Crowds are an integral part of Washington DC's cherry blossom season. But there are ways you can avoid them and still see flowers.
Cherry blossom season brings the crowds, and foot and road traffic around the Tidal Basin can get very heavy. There’s almost certainly going to be quite a few people around, especially during the day. So you could be waiting for a very long time if you wait for a people-free view.
But the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin are not the only cherry trees in town. If you’re looking for great alternatives that don’t involve the logistical issues of the Tidal Basin–or if you just want to take photos in a calmer environment or without people getting in your shot–here are some places to try. Or maybe you couldn’t time your visit precisely with the cherry blossom bloom. If so, you’re still in for a treat, because the DC area in spring and summer has lots of other beautiful flowers and gardens.
There’s a grove of cherry trees on the edge of the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Tidal Basin.
There are a couple of thousand cherry trees around the waterfront of Hains Point. Most people use Hains Point as a parking lot, but it’s a great place to find some beautiful cherry trees all to yourself. And there’s plenty of room to sit and enjoy the view of the river.
There are especially large collections of Kwanzan cherry blossoms on the western side that are well worth seeing when they’re in bloom.
The National Arboretum is a sprawling parkland within Washington DC. It’s not walkable from the National Mall, and once you’re there, a car of bicycles will help a lot (it’s a large area). There’s a huge variety of flora here, including many other flowering trees and plants.
The Dumbarton Oaks campus in Georgetown has some beautiful cherry blossoms along with lots of other flowers in a beautifully maintained and peaceful setting right in the heart of DC. There is an entrance fee, and the gardens are only open from 2 PM to 6 PM. More info on their website.
While there are cherry blossoms all over the area–even along the median strip along one of the busiest roads in the region–Route 66–but a residential neighborhood in Bethesda has an unusually large collection that can be a lot more convenient and a lot less busy to visit than those downtown. You can find more information here.
This botanical park in the Northern Virginia suburbs just west of downtown DC (in Vienna, not far from Wolf Trap) has quite a few Yoshino cherry trees surrounding a lake as well as a huge variety of other plants and trees.
It’s a really wonderful place to take people photos, and if you’re just taking personal shots there’s no problem, but if you’re doing them for paying clients there’s an extra fee and reservations are required. You can find more information on that [here]
You can find the hours and more information about Meadowlark here.
The Washington area is beautiful in spring and summer, with all sorts of other flowers and trees coming out from the first daffodils of the season and continuing with others through the summer and fall. A personal favorite is River Farm on the banks of the Potomac in Alexandria. It was once one of several farms George Washington owned in the area and is now run by the American Horticultural Society.
And if you need a break from all the beautiful flowers, there’s a lot else to do in DC.
If you'd like to help support the care and upkeep of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin, the Trust for The National Mall has launched an Endow a Cherry Tree Campaign. Donations go to the official Cherry Tree Endowment, which will give the National Park Service additional resources to fund the care, maintenance, and possible replacement of the cherry trees. You can find more information here.
The Trust is dedicated to marshaling private support for maintaining and improving the historic National Mall area. I'm not affiliated with the Trust--just an admirer of their efforts.
Last updated March 18, 2020