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Mar 24, 2023

The Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

In a city famous for its magnificent monuments, one of the most spectacular sights in the capital of the United States is the bloom of the cherry blossom trees. This is obviously a seasonal phenomenon and one that is tricky to time precisely but in this article we cover the facts, the forecast and the festivals of the fabulous cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.

Where are the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC?

In case you didn’t know, the epic monuments of Washington DC all fall within a rather small radius. And you’ll find the cherry blossomsLink opens in a new tab there. They are most impressive in numbers lining the Tidal Basin and offering spectacular views of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial but they are also found in smaller numbers near the Washington Monument and along the National Mall. We also highly recommend a walk along the shoreline of the East Potomac Park, just south of the Tidal Basin where they line the park all the way down to Hains Point.

The Thomas Jefferson memorial in Washington DC at dusk, seen through the pink cherry blossoms

Why are there cherry blossoms in Washington, DC?

Many mistakenly believe that the cherry trees are native to the area but their history is far more impressive and symbolic. In 1885, globetrotter and diplomat Eliza Ruhaman Scidmore, returned from her travels in Japan and suggested that Japanese cherry trees would be planted along the Potomac waterfront. She made no progress but continued to campaign for the idea for decades. In 1909, Scidmore decided to raise the funds to purchase cherry trees and donate them to the city sending her plan to the First Lady, Helen Herron Taft. First Lady Taft had lived in Japan and knew the powerful beauty of these trees firsthand. It didn’t take long for the plan to finally be set in motion and in 1912, the mayor of Tokyo presented the city of Washington, DC with a very special gift of more than 3,000 cherry blossom trees.

When do the cherry blossoms bloom?

The blooming of the cherry trees is Washington’s big signal of spring. It’s a moment where the familiar surroundings of the city’s most famous monuments are suddenly wrapped in pink and white hues that leave visitors awestruck. On average the peak bloom is in the first week of April but this timing varies from year to year, given the weather and temperature of the previous winter. The actual peak bloom date is determined by a ratio of open blossomsLink opens in a new tab, or when 70% of the Yoshino Cherry blossoms are open. The trees then bloom over several days but how long they last exactly is all down to the weather. Cool and calm days will prolong this wonderful time of year whereas stormy weather might end it in one fell swoop.

Peak bloom is forecasted just over a week in advance since the trees bloom is highly dependent on weather conditions. But if you think these dates are somehow random or guess work, guess again. The United States National Park Service monitors the buds and reports on their status in a highly precise way.

When is the National Cherry Blossom Festival?

There are a number of festivities occurring in Washington DC around the cherry blossoms but the biggest one is without a doubt the National Cherry Blossom FestivalLink opens in a new tab. It’s a citywide annual celebration that lasts about a month. In 2023, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is held over the period of March 18 – April 16. Activities include the opening ceremony, a festival parade, decorations and art instillations all over the city and much, much more. For about a month, the gorgeous white and pink colors adorn this beautiful city in a themed celebration open to all.

Are the cherry blossoms worth the trip?

Absolutely. They are a fascinating sight and as gorgeous as you can imagine set against the backdrop of a monumental city. Washington DC is already pretty fabulous, seeing it adorned in pink just makes it all the more fantastic. If you’re wondering when to visit Washington DC, cherry blossom season is both a wonderfully fun and beautiful choice.

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