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Getting to DC for peak cherry blossom bloom this week!

March 20, 2022
7 min read
photo of cherry blossoms in D.C.
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Warm weather in our nation's capital the last few days should pave the way to an annual rite of spring within this week: peak bloom of the iconic cherry blossom trees.

They line the Tidal Basin and spill out along nearby streets in Washington, D.C., and each year in late March or early April, the pinnacle of their iconic and picturesque blooming cycle brings tourists to the city from all over the world.

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If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the trees at their finest, you’ll have to hurry. As of Friday, the National Park Service (NPS) projected this year’s peak bloom will fall between March 22 and 25 … just a few days from now.

For those hoping to use saved-up points for a quick jaunt to D.C., there are some options to book last minute reservations without paying too much.

Related: Booking a last minute trip to catch Spring Training

The cherry blossoms 

The cherry blossom trees have been a spectacle in Washington for more than a century. When they’re at peak bloom, you can spend hours walking around parts of downtown D.C. enjoying the spring sunshine while getting to see them up close.

Cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in Washington. (Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy, 2017)

Unless you’re closely monitoring their progress, it’s easy to miss the spectacular peak bloom. I went to college in D.C. and spent a lot of time for a few years after graduation. I only caught a glimpse of the trees at peak bloom on two occasions. I tried a couple of other times only to find I was too late.

The NPS has been tweeting about being on #BloomWatch in recent days, and on Friday they indicated a majority of the trees were one stage away from being at peak bloom.

I checked the live NPS camera and I can confirm the blooms are getting close, but not there yet. Peak bloom lasts a few days, and can end even more quickly if it rains or gets windy.

Screenshot of live camera courtesy of NPS, Earth Cam

Weather forecasts notwithstanding, any last-minute trip to catch the cherry blossoms should ideally be between Tuesday and Friday or Saturday of next week. (Long weekend, anyone?)

Getting to Washington

If you’re coming from another East Coast destination and are within a few hours, driving is certainly an option, though as a longtime resident of D.C. and Northern Virginia, be prepared for tolls, traffic and expensive parking once you’re in the city.

For those looking to burn some airline miles though, the best mileage deals I found this week by far were with American Airlines, which has a hub at nearby Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), which is the closest airport to the city.

I plugged in some hypothetical trips between Wednesday and Saturday and the price was 15,500 AAdvantage miles for travel originating at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) and Boston’s Logan International Airport (BOS). From South Florida, I found round trips for a little more — 18,000 or 19,000 miles — from Miami International (MIA) or Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International (FLL).

Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines

Related: Spring Family Fun in Washington, DC

Where to stay

I found a couple of good redemption rates for visitors looking to stay closer to D.C.’s main tourist attractions. One option for travelers with World of Hyatt loyalty points to spend is the Grand Hyatt, at 10th and H Street, about a mile from the National Mall. It has on-site access to Metro Center, a Washington Metro station that connects some of the system's busiest lines.

For the same three-night Wednesday-Saturday trip, I found a nightly cash rate of $336 at the Grand Hyatt. If you book with rewards though, you can get a nightly rate of 15,000 points. According to TPG’s March 2022 Points and Miles Valuations, that’s far better than the cash rate.

Screenshot courtesy of Hyatt

You can save quite a bit in value (according to TPG valuations) by using points over cash at the Hyatt Place National Mall, which is on the other side of the Mall compared to the Grand Hyatt. Like the Grand Hyatt, many of the Smithsonian’s museums are walkable from this hotel.

Screenshot courtesy of Hyatt

At both the Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Place, you might need to take the Metro a few stops or summon a cab or Uber to get to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms, but it’s close enough that you should be able to do so for a relatively inexpensive price.

For those looking to save but still enjoy an authentic D.C. experience, one option you might try is booking a hotel across the river in Virginia. By doing this, you save on parking, avoid some traffic, and if you book in the Crystal City area you’ll be close to DCA.

Booking with Marriott Bonvoy, I found a three-night stay for a total of 55,000 points at the Residence Inn Old Town Duke Street in Alexandria...which TPG's valuations suggest is worth about $440. The cash rate for the stay would have totaled $588.

Screenshot courtesy of Marriott

While it's not in D.C., this hotel is right in the heart of Old Town Alexandria and its array of local restaurants and shops, and a walk of less than five minutes from the King Street Old Town Metro station, which can take you right into the city.

Bottom line

If you want to catch the cherry blossoms at peak bloom in our nation’s capital this spring, you’ll have to act fast. By this time next week, there’s a good chance peak bloom may be past us.

Depending on which airline miles you have to spend and where you’re traveling from, you may be able to find airfare at a reasonable rate even with a last-minute booking. You certainly can find some savings by booking with hotel points in the city or just outside.

Just be sure to watch the weather, because one bad day of wind or rain could put a damper on the spectacle!

Featured image by Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy, 2017
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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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases