their parents to remember!

Don’t step on the tree roots. Don’t pee on the tree. Don’t munch on a low-hanging tree branch.

It is okay to stand (or sit) on the park benches at the Tidal Basin.

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.

Visit Stumpy

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.

Tidal Basin cherry blossom tree
Spindly but strong!

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.

You Might Also Like

  • Linnea Jordan
    March 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!

    • Terri
      March 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) Mikan
    March 25, 2023 at 1:12 pm

    Hi Terri
    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

    • Terri
      March 25, 2023 at 2:42 pm

      I am not sure who loves the cherry blossoms more – my dog or me? Woof!

  • Margarita Ibbott
    March 25, 2023 at 1:26 pm

    Another bucket list item to add. Maybe next year! Lovely pictures!

    • Terri
      March 25, 2023 at 2:41 pm

      Thank you! The cherry blossoms turn everyone into an amateur photographer!

  • Anita
    March 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!

    • Terri
      March 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!

  • Deirdre
    March 25, 2023 at 1:55 pm

    I like how stumpy is growing strong, despite his challenges

    • Terri
      March 25, 2023 at 2:40 pm

      Stumpy is DC’s beloved Yoshino tree. He has shown up all week on TV!

  • Mayi
    March 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.

    • Terri
      March 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. 🌸🌸

  • Carly
    March 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?!

    • Terri
      March 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?

  • Marika
    March 25, 2023 at 6:16 pm

    I would kill to see the cherry blossoms in DC!

    • Terri
      March 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.

  • Kim
    March 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.

    • Terri
      March 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 Connection
    March 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.

    • Terri
      March 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.

  • Brittany
    March 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!

    • Terri
      April 9, 2023 at 4:36 pm

      Everyone should see the cherry blossoms in the nation’s capital at least once!

  • Irma
    March 29, 2023 at 5:24 pm

    Beautiful!
    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!

    • Terri
      April 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!

  • Zara Aitken
    March 2, 2024 at 10:29 am

    Absolutely stunning! Always wanted to see the cherry blossom! It’s so spectacular.

    • Terri
      March 4, 2024 at 5:14 am

      I hope you get to see the cherry blossoms one day!

  • Bejal
    March 2, 2024 at 11:10 am

    I never knew there were so many cherry blossoms to spot in DC. It’s so beautiful. I particularly like Parker’s guide too ! Love how you’ve made a pots from this -now dc is added to my cherry blossom spotting list!

    • Terri
      March 4, 2024 at 5:15 am

      You really must visit Washington DC! But it does get a little crowded during cherry blossom season.

  • Amy H Tull
    March 2, 2024 at 11:14 am

    Funny that I’ve visited Washington so many times and never saw the cherry blossoms! I’ll have to correct that.

    • Terri
      March 4, 2024 at 5:16 am

      It is very hard to time a visit during peak bloom as the U.S. Park Service doesn’t predict until about 3-4 weeks in advance. But it is definitely worth a try.

  • Michelle
    March 2, 2024 at 11:33 am

    This has been on my list for so long, I just never seem to time it just right. Maybe soon?!

    • Terri
      March 4, 2024 at 5:17 am

      I hope you can experience it one day.

  • Linda
    March 2, 2024 at 4:58 pm

    We loved our visit to DC for cherry blossom season. There were so many great spots to see the colourful blossoms. Fun to plan to visit the Blossom Kite Festival as well. Too bad we missed Stumpy when we visited.

    • Terri
      March 4, 2024 at 5:18 am

      Stumpy is so famous. They even did a radio show about this little tree.

  • Ashley
    March 3, 2024 at 8:32 am

    I’ve always wanted to go see the cherry blossoms! Love the photos, especially the first one!

    • Terri
      March 4, 2024 at 5:18 am

      I am particularly proud of that photo! Thank you.

  • Mohana Das
    March 3, 2024 at 5:38 pm

    Never knew that there was a festival parade, would love to visit if I get a chance. And have a loving look at stumpy, the one that lived. Thanks for sharing!

    • Terri
      March 4, 2024 at 5:19 am

      You are welcome. The parade is amazing. But it is hard to get a good place to stand as the crowds are huge.

  • Sonia
    March 23, 2024 at 7:57 am

    I haven’t made it to DC for the cherry blossoms recently (only as a child). I really enjoyed Stumpy’s story.

  • Sharyn
    March 24, 2024 at 12:28 am

    I loved hearing about Stumpy – RIP.