After living near DC for most of my adult life I decided that this year I would go down to see the cherry blossoms in bloom during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It was beautiful! It is a free event that occurs every year for about two weeks during end of March to mid-April. (It ranges because the event planners time it with the maximum blooming of the trees!) This year I went down with a group of friends on Saturday April 3rd, one of the peak days of blooming. It was packed! But we still were able to get in a few lovely pictures of the cherry blossoms with the Jefferson Memorial behind them.
How to Get There
The closest stations to the Tidal Basin are: Smithsonian (Orange/Blue Lines), Federal Triangle (Orange/Blue), L’Enfant Station (Orange/Blue/Green/Yellow), and SEU Waterfront (Green) is the closest to the events at the Waterfront. Here is a map of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (the Metro) to help you plan your trip.
Its a popular event, so DC is packed with tons of people I suggest that you take public transportation into the Mall. (The Mall is what DCer’s call the area of grass that is in between the Smithsonian Museums, that has the Capitol Building on one end and the Washington Monument on the other end.)
If you want to drive, you can park and take a shuttle provided by the Festival, here are some additional directions for parking. Just keep in mind that DC has some of the worst traffic in the states so it may be easier to drive to a metro station and take the metro from there!
The main reason to go down to the National Cherry Blossom Festival is to see the cherry blossoms. They did not disappoint! Everywhere you look around the tidal basin is a sea of light pink that frames our world famous monuments. It was beautiful and well worth fighting the crowds to get some good pictures in.
However, the food offerings and the music selection left us wanting more! The line for food on Saturday at 5pm was easily 100 people long. There was only one tent serving food beside the tidal basin and nothing else in sight. (You could walk back up to the Washington Monument for some ice cream though… :)).
Since we weren’t going to stand in the long line we decided walked down to the waterfront to listen to the live music and check out the other food offerings. Its a decent walk, maybe 20 minutes but it was neat to see all the fresh fish stalls and the boats. When we got down to the waterfront the food offerings were pretty slim. They had corn dogs and Safeway was giving out reusable grocery bags with raisins, a granola bar and some fruit snacks in it. That was it!
My friends stood in line at the restaurants along the waterfront for over 2.5 hrs waiting to be seated! But they said the food was good when they finally got it 🙂 Also, they were able to see the fireworks from their spot in line, another bonus.
If you end up going to see the cherry blossoms, I recommend that you pack a picnic dinner and enjoy the sights of the tidal basin and the monuments from up near the Washington Monument. I think if you move down to the tidal basin after it gets dark you should be able to see the fireworks from there (make sure you’re going on firework night). This way you can miss most of the crowds, see the fireworks and, of course, enjoy the cherry blossoms!
For more information check out the official website for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.