See the Cherry Blossoms
The cherry blossoms are in full bloom around the Tidal Basin. One of the best things to do in DC right now is to go right out to the Tidal Basin to see them. They won’t last long. Take a Cherry Blossom Tour by Nonpartisan Pedicab to see the cherry blossoms from all the best vantage points. You can stop at the various monuments on the way like the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, and the MLK Memorial.
The Tidal Basin
The Tidal Basin is a large body of water surrounded by cherry trees. At full bloom, the entire circumference is a sea of pink and white. One of the best things to do in DC is to walk or ride around the Tidal Basin.
Getting to the Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin
The nearest metro station is the Smithsonian Metro. However, from the Smithsonian Metro to the Jefferson Memorial is about a mile. The FDR and the MLK Memorials are even further. Many people feel that one of the best things to do in DC is to take a Cherry Blossom Tour by pedicab. Nonpartisan Pedicab can show you all the monuments and take you to the best vantage points for great photos.
Driving to the Cherry Blossoms
Don’t drive. There is a lot of traffic when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. If you must drive, you will possibly find parking near the Jefferson Memorial. There are three metered parking lots, but at full bloom they fill up quickly. Otherwise, keep driving down towards Haines Point. There is a $1 shuttle from the Jefferson Memorial that will take you back and forth from Haines Point.
On-street parking on the National Mall is no longer free of charge. Three hour parking is available at $2 per hour. Parking meters only accept credit cards.
How Long Will the Cherry Blossoms Last
Not long. Now that they are in full bloom, they will probably have lost all their petals by the end of the weekend. They may not even last that long.
Food and Restrooms around the Tidal Basin
There is a food kiosk at the Jefferson Memorial. The official Cherry Blossom Festival is at the Tidal Basin parking area (which is closed to cars during the festival). Here, there is more food for sale.
Restrooms can be found at the the three major memorials around the Tidal Basin — the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial and the MLK Memorial. There are also port-a-potties in front of the Jefferson Memorial and at the Cherry Blossom Festival in the Tidal Basin parking area.
One of the Best Things to Do in DC
There is no question that one of the best things to do in DC is to get out to see the cherry blossoms while they are in full bloom. Take a pedicab tour of the Cherry Blossoms in order to get all the best views and to visit all the monuments.
History of the Cherry Trees in Washington DC
Growing cherry trees in Washington was the brainchild of two flowering-cherry aficionados, Eliza Scidmore and Dr. David Fairchild. Scidmore, the first woman to sit on the National Geographic Society’s board of directors, tried unsuccessfully for 20 years, starting in the 1880s, to get the trees imported. Fairchild, a botanist for the Department of Agriculture, paid for 75 trees himself to test their viability. In 1907 he declared the experiment a success.
It wasn’t until 1910, however, that Washington received its first shipment of Japanese flowering cherries. The government of Japan sent 2,000 of them as a gesture of friendship, hoping in part to smooth over ongoing immigration tensions with the US. Much to the chagrin of the Taft administration, inspectors with the Department of Agriculture found the trees full of insects and diseases and recommended they be burned to protect American specimens. This nearly created a diplomatic crisis, and the decision to burn the trees required an okay from the secretaries of state and war—as well as President Taft himself.
In 1912, Tokyo mayor Yuko Ozaki gave the city 3,020 more cherry trees, which the Department of Agriculture accepted. First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, ceremonially planted the first two trees. They remain standing on the north bank of the Tidal Basin just west Independence and 17th streets.
In 1915, the US reciprocated by sending 40 of our native flowering dogwoods to Japan. Hardly a fair trade… .
Washington’s first cherry blossom festival took place in 1935, with the backing of the DC Council and local civic organizations.
In 1965, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted a gift of 3,800 more trees from Japan.
For more information visit the National Park Service official Cherry Blossom festival website.