Tips for Families Viewing the Cherry Blossoms

Cherry trees in bloom around the Supreme Court last year

Cherry trees in bloom around the Supreme Court last year

[Note: This was originally posted in 2011, then updated last year. But since the tips always apply, I’m re-posting yet again with a few more minor updates. Also, I’m not in DC at the moment, but I’ve heard the first inklings of blossoms have been sighted, so this post will hopefully come in handy very, very soon…]

Taking the family to the National Mall to see some pretty flowers sounds easy enough. If only it actually was. The cherry blossom peak is one of the best times to visit DC – the city is at its most beautiful, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival provides loads of fun activities — but viewing the famous blooms can also be a bit challenging without being aware of a few things. Here are seven recommendations to consider if seeing the cherry blossoms is on your family’s spring agenda.

1. Don’t drive if you value your sanity. Take the Metro, ride the bus, bike, walk, jet pack. Get here however you can, just leave the car at home. Traffic is beyond frustrating during the cherry blossom peak, and your chances of finding decent parking are about as good as hitting the Powerball with Hurley’s numbers (okay, slight exaggeration, but it is hard). The masses descend on Washington, DC, this time of year, and way too many do so in their vehicles. Besides, kids love riding the Metro—it’s like an urban version of Hogwarts Express. The Smithsonian stop on the Blue/Orange Line is mere minutes from all of the blossom action, but it’s also guaranteed to be crowded. Consider riding to L’Enfant on Yellow/Green, Federal Center on Blue/Orange, or even a stop downtown or in Penn Quarter and taking a nice stroll to the blossoms. *If you absolutely must drive and need parking you might find a spot in Hains Point, where there is free and metered parking, then walk or take a shuttle ($1/person) to the Tidal Basin. Your best bet, though, might be to find a garage in the downtown or Penn Quarter area, then walk or Metro to the National Mall.

Weeknight Tidal Basin stroll a couple of springs ago

2. Visit on a weekday if you have the flexibility. Crowds are significantly smaller from Monday to Friday, so you can stroll around the Tidal Basin at a nice pace, and public transportation won’t be nearly as packed (though it still will be more crowded than usual). If the kids are in school or daycare during the week, think about going later in the day. I’ve always thought the National Mall and monuments look beautiful at sunset, and I bet the blossoms are just as sublime. In the same vein, if you can go super early, the morning light on the Mall makes for quite a picturesque setting, too.

3. Consider using a child carrier instead of a stroller for little ones. This is especially applicable if you take the Metro, since elevator lines can be very long and slow-going. I learned my lesson a couple of years ago on a weekday and ended up taking my daughter out of the stroller and carrying both on the escalator, which was probably as unsafe as it was difficult. Even if you don’t take Metro, a carrier is still a wise option. Navigating crowded walkways while pushing a pram takes focus, and you could end up spending more time concentrating on not rolling over others’ heels than enjoying the sights you came to see. It’s a bonus for wee ones, too — perched on your back, your babe will get a better view of the blossoms.

4. Check the National Cherry Blossom Festival schedule, so you can plan your visit accordingly. Some of the city’s most anticipated events are part of the annual celebration, the Blossom Kite Festival, Southwest Waterfront Fireworks, and National Cherry Blossom Parade among them. There will also be events and programs for families at the Freer-Sackler Galleries and Yards Park. All events take place close by the blossoms or an easy Metro ride away. See the National Cherry Blossom Festival website for dates and details on the best events for families.

5. Get a new view of the blossoms and enjoy a fun activity from the comfort of a cruise on the Potomac. Several companies offer boat rides along the river, many of them specifically for the season when the cherry trees are in bloom. Capitol River Cruises, Potomac Riverboat Company, and Odyssey Cruises are a few to check out. Though before you go straight to the websites, look for a deal on Groupon, Goldstar, LivingSocial, or Certifikid. We got a great offer that way.

Playing under blossoms at the Arboretum

6. Seek out other spots to see the cherry blossoms if you don’t want to deal with crowds and chaos around the Tidal Basin and National Mall. Several places around the DC-metro area are well known for their annual cherry blossom displays. When I worked in Bethesda many years ago, it was an annual tradition for my colleagues and I to take a drive through Kenwood, a lovely neighborhood between Little Falls Parkway and River Road with cherry tree-lined streets. The National Arboretum also has a nice collection of the trees and offers a beautiful, peaceful environment in which to view them in bloom. For even more suggestions for cherry blossoms minus the crowds, check out this Washingtonian article from a few years ago.

7. Don’t forget your camera to take advantage of some of the best photo ops DC offers. The peak colors plus the monuments are about as iconic as you can get when photographing Washington. Get your kids to sit still – or even let them run and play for a fun candid – and you’ve got this year’s holiday card.



Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Spring, Weekdays, Weekend

9 Responses to Tips for Families Viewing the Cherry Blossoms

  1. Great tips! Last week we scheduled our trip downtown for today, but the blooms aren’t quite there yet thanks to all this cold weather. Sounds like next week (6th to the 10th or so) is the time to go for peak blooms right now (subject to constant revision of course). I can’t wait to get down there.

    Not long ago I noticed a herd of food trucks located at both L’Enfant Plaza, and around the area of Virginia Ave and 19th St NW – both of which are pretty close walking distance to the cherry blossoms. Certainly worth a short detour if your group needs good food.

    • Linda @ KidFriendly DC

      Thanks for mentioning the food trucks, Jimmy! They are pretty close to the blossoms and a great food option for people going to see them.

  2. susan

    Do you think it would be reasonably possible to walk with a stroller from Th Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival this weekend to the Tidal Basin? It looks pretty easy on the map but I don’t get over to this area as much as I should. Thank you.

    • Linda @ KidFriendly DC

      Hi Susan – I think so. It’s going to be a beautiful weekend, perfect for a nice stroll in the city. It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes or so.

  3. kelly

    Hi I am considering catching the metro to the cherry blossom parade area. However I am from Philadelphia and I live in Laurel.
    I have never rode any metro transportation. I also will be bringing4 children. I’m trying to weigh driving against catching the metro..considering cost (metro vs parking meter or lots) which metro station would take me into DC to get to the area I need to go..thanks so much

    • Linda @ KidFriendly DC

      Kelly – Sorry to reply late – I just saw this! I hop you figured this out. If not, for future reference you can take the Metro from the Greenbelt station (green line) and take it one stop to Gallery Place, where you can either walk from or switch to the red line and take it to Metro Center. It’s easy to get to Constitution Ave. from there. And if you ever want to go to the museums on the Mall via Metro, just stay on the green line all the way to L’Enfant Plaza. It’s located pretty close to the Air & Space and Hirshhorn Museums.

      • kelly

        Thankyou for getting back to me..The kids and I had a blast at the Festival today..I love your blog..I always check it to see whats going for kids.. (I know I emailed you rather late) At least I know for future visits to DC..I ended up driving and once I got to there area, I literally spent 18 minutes driving around looking for parking..but as I was driving I did get to see where the Spy Museum and Madame Tussads were located, which was great since I plan on visiting those places. I also saw the Metro Center stop where I saw lots of people riding the escalator up to street level (so now I know where that is) quick question if I caught the metro at new carrolton, would that take me straight to the metro center stop so that I wouldn’t have to transfer trains?

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