The Tidal Basin will once again be the epicenter of the cherry blossom celebration in Washington. It promises a dazzling spectacle: nearly 4,000 trees, mostly of the Yoshino variety, create a shimmering pink cloud effect every year. It’s no wonder visitors are showing up in hordes, especially as pandemic restrictions ease.
Those who prefer a slightly more zen-like experience can view views of the Tidal Basin 24/7 via the #BloomCam. Or, choose from a range of alternatives when peak bloom drops (supposedly) at the end of March. Here are seven spots in the area that offer a quieter, less crowded cherry blossom experience.
Herwig, the National Cherry Blossom Festival arborist, has helped plant dozens of trees in this southeast DC park. Expect to see over 200 in the field, including some that grew from cuttings taken from the Tidal Basin. Last year, volunteers planted 30 new trees there as part of an effort to bring more cherry blossoms to Ward 8.
“Oxon Run is a great place to go,” says Herwig. “It’s a really big, beautiful place,” with a playground, trails, picnic tables, and grills. Grab a blanket and spend an hour relaxing in a quiet spot, or on March 26, stop by to participate in or observe the Blossom Kite Festival.
After touring the park, head to Open Crumb (1243 Good Hope Rd. SE) for fried chicken marinated in Greek yogurt, or maybe Ghanaian peanut soup with a side of braised greens. If you’re thirsty, try a fresh juice at Turning Natural (2025 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE).
Open every day. 1200 Mississippi Ave SE. Free.
Cherry Hill is, in a word, magical: a slope tucked away in a remote corner of this historic 10-acre Georgetown estate that, in bloom, is reminiscent of a pastel forest. Unlike many botanical gardens, there are no identifying labels or signage about the history of the trees, which helps create a relaxed environment.
“It’s a serene, park-like atmosphere where you can intimately enjoy the trees,” says Jonathan Kavalier, Dumbarton Garden and Grounds Manager. “I love observing how visitors use the space, and this garden is much more experiential. People will find a place they love and enjoy everything. »
Visitors often bring blankets and lie among the various species of cherry trees, both on Cherry Hill and elsewhere on the grounds. After the tour, head to Bistrot Lepic and Wine Bar (1736 Wisconsin Ave. NW). The French menu includes snails cooked in garlic butter and warm peach tart.
Open Tuesday to Sunday. 1703 32nd St. NW. doaks.org. Timed tickets required. $7.
This federally run garden/research institution has the most diverse selection of cherry trees in the region. There are more than 70 varieties, and collection stars include Awanui, a New Zealand flowering cherry that’s rare in the United States, and Kojo-no-mai, known for its winding branches. Some species were created by scientists who work at the arboretum. In a research plot, “there are every shade of pink you can think of, and some you’ve never thought of,” says Horticulture and Education Manager Scott Aker. “Every spring, it amazes me.”
The arboretum tends to have a longer bloom season than other local locations, with more early and late blooms. Download the park’s free app for maps and other useful information, then wander the 446-acre property. Then, head to Supreme Core Cider’s dining room (2400 T St. NE), next to the Arboretum’s residential entrance, for a flight or a pint – maybe the ‘cherry blossom’ cider which returned to the menu this month, blending dark-sweet cherries and hibiscus.
This leafy urban oasis is nestled among historic Capitol Hill townhouses, approximately half a mile from the Capitol. It is named after President Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, although the statue in the center honors Revolutionary War hero General Nathanael Greene. The perimeter of the park is lined with cherry trees, and most visitors will have no trouble snagging an unoccupied bench. As it’s a 10-minute walk from Union Station, Stanton Park is a good choice for those passing through town who want a quick look at the flowers.
While you’re in the neighborhood, head to Maketto (1351 H St. NE), which is one of the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s Cherry Picks restaurants – restaurants that offer special spring cocktails, appetizers and desserts until April 17. shrimp fried rice and apple ginger cake, served with loose leaf tea. Or celebrate the season with a cherry blossom donut at District Donut (749 Eighth St. SE): it’s a gooey combination of vanilla bean batter, cream cheese frosting, pie filling cherries, pie crust crumble and cream cheese drizzle.
Open every day. Fourth and Sixth Streets NE. Free.
More than 1,200 cherry trees — the largest concentration of any area neighborhood — line Kennedy Drive, Dorset Avenue, Kenwood Avenue and other streets in this Bethesda enclave. Flower-heavy branches stretch from side to side of the road, creating a fairy tale feel. Savor the trees in bloom at their peak, then return a few days later to walk through a dazzling pink carpet of fallen petals.
Parking in the residential area can be a challenge, so consider taking the subway red line to Bethesda station and then walking a mile and a half to Kenwood. Or hop on the Capital Crescent Trail in Georgetown and cycle to the neighborhood: the six-mile route takes cyclists directly to Dorset Avenue.
As you stroll through Kenwood, stop at snow cone and lemonade stands run by young residents, then refuel at one of the many restaurants in downtown Bethesda, a short drive away.
Open every day. Kenwood, between Little Falls Parkway and River Road, Bethesda, Md. Free.
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
This 95-acre park in Vienna lights up with around 200 cherry trees of varying varieties, including the Yoshino blossoms for which the Tidal Basin is known. Many of them surround Lake Carolyn, where visitors are likely to spot koi fish and snapping turtles. There is also a band near the Korean Bell Garden in Meadowlark.
Peak bloom usually occurs a day or two past downtown, says retired park manager Keith Tomlinson, “What I tell people is if you’re a cherry blossom enthusiast, go to the downtown, then a few days later, come here.”
Mosey in the field, then head to Clarity (442 Maple Ave. E, Vienna). The menu at the modern American restaurant changes daily and includes dishes such as braised lamb stew with hand-rolled fettuccine, followed by flourless chocolate cake and cocoa ice cream for dessert. Cherry blossoms are, after all, a special occasion.
Open every day. 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct., Vienna, Virginia. novaparks.com. $3 to $6.
More than 200 Okame cherry trees will bloom here this spring, and you can admire them from above: board the Capital Wheel and sip rosé champagne or a Cherry Lager beer while admiring the view. The giant Ferris wheel will turn pink in the evening until April 17.
As well as admiring the trees – which are scattered throughout the waterfront area – time your visit to coincide with a busy schedule of activities. On March 19, for example, Minyo Crusaders will perform and the public will be invited to learn a traditional Japanese dance. Later in the day, Kanzan cherry trees – which have dark, showy pink flowers – will be planted in a special ceremony. There will also be classes (such as origami and painting) throughout the festival, as well as a Japanese market on April 3.
If you work up an appetite while strolling around National Harbor, there are plenty of restaurants nearby: Voltaggio Brothers Steak House at MGM National Harbor (101 MGM National Ave., Oxon Hill) offers themed delicacies, such as ribs leavened with sherry cherry sauce and crispy Brussels sprouts served with plump cherries. Or head to Grace’s Mandarin (188 Waterfront St., Oxon Hill) for Cantonese tiger beef or Indonesian fried rice.
Open every day. Waterfront St., National Harbor, Md. Free.
This story was originally published on March 19, 2019. It has been updated.