A Rigorously Tested, Ultra-Comprehensive, Tourist-Free Guide to DC’s Cherry Blossom Season
If you’ve lived in DC long enough to witness the onslaught of tourists for cherry blossom season, then you know why an article like this one is necessary. As residents of our great non-state, we should get to reap the rewards of this pink-filled season sans crowds: We deserve to enjoy long, 70-degree days that include floating daffodils, popping blossoms, and fewer of the swamp-effects of the impending summer months.
First, some facts: Peak bloom at the Tidal Basin, the mecca for cherry blossom-peeping, has been predicted for March 22 (tomorrow!). The National Cherry Blossom Festival itself runs until April 17. The cherry trees at the Tidal Basin were a gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the District.
Okay, now the list of where to take in the cherry blossom sites, where to drink cherry blossom-themed drinks and eat cherry-blossom-themed food and also where to do plain old pink-flavored fun stuff this season.
If you want to stay in and celebrate with a homemade cherry blossom-themed event (see suggestions below), you can do so while watching the bloom cam.
You’ll have to drive here. It’s right in the District, but there’s not much nearby (other than Costco). It’s a dog-friendly nature oasis with both dirt and paved trails — and 1,000 different cherry trees. Take a self-guided tour (and a leash for the dog), and when you enter, we recommend parking in one of the backlots where you’ll find more parking and even access to the Anacostia River. Non-electric bikes and scooters allowed.
Though some refer to it as a peninsula, East Potomac Park is an island that sits between the main branch of the Potomac River and the Washington Channel. In Southwest DC, you can bike, scooter, run, walk, etc., and take in views of cherry blossom-lined Ohio Drive. Hains Point, where you can golf, mini-golf or play tennis is at the southernmost tip of the park. The Jefferson Memorial is on the northern edge. Dog friendly.
Described as “historic yet active,” Congressional Cemetery is a 35-acre burial ground on Capitol Hill lined with cherry blossoms. It’s dog friendly but note that it can take two years to get off their dog-membership waiting list.
Kenwood — Bethesda, Maryland
Off of Little Falls Parkway, this neighborhood is lined with cherry blossoms. Just outside of DC over the Chevy Chase line, Kenwood Avenue will be crowded with peepers, but most of them will be locals. When visiting, don’t forget that people actually live here.
While there may be tourists here, it’s likely they are there to see the Capitol Building and the Supreme Court nearby. Right on Capitol Hill, the Architect of the Capitol is in charge of all plant-life on the grounds as well as bringing in The People’s Tree every Christmas.
A few blocks east of the Capitol Building, this public park (with a kids playground, too) has cherry blossoms flanking the circle that where the statue of General Nathanael Greene stands. Yes, it’s confusing: The park is named for Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War under Abraham Lincoln, but the statue is of a different guy. Located at the intersection of Maryland and Massachusetts Avenues on Capitol Hill.
At the top of the hill in Georgetown, in 2014, National Geographic named Dumbarton Oaks one of the ten best gardens in the world. Check out the remote “Cherry Hill” garden, open from 3–6 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday, for your fill of cherry blossoms. You may want to buy a ticket in advance.
With more than 200 cherry blossom trees planted in the early aughts, this park is across the river in Southeast. The Friends of Oxon Run Park are committed to improving the tree canopy in the neighborhood; consider making a donation.
In Northeast DC’s Brookland neighborhood, there are more than 150 cherry blossom trees on the campus of North America’s largest Roman Catholic Church. Open to the public at no charge.
Great for bird watching, too, Kenilworth Park is one of DC’s best kept secrets. You don’t have to go too far into the park to see a batch of cherry trees; they surround the parking area and visitor’s center.
This park offers a view of cherry blossom trees lining the riverside path. As an added bonus, bring binoculars, because there could be a bald eagle spotting.
The Scidmore Sazerac features Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye, absinthe, brandied cherry, and Peychaud’s Bitters. A taste of history, the cocktail is named for Mrs. Eliza Scidmore, who formed the proposal to bring the famed cherry trees to DC. They also offer an Ozaki Sour: Toki Japanese Whiskey, crushed Sakura, blood orange, lemon, and egg white. Named after the mayor of Tokyo who gifted the cherry trees to DC.
The vintage Airstream trailer is launching a #BlossomBar outside of Union Market for cherry blossom season. The celebrations will include an outdoor photo booth and cocktails like I Just Cherry Crush A Lot (with frozen cherry hibiscus crush) and A Cherry Tree (a frozen cherry Gin Rickey, DC’s official cocktail).
Yes, you’ll have to go to Virginia, but chef David Guas will make it worth your while. He’s celebrating the season with hot cross buns studded with cherries, and icing.
Cocktails and mocktails on offer include the Sakura Sour, a pink drink with FUK Single Grain Japanese whisky, housemade raspberry shrub, Japanese yuzu bitters, and egg whites; Mint Blossoming Gin and Tonic (with Butterfly Pea Flower infused with Jin Jiji India Dry Gin and elderflower); and the Tonic Tidal Basin mocktail. Cherry-themed desserts include the Pink Dragon Panna Cotta: almond cookie crumble, raspberry, white chocolate ganache, cherry gelee, strawberry meringue, and bergamot.
Here you can order a Blushing Blossom (Tito’s, St Germaine, and fresh lime juice over a large pink ice cube made from cranberry and topped with edible flowers), followed by the cherry blossom seared foie gras, with honey lime yogurt, white strawberry, dragon fruit, brioche, red wine poached cherry, strawberry caviar, and raspberry sauce.
Get your blossom syrup in a Full Bloom cocktail, with Haku Vodka, Mancino Sakura Vermouth, blossom syrup, lemon, and bubbles.
This Northeast DC neighborhood is lighting things up for cherry blossom season. NoMa’s iconic water tower will be lit up in hot pink through mid-April. On March 24, renowned DC multimedia artist Robin Bell will cast a newly commissioned work, Vicissitude, onto the 125-foot tall façade of The Burton apartment building (200 Florida Avenue NE). It will be DC’s newest and tallest artistic canvas. The visual will be in a constant state of transition, just like the real blossoms. The project will light up each night through April 3 from 7:45 PM until 10:30 PM. Great vantage point: The Metropolitan Branch Trail.
Celebrating Cherry Fest through April 17th, there will be photo opps with the giant Cherry Blossom sculpture created and designed by famed artist Patrick Guyton. There’s also Paint & Sip on March 29th and Cherry Nights on March 31.
The City of Alexandria
The powers that be in Alexandria have created a spring Instagram trail. Listing 10 Instagram-worthy locations, you won’t have to hunt for the best blooms on the other side of the Potomac, from the waterfront to Tide Lock Park; they’ve even snuck in a great place to photograph blooming wisteria.
STAY AT HOME:
For those who want to take in the sites and activities but would prefer a celebration at home, we’ve got you covered with ice cream and homemade cocktails.
Pick up some cherry blossom-themed flavors, and whip up a sundae at home. Your options: Smoked Vanilla Sakura Cherry with smoky Lapsang Souchong black tea; Raspberry Rose (pink raspberry ice cream with a splash of rosewater); and Cherries Jubilee (brandy plus black cherry ice cream).
Make your own cherry blossom cocktail at home with Pratt Standard’s recipe for a Cherry Blossom Fizz:
- 1.5 oz vodka or gin
- 0.5 oz lemon juice
- 1 oz Pratt Standard Cherry Blossom Syrup
- 2 oz club soda
Combine vodka, lemon juice, and cherry blossom syrup in a shaker, add lots of ice, shake, and strain into a coupe glass. Add club soda if desired. For a mocktail version, omit alcohol and add club soda.
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