What are your plans this weekend? After too many weeks of cold weather, the sun has finally started shining and the temperatures are warming up. It’s spring in DC and that can only mean one thing – the cherry blossoms are coming. Peak bloom is just two days away so this weekend is the perfect time to head downtown for a visit. I’m going Saturday morning around sunrise (yes, you read that right) with my mom and my brother.
How to get there
I take the metro to get downtown, but there are a number of other ways to get to the cherry blossoms. If you opt to visit the blossoms in their iconic location, the tidal basin, the closest metro station is the Smithsonian stop on the blue, orange and silver lines. You could also get off at L’Enfant Plaza if you ride the green and yellow line or Metro Center if you ride the red line and would rather walk than transfer lines.
The tidal basin isn’t the only place to see the blossoms though. They’re all over the city. The National Arboretum is a lesser known spot with a grove of cherry trees so you won’t have to wake up early or fight tourists to see them. And they offer free parking so you can drive. The closest metro station is Stadium Armory on the blue and orange lines, but to get closer to the arboretum gates you need to catch a transfer on the B2 metro bus.
Things to do
Walk around the Tidal Basin – Get off at the Smithsonian stop, walk towards the Washington Monument and then down around the tidal basin. There are lots of pretty views and monuments to take in as you make your way around the Mall.
Run a race – There’s a ten mile run, but if that isn’t your thing you could also sign up for the 5K. There’s even a half mile run for the little ones.
Visit one of the Smithsonian museums – You’re on the National Mall already, so why not stop for a quick visit to one of the Smithsonian museums. They’re free! My favorite is the Natural History Museum. It’s so big you could visit it dozens of times and not run out of things to see.
Grab lunch afterwards – I like to grab a sandwich at White Apron after visiting the National Mall. It’s quick, cheap and delicious. Or you could grab a snack at Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken. They’re currently offering cherry blossom doughnuts with a vanilla cream cheese glaze and a cherry filling.
Enjoy one of the dozens of Cherry Blossom Festival events – You could fly a kite with hundreds of other people around the Washington monument, watch fireworks on the Southwest Waterfront, catch a parade, enjoy a Japanese street festival, or stay up all night at an anime-themed party at the Carnegie Library.
Tips for visiting
My number one tip if you want to see the blossoms at the tidal basin is to go early. Seriously early. Last year I caught one of the first metro trains into the city and arrived at the tidal basin just after the sun started rising. The only other people there were a few locals out walking their dogs.
Eventually crowds started trickling in until we were caught in a thick throng of tourists around breakfast time. Just as we tried to leave we got swept up in the Cherry Blossom 5K, forcing us to take a circuitous route back to the metro.
Don’t stay too long. There are portapotties and food trucks if you need them, but by the time they open the crowds will be getting thick. Instead, pack your own breakfast and stop into a nearby coffee shop before or after your visit to use their restroom.
Would you like to visit the cherry blossoms, or have you been before? Have any tips or secret spots for seeing the blossoms without the crowds?