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Guide to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC
Everything you want to know about DC’s cherry blossom trees and the National Cherry Blossom Festival can be found right here.
Nothing signifies the arrival of spring in the District quite like the blooming of the cherry blossom trees and the three-week National Cherry Blossom Festival to celebrate the occasion. More than 1.5 million visitors descend upon Washington, DC each year to admire the 3,000-plus trees. The festival, which runs from March 20 – April 15, is full of events that honor both American and Japanese cultures and represents a close bond forged between the two countries that began with Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki’s gift of the trees back in 1912.
Tell me more about DC's cherry blossoms and peak bloom
Peak bloom is the magical moment visitors want to be on hand for during the cherry blossom season. The peak bloom date is defined as the day when 70 percent of the trees surrounding the Tidal Basin have opened their buds, creating an unforgettable sea of pink and white. The National Park Service (NPS) is responsible for measuring the growth of the buds of the trees. Each year, the organization provides a prediction of when peak bloom will arrive.
According to the National Park Service, the 2018 cherry blossom peak bloom period began on April 5. The best viewing of the cherry blossom trees typically lasts four to seven days after peak bloom begins, but the blossoms can last for up to two weeks under ideal conditions.
On average, peak bloom occurs on April 4, but that date changes year-to-year. For instance, 2012’s peak bloom occurred on March 20 due to unseasonably warm weather, while 2014's bloom did not happen until April 10 due to a cold winter. The blooming period, when 20 percent of the blossoms are open before the petals and leaves fall, can last up to 14 days, depending on weather conditions. Just remember that "forecasting peak bloom is almost impossible more than 10 days in advance," according to NPS.
For more tips to help plan your visit, make sure to check out our list of things you need to know about the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Please do your part in helping to protect the National Mall and the cherry blossoms. We kindly remind you to enjoy the blossoms, but never pick them (it’s against the law).
More about the National Cherry Blossom Festival
The National Cherry Blossom Festival isn't just a celebration of the blossoms—it's a three-week-long cultural festival held all over the city. Get things started at the Pink Tie Party — a fundraiser featuring cocktails (with accompanying attire), cuisine, live music and dancing. The Opening Ceremony, a free event held at the Warner Theatre, includes traditional and contemporary performances from American and Japanese artists. Other popular events include the Blossom Kite Festival, Petalpalooza (formerly the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival) and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade presented by Events DC, which is followed by the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival. For a full list of can't-miss cherry blossom events, see our guide to events during the festival.
How do I get to the cherry blossom trees surrounding the Tidal Basin?
There are many great ways to get to the stunning cherry blossom trees surrounding the Tidal Basin. If you're taking the Metro, use the Blue, Orange or Silver lines and exit at the Smithsonian Metro stop. From there, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to the Tidal Basin Welcome Area, located at 1501 Maine Avenue SW. Via Metrobus, the 32, 34 or 36 routes will drop you at the National Mall, near the Washington Monument. A 10-minute walk south will bring you to the welcome area.
For more information about getting to the blossoms, check out our guide to reaching the most-popular cherry blossom spots in DC, as well as less-populated areas for blossom revelry.
Where can I stay during the National Cherry Blossom Festival?
Many DC-area hotels offer special cherry blossom-themed packages, which, in addition to deals and discounts, may include a free bloom-inspired cocktail, chocolates, meals or more. Check out all the places to stay in Washington, DC.
Fun Facts about Washington, DC’s cherry blossoms
- Did you know the first donation of 2,000 trees, received in 1910, was burned on orders from President William Howard Taft? Insects and disease had infested the gift, but after hearing about the plight of the first batch, the Japanese mayor sent another 3,020 trees to DC two years later.
- Did you know First Lady Helen Herron Taft planted the first tree in West Potomac Park? Many First Ladies, including Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, have officially commemorated the blossoms. On March 27, 2012, Michelle Obama took up the cause by planting a cherry tree to mark the centennial of the blossoms.
- Did you know one of the earliest recorded peak blooms occurred on March 15, 1990, while the latest recorded peak bloom occurred on April 18, 1958?
- Did you know the majority of the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin are of the Yoshino variety? But another species, the Kwanzan, usually blooms two weeks after the Yoshino trees, giving visitors a second chance to catch the blossoms.