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Peak bloom date announced: Best time to see DC's cherry blossoms in 2022

March 1 2022
15 min read
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As a Washington, D.C., resident on and off for much of the past eight years, I’ve seen my fair share of cherry blossoms, which is why I am writing this guide covering everything you need to know about seeing the district’s famous blooms this year.

While I may be a bit biased, D.C.’s cherry blossoms are not only impressive to locals: More than 1.5 million people from around the world flock to the city annually to see its impressive flower display, according to the organizers of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

This year is particularly special, as 2022 marks the 110th anniversary of Tokyo gifting 3,000 cherry trees to D.C. as a symbol of friendship.

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The National Park Service predicts peak bloom this year will be between March 22-25, though rest assured you can see blossoms both before and after those dates, depending on the weather.

Whether you plan on visiting for the first time or are eager to return to see the blooms again, here is everything you need to know about checking out D.C.’s stunning cherry blossoms.

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(Photo courtesy of National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc.)

When to see the cherry blossoms

Although you can’t control Mother Nature, you can get a little bit of help timing your trip to our nation’s capital to see its world-renowned blossoms.

"Projected peak bloom dates this year are March 22-25, though these dates may change depending on the weather," according to the NPS.

"We'll have blossoms before those dates and blossoms after," Diana Mayhew, president of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, said in the kickoff press conference for the festival on March 1.

Note this window will likely be tweaked slightly a couple of times leading up to the week of predicted peak bloom based on tracking winter forecasts for March, historical data and observation of the trees, per the NPS.

The NPS and the National Cherry Blossom Festival regularly update their peak bloom forecast projections, so be sure to check both groups’ websites for the latest information.

D.C.’s Yoshino cherry blossoms, which are the variety you’ll find around the popular Tidal Basin area, can reach peak bloom in March or April, though the exact timing often changes from year to year.

This year, both the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the NPS predict the blossoms will be in their finest form during that three-day period.

“Peak bloom varies annually depending on weather conditions,” the NPS notes on its website about the Cherry Blossom Festival. “Forecasting peak bloom is almost impossible more than 10 days in advance,” the NPS adds; however, peak bloom typically occurs the last week of March or the first week of April.

(Photo courtesy of National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc.)

“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,” per Destination DC, the city's official tourism organization. “One of the earliest recorded peak blooms occurred on March 15, 1990, while the latest recorded peak bloom occurred on April 18, 1958.”

If you’re lucky enough to time your visit so it coincides with peak bloom, make sure you’re strategic about what time of day you view the blooms.

“During the spring season, the least busy time to visit the cherry blossoms is in the early morning or evening,” says a Destination DC spokesperson. “You can expect more people on weekends and when the blooms are peaking.”

Since most travelers don’t have the flexibility to wait until the last minute to lock in a trip, the National Cherry Blossom Festival offers a live view of the blossoms should you just miss out on visiting during peak bloom. Simply pull up the Bloom Cam on your computer to see the Tidal Basin’s flowers at any time of the day or night.

Best places to view the cherry blossoms

(Photo courtesy of National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc.)

The Tidal Basin is generally touted as the most sought-after location in D.C. for seeing the Yoshino variety of cherry blossoms, but if you’re unable to visit during the main peak bloom period, you’re in luck: Another species, Kwanzan, usually blooms two weeks later in other parts of the city.

Regardless of which type of blossom you observe, you’ll find several top spots with cherry trees in D.C. Should you decide that the Tidal Basin is simply too crowded for your liking, you can check out other D.C., Maryland and Virginia (known locally as the DMV) locations that have blooms and more elbow room.

“If you want a break from the Tidal Basin, Arlington National Cemetery has some cherry blossoms, too,” says TPG coordinating editor Christine Smith, who’s lived in the DMV for the past seven years. “Given the setting, they’re quite beautiful.”

Speaking from personal experience, I would suggest walking along the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Northern Virginia, which provides my favorite views of the city and blossoms.

“Aside from that, go a little north or south on the Potomac at the prime viewing area,” says former D.C. resident and TPG senior editor Ben Mutzabaugh. “Everyone wants to look at them right by the Jefferson Memorial/Tidal Basin, but if you go a little north on Ohio Drive toward the Kennedy Center/Lincoln Memorial, the crowds tend to thin out just a bit. This is even more true if you head south … going under the 14th Street Bridge brings you down toward Hains Point, which has cherry trees but much thinner crowds.”

Other less-crowded locations with cherry blossom trees include the U.S. National Arboretum in Southeast D.C.; Old Town in Alexandria, Virginia; the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens in Georgetown; the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast D.C.; and the Hains Point Loop Trail in Southwest D.C.’s East Potomac Park.

What to do during the National Cherry Blossom Festival

While you’ll be spending a good chunk of your time viewing D.C.’s beautiful blossoms during a March or April visit, there are other cherry blossom-themed activities and events you can add to your vacation itinerary.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual festival that celebrates the 1912 presentation of the trees.

(Photo courtesy of National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc.)

Although the festival was completely virtual in 2021 because of COVID-19, it is offering a mix of in-person and virtual activities this year. Running from March 20-April 17, the four-week celebration will include an array of can’t-miss activities:

  • March 20: The National Cherry Blossom Festival begins with the opening ceremony, which will feature performances from acclaimed artists with ties to both the U.S. and Japan, including the Minyo Crusaders band and samurai artist Kamui. Tickets for the opening ceremony go on sale later this month.
  • March 26: Grab a kite and head to the Washington Monument grounds for the Blossom Kite Festival, which is free and open to the public, both in person and virtually. If you’re crafty, consider making your own kite and entering it in the Kitemaker’s Competition, which awards prizes for different categories of homemade kites for both adults and kids.
(Photo courtesy of National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc.)
  • April 9: If you love parades, make sure you watch the city’s cherry blossom-themed parade. The 10-block-long parade along Constitution Avenue features everything from balloons and elaborate floats to marching bands, celebrity entertainers and performers. You can view the majority of the parade for free, but you also have the option to buy a $25-$40 ticket for reserved grandstand seating in the performance areas of the parade route.
  • April 16: For a full day of live music, drinks and family-friendly fun, attend the festival’s Petalpalooza in D.C.’s Navy Yard neighborhood. This daylong event features interactive art installations, a beer garden and a fireworks show set to music, among other activities. The event is free and open to all ages.
  • April 28: The beloved Pink Tie Dinner Party returns to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center this year. The event includes a silent auction, which raises money to fund the festival’s annual events, plus dinner and a dessert reception. All attendees must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter and wear masks indoors while not actively eating or drinking. Tickets are $250 per person.

For a full list of blossom-themed activities, check out the festival’s events calendar.

Many of the city’s museums and monuments have also reopened to the public, so look in advance for free timed-entry tickets to places like the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the Washington Monument. Keep in mind that as of Feb. 15, proof of vaccination is no longer required at indoor locations in D.C., and the city’s mask mandate will be lifted come March 1, though private businesses may still require them.

How to get to the cherry blossoms

(Photo courtesy of National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc.)

If you’re coming from out of town to view the trees, flying into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) will make your life a whole lot easier.

Although both D.C. airports are located in Northern Virginia, Dulles International Airport (IAD) is much farther from downtown. Getting to D.C. from IAD will take about 40 minutes by car, while reaching the city from DCA only requires a 15-minute drive or a 30-minute Metro ride. Flights are readily available to and from both airports.

From East Coast cities like Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, you can also easily get to the city by train. Multiple Amtrak routes include stops at D.C.’s Union Station, and in some cases, taking the train can take about the same amount of time as it would to fly when you factor in arriving at the airport early for security screenings and lounge visits.

As you may assume, parking is extremely limited along the Tidal Basin (and really any viewing spot you come across), so plan on taking Metro’s Orange, Silver or Blue line to the Smithsonian stop, which is a 10-15-minute walk from the basin area, according to Destination DC.

Alternatively, you can take the Circulator bus, which stops directly at the Tidal Basin via its National Mall line. The 32, 34 or 36 Metrobus routes will also drop you near the Washington Monument, or about 10 minutes away (on foot) from the Tidal Basin’s cherry blossoms.

If you are looking to be even more environmentally friendly, TPG video director Tom Grahsler suggests hopping on a Capital Bikeshare bike. “Rent a bike and do an evening/night bike ride around the Tidal Basin. Crowds are gone, it’s still peaceful and beautiful, and the monuments are mostly outdoors and open, too.”

You’ll find the Capital Bikeshare docking stations closest to the Tidal Basin are near the Jefferson Memorial and at Jefferson Drive and 14th Street Northwest. Just note that nearby bikes may be hard to come by, depending on the time of day.

Related: You can now use your Apple Wallet to pay for trips on the Washington, DC, Metro

Where to stay near the cherry blossoms

(Photo by Caroline Tanner/The Points Guy)

Hotels are plentiful in our nation’s capital, and many of the city’s hotels are offering cherry blossom packages throughout March and April, including:

  • AC Hotel Washington DC Capitol Hill Navy Yard: Marriott’s AC Hotel in Navy Yard invites guests to celebrate the arrival of spring with a king room, two signature cherry blossom cocktails upon arrival in the AC Lounge, two Capital Bikeshare passes valid for 24 hours and a welcome gift that includes a cherry blossom candy jar. Package rates start at $302 per night.
  • Grand Hyatt Washington: Penn Quarter’s Grand Hyatt Washington offers the seasonal Blossom Bound package, which includes a daily $25 food and beverage credit, as well as a kite to use during the Blossom Kite Festival. Expect to pay a minimum of $489 per night for this package.
  • JW Marriott Washington, DC: The Cherry Blossom Festival package at downtown’s JW Marriott Washington, DC covers perks like a $30 daily food and beverage credit, plus valet parking for one vehicle for each night of your stay. Rates start at $602 per night.
  • Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C.: Downtown’s acclaimed Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C. is going all-out for cherry blossom season. With its seasonal package, you can experience a cherry blossom-themed afternoon tea service in your Tidal Basin-facing room or suite. Additionally, you’ll enjoy overnight parking for one vehicle. Package rates start at $660 per night.
  • Hilton Crystal City at Washington Reagan National Airport: If you don’t mind being slightly removed from central D.C.’s cherry blossom trees, consider the Hilton Crystal City at Washington Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. This Hilton outpost’s package includes a flowering cherry tree grow kit, overnight parking and cherry blossom-inspired food and beverages. The package costs at least $165 per night.

At TPG, we’ve favorably reviewed the Kimpton Banneker Hotel in Logan Circle and the Thompson Washington D.C. in Navy Yard. Although neither hotel offers a blossom-specific package, you can book rooms for the first weekend of April starting at $250 (or 50,000 points) or $264 (or 20,000 points), respectively.

(Photo courtesy of National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc.)

Related: The capital’s newest luxury hotel: Review of the Conrad Washington, DC

Bottom line

(Photo courtesy of National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc.)

Cherry blossom season is one of the best times of year for Washingtonians and tourists alike, despite the crowds. Your best bet at viewing the blossoms this year is sometime between March 22-25.

While you can’t touch or pick these fragile flowers, as it’s against the law in D.C., you can admire them close-up and take as many photos as your heart desires.

Use this guide as your go-to resource for planning your D.C. cherry blossom vacation, and you’re bound to have a memorable visit filled with stunning blooms.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
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