A First-Timer's Guide to Visiting Washington, DC During Cherry Blossom Season

Discover the beauty of Washington, DC during cherry blossom season with our first-timer's guide. Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, explore iconic landmarks, and make the most of your visit with our helpful tips and recommendations.

Washington, DC is known for its rich history, iconic landmarks, and vibrant culture. But there's one particular time of year that is an absolute must-see — cherry blossom season. Every spring, thousands of cherry blossom trees start to bloom, creating a spectacle that attracts visitors from around the world. If you're planning your first trip to Washington, DC during this exciting time, here's a guide to help you make the most of your experience. 

Cherry Blossom Season 101 

Before we dive in, let's quickly run through some essential information you need to know about cherry blossom season. The season typically starts from late-March and lasts through mid-April, but the peak bloom (70% of the iconic cherry blossoms open on the Yoshino cherry trees) can change annually depending on the weather conditions. The National Park Service predicts this eagerly awaited period during the National Cherry Blossom Festival kick-off press conference, which takes place in early March each year.  

You can also check the National Park Service’s Cherry Blossom for peak bloom predictions or the Cherry Blossom Watch website to keep up with bloom updates for 2024. 


Attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival 

The eagerly awaited annual cherry blossom season and National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC are celebrations of the long-awaited arrival of spring. 

The National Cherry Blossom Festival pays homage to the gift of cherry blossom trees given by Japan to the United States in 1912 as a symbol of friendship and attracts crowds from all around the world, making it a vibrant and unforgettable occasion. 

The 2024 festival takes place from March 20 to April 14, 2024, with a wide array of events and activities that showcase the beauty of these iconic pink and white flowers including a must-see parade, cultural performances, art exhibits, fireworks, and more. It's a fantastic opportunity to engage with Japanese culture, indulge in delicious food, and enjoy live entertainment amidst the blossoms. 

Can’t Miss Festival Events 

To make the most of your cherry blossom festivities, we recommend not missing the following events 


  • Opening Ceremony

The festival kicks off with an Opening Ceremony, featuring performances and special presentations. In 2024, the date for the Opening Ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, March 23, 2024. 


  • Blossom Kite Festival  

One of the festival’s most popular events is the Kite Festival. Hosted on the grounds of the Washington Monument and free to attend for all ages, this annual event helps to celebrate the arrival of spring and the blooming of cherry blossom trees with a showcase of colorful and creative kites from all around the world. The festival features both a youth and adult Kitemaker’s Competition, as well as live music performances, cultural demonstrations, and food vendors. The Kite Festival is planned for Saturday, March 30, 2024. 


  • Petalpalooza 

This free and fun day-long all-ages celebration where festivalgoers can expect art, live music, and play to multiple outdoor stages, interactive art installations, a cashless beverage garden, family-friendly hands-on activities, roaming entertainers, and more, all along the banks of the Anacostia River. The evening is capped by the dazzling choreographed Official National Cherry Blossom Festival Fireworks Show. 


  • National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade 

The energy-filled springtime Parade runs for 10 blocks along the iconic Constitution Avenue NW. Grand, colorful helium balloons, elaborate floats, marching bands from all corners of the country, celebrity entertainers, and talented performers grace Parade route in a spectacle of music and showmanship seen only once a year. 


The Best Spot to View the Cherry Blossoms: The Tidal Basin 

One of the best places to experience the cherry blossom season is along the famous Tidal Basin. This reservoir is encircled by hundreds of cherry trees and offers stunning views of the blossoms in full bloom against the backdrop of iconic landmarks like the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument. 

Take a paddleboat ride for a unique perspective or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll while admiring the natural beauty of the pink and white flowers. Don't forget your camera, as the views of the blossoms against the iconic backdrop of the Jefferson Memorial are truly breathtaking. 

The Tidal Basin is often considered one of the best spots to view the cherry blossoms and draws in thousands of people each year to witness the scenery. Additionally, many events and festivals are held at or near the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season, making it an even more popular destination for locals and tourists alike. 


Views Beyond the Tidal Basin 

 While the Tidal Basin is the quintessential cherry blossom spot, it can get crowded quickly, so we recommend not limiting yourself to just that one area. Explore hidden gems in other parts of the city where stunning views of the cherry blossoms can be admired such as The Wharf, Oxon Run Park, Stanton Park, American University’s Arboretum & Gardens, Congressional Cemetery, and Arlington National Cemetery (in Arlington, VA).  

Other underappreciated finds we recommend checking out include Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Japanese Lantern, U.S. National Arboretum, Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, the 4.1-mile Hains Point Loop Trail, the U.S. Capitol Grounds, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception, and Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens. 


Indulge in Festive Food & Drink  

Indulge in the flavors of spring with the National Cherry Blossom Festival's Cherry Picks Program, a collaboration with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. During the festival, participating restaurants showcase their creative spring menus featuring delicious treats and seasonal specialties. 

Don't miss the opportunity to try traditional Japanese cherry blossom-inspired dishes and beverages at various cafes and restaurants throughout the city. 


Plan Ahead and Be Prepared 

Cherry blossom season attracts a large number of visitors, so it's important to plan ahead and be prepared. Consider booking accommodations in advance, especially if you’re visiting during peak bloom, and use public transportation or ride-sharing services to navigate the city with ease. We recommend staying at any of the Placemakr properties in DC for a memorable stay close to the action.  


Experience Washington, DC's Cherry Blossom Season 

Visiting Washington, DC during cherry blossom season is an unforgettable experience that combines natural beauty with cultural celebrations. Whether you're exploring the Tidal Basin, attending festival events, or discovering hidden spots, the cherry blossoms will leave you in awe. We hope following our guide helps you to make the most of your first (but hopefully not last) visit.

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