A Japanese tradition, sakura-watching or cherry blossoms are one of the most highly anticipated springtime events. You don't have to go all the way across the Pacific to see these beautiful budding flowers, though. You simply need to head to the nation's capitol.
A gift from the mayor of Tokyo way back in the early 1900s, cherry blossoms have been blooming in Washington DC since 1912. One of the top draws for springtime tourists, it's hard to predict exactly when the flowers will show up at the Tidal Basin, but you can usually count on them being around at the end of March, beginning of April, and track of their progress on CherryBlossomWatch.com. Unless the weather is bad, expect to fight your way through the crowds to get a glimpse, making it next to impossible to get a good photo. Don't fret -- we have the inside scoop on exactly how to see these pretty pedals.
The Tidal Basin
Most cherry blossom enthusiasts head directly to the Tidal Basin near the MLK, Jefferson and FDR Monuments, and for good reason. Over 3,000 cherry trees are in bloom, raining down pedals for all to enjoy. However, a friendly warning -- look, but don’t touch; it is actually against the law to pick the blossoms. Park guards also frown upon climbing the trees, no matter how cool of an Instagram snap it may be. Parking can be tricky, so if you have the option, take the metro or walk from your hotel. Stroll under the trees for pictures, but save the picnic for the National Arboretum. Your food may get trampled as everyone wanders by.
The National Arboretum is often forgotten during cherry blossom season, but that's a big mistake. Large enough to accommodate plenty of park-goers, the gardens are breathtaking and worth exploring. Grab a Cherry Blossom guide from the visitor's center and head to the Asian Gardens first, where multiple layers of trees, blooms and spring foliage are ready to show off.
National Cherry Blossom Festival
Every year, the city welcomes in spring with a month-long Cherry Bloom Festival. Events include kite flying, fireworks, and a massive parade. Special menus can be found at local restaurants and more than one cherry blossom treatment can be found at the top DC spas, including Kimpton’s Lorien Hotel in Alexandria.
Take a Guided Tour
Several companies around the city offer walking tours of the blooms around the Tidal Basin, and also of the DC neighborhoods that harbor their own secret stash of cherry trees. This is the easiest way to see the blooms. If walking isn’t your thing, you can also hop on a Segway tour that covers even more ground.
Blooms by Boat
Another way to avoid the crowds is by hopping on a riverboat cruise. You'll float by the Lincoln Memorial, the Kennedy Center, Washington Harbor, Roosevelt Island, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Tidal Basin, while getting a bonus view of the reflection from the water. Brunch, lunch and dinner cruises are available if you want to make more your cherry blossom experience more of an event.