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How to Get to the Cherry Blossoms

Information on the best ways to get down to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms, including by Metro, by car, and by bike.
Using a GPS? If you're using your own GPS, here are some things you can enter that should get you there in various search modes:
  • Street address: 701 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242 (that's the Jefferson Memorial's address)
  • Landmarks: Jefferson Memorial
  • GPS Coordinates (decimal): 38.881389, -77.036944

I'm using the Jefferson Memorial as the specific point here because if you're driving there during the festival traffic restrictions you'll need to go by the Jefferson Memorial to access the parking areas.

There's more than one place in the Washington DC area with cherry blossoms, but by far the most famous, and the one you will have seen in all the iconic photos, is the Tidal Basin. It looks like a lake, has thousands of cherry trees lining its waterline, and also has several important monuments around it. If you're coming to DC to see the cherry blossoms, chances are that's where you're aiming to go.

Where are the Cherry Blossom Trees in Washington DC?

The good news is they're very easy to find. If you can find the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial, you'll have no problem finding the Tidal Basin.

It's right next to the National Mall, the area famous for landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Smithsonian museums, and the White House. Once you're at the Mall, it's an easy walk to the Tidal Basin.

So whether you're staying at a hotel close in or commuting from further out, you basically want to aim for the National Mall. If you get really lost, head to the Washington Monument (the large needle-like structure that towers over the National Mall). From there, face the Lincoln Memorial and the Tidal Basin is about 30 degrees to your left.

In recent years, the National Park Service has also installed helpful signs around the National Mall. If you follow signs to the FDR Memorial, MLK Memorial, or Jefferson Memorial, you'll end up right amongst the trees--all of those are on the banks of the Tidal Basin.

To find out whether they're currently in bloom, check out the Cherry Blossom Watch updates on the front page.

By Metro

Overall, this is the best way to get to the Tidal Basin from pretty much anywhere in the region. There isn't a stop right at the Tidal Basin itself, but there are several within easy walking distance.

The closest station is Smithsonian (Orange, Silver, and Blue lines). If you're on the Yellow or Green lines, L'Enfant Plaza is also close. A number of other stations are also easily walkable, and most of the walks are quite scenic. Here's the Metro route map.

The Metro is the nation's second busiest subway system, and it gets crowded during the morning and afternoon rush hours with local commuters. So it's best to try to travel outside of those times (fares can also be cheaper). And because of a massive (and much-needed) program of renovations and upgrades there are often some line closures on weekends. You can find scheduled weekend service adjustments here.

The DC Metro train system is very easy to use. You can buy passes at automated kiosks at any Metro station. If you're unsure, here's information on using Metrorail, including information on frequency, accessibility, and fares.

Washington Metro has a handy trip planner for getting from A to B by Metro rail and bus, which you can find here.

Local Tip: On Metro station escalators (when they're working!), please stand on the right to allow people to pass by on the left.

Another Local Tip: Metro runs both 6- and 8-car trains. It's indicated which each train will be on the "next trains" boards on the platforms and in the stations. The trains always go to the very end of the platform at the front of the train, but only the 8-car trains extend the full length of the platform at the back. Often (but not always), the first and last cars can be a bit less crowded.

Yet Another Local Tip: There are some handy smartphone apps that give you information like when the next train is arriving and where it's going, Metro maps, and trip planners. Here's one example.

By Walking

The Tidal Basin is an easy walk from the National Mall. If you're at the Lincoln Memorial, Second World War Memorial, or Washington Monument, it's about a 5-minute walk (

Follow the NPS signs to the MLK Memorial, FDR Memorial, or the Jefferson Memorial. To get your bearings on the Mall, if you're facing the Lincoln Memorial near the Reflecting Pool or Second World War Memorial with the Washington Monument behind you, the Tidal Basin will be on your left.

There's a pedestrian walkway circuit that runs around the entire rim of the Tidal Basin. It's about 1.8 miles.

Local Tip: Take water with you. Bottled water isn't always easy to come by around the Tidal Basin (there is a snack kiosk by the paddle boats), and it can get quite hot even in spring. But please use the trash cans provided. When the crowds descend on the area for the cherry blossoms, trash can become a real problem.

By Car / Parking Information

I've put together a more detailed post on where to park for the cherry blossoms here.

There used to be much more free parking near the cherry blossoms. But in the fall of 2017, much of it was switched over to metered parking. These are now metered:

  • Ohio Drive SW, the entire stretch from Lincoln Memorial to Jefferson Memorial
  • Main Ave parking lot (near the paddle boats)
  • West Basin Drive next to the FDR Memorial and MLK Memorial (closed during Cherry Blossom Festival)
  • Lots A, B, and C under the 14th Street Bridge

For free parking, you'll now need to go a bit further away. The spots around East Potomac Park near the golf course and Hains Point are still unmetered.

There's a lot of competition for on-street parking at the height of the bloom, especially on weekends.

Special one-way traffic patterns also go into effect around Ohio Drive during the busy period.

If you end up parking around East Potomac Park/Hains Point a long way from the Tidal Basin, there's a Circulator Bus that serves as a de facto parking shuttle. The fare is $1/person each way.

Please note that the parking lot on the northeast corner of the Tidal Basin at Maine Ave SW (near the paddle boats) is closed off during the festival for temporary festival tents and facilities.

If you drive, be very careful to look for the parking signs--many of the usual parking restrictions have temporary overrides during the busy period. The city's legion of parking inspectors swarm the area and rack up some serious numbers. 155,636 parking tickets were issued during the 26 days of the 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival (although not all of those were around the Tidal Basin). That's about 6,000 a day. (DC parking fines generate about $92 million a year.)

There is disabled parking next to the FDR Memorial and Ohio Drive heading south. There are also three spots near the Jefferson Memorial.

Another option is to use a paid lot in the built-up streets downtown or around L'Enfant Plaza.

Local Tip: There are now smartphone apps that can help you find and reserve a paid parking space, like SpotHero and Parking Panda.

Accessibility

Parking: There are some accessible parking spots next to the FDR Memorial, on West Basin Drive. There are also some next to the Jefferson Memorial. There are usually some in the Maine Ave parking lot (next to the paddle boats), but that lot is closed to parking during the cherry blossom festival. During busy times, of course, there's no guarantee that the accessible spots won't already be taken.

Dropoff Points: There are two good dropoff points. One is next to the MLK/FDR Memorials, along West Basin Drive. Another is out the back of the Jefferson Memorial. Both have room to safely load and unload, are within about 100 feet or so of the cherry blossoms, and have ramps to the water's edge without any need to deal with steps.

Monuments: All of the monuments are accessible. The FDR and MLK Memorials are ground level, and the Jefferson Memorial has an elevator that you can access from entrances on the side of the building. The Tidal Basin walkway is a single level path, and you can go all the way around without need to get over steps. The MLK, FDR, and Jefferson Memorials have accessible restrooms.

By Bike

Riding is a great way to get there, although once there it's not recommended that you ride around the Tidal Basin pathway itself. It gets very crowded with pedestrian traffic, there are no railings along the water around much of it, and there are low-hanging branches to watch out for.

There are now some bike racks available near the Tidal Basin. There's one across from the Capital Bikeshare rack near the FDR Memorial, at the corner of Ohio Drive SW and West Basin Dr SW.

DC has a very good bike sharing program: Capital Bikeshare. There are several stations near the Tidal Basin and National Mall. If you're not already a member, you can join just for a day, if you like. And there are many stations in downtown DC, the Rosslyn-Clarendon-Ballston corridor, and Crystal City, so if you're staying a hotel in any of those areas, chances are you can pick up a ride within a few blocks. Here's the station map and here's information on rates and how it works.

By DC Circulator

The DC Circulator is a relatively new service that provides a loop shuttle service around the National Mall and Tidal Basin area, stopping at several of the major sites and landmarks. Fares are just $1, and it runs every 10 minutes. You can find route maps, schedules, and other information on their website.

By Metrobus

There are dozens of bus stops nearby, but decoding the bus routes isn't always easy if you're unfamiliar with the area. Here's the DC bus route map and here's more information for using Metrobus.

Washington Metro has a handy trip planner for getting from A to B by Metro rail and bus, which you can find here. And you can print your own Metrorail Pocket Guide here.

By Sightseeing Bus

Old Town Trolley Tours operates circulating trolley buses around DC's major sites, including the Tidal Basin. These are hop-on/hop-off tours, and they can be an especially good option if you're planning to explore more of the sights DC has to offer. Further information, including ticket prices, is available on their website.

By Taxi / Uber / Lyft

If you get a taxi there, the best places to ask to be dropped off are at the MLK Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, or FDR Memorial. All have designated passenger drop-off areas next to them. Here's a handy taxi fare calculator (although bear in mind that traffic can come to a standstill around the Tidal Basin at the height of the bloom).

Leaving by cab can be a bit tricker. There is a designated cab rank next to the MLK Memorial/FDR Memorial bend, and I've noticed that more cabs seem to be staking out a spot there. But when it gets busy you might also have quite a wait before the next cab happens to turn up. Otherwise, your best bet is to walk north towards the Mall and the downtown area.

Uber and Lyft are both very well represented in the area, although when things get really, really crowded on a weekend, it's not unheard of (but it is rare) for the cell phone networks to actually get overwhelmed (presumably made worse by all the people taking photos of the cherry blossoms with their phones and sharing them on social media).

By Boat

You can't get on to the Tidal Basin with your own boat/kayak/etc, although once you're there, you can hire a paddle boat. But you can cruise the Potomac around the outside of East Potomac Park/Hains Point where there are thousands of other cherry trees. Some private companies offer cruises around the Potomac.

During the Cherry Blossom Festival there's a water taxi service running a scheduled route from National Harbor to Old Town Alexandria to a stop next to the National Mall. It pulls up to a landing point on the bank of the Potomac next to the FDR Memorial. Its schedule varies year to year, but I've confirmed directly that it will be running again in 2016. The schedule has not yet been announced, but I'll update when it is. You can find more information on this boat service.

Buying Tickets to See the Cherry Blossoms

Once you're at the Tidal Basin, you don't need a ticket to visit the cherry blossoms or the Jefferson Memorial, MLK Memorial, or FDR Memorial. There's no entry fee, and the area is open 24 hours.

Travel Guides for Washington DC

Here are some good online resources to help in planning your visit to Washington DC:

And if you're after a guidebook for Washington DC with maps you can carry with you, here are some good ones:

If you're just after a map, many of the information desks at places like the Smithsonian museums and National Park Service kiosks have free Washington DC Official Visitors Map. If you're after something a bit more durable, this laminated Streetwise one is good for the National Mall and surrounding area and includes a Metro map (the Metro is DC's version of subway public transport). MapEasy makes a more traditional foldout map. Around the Mall and Tidal Basin, the National Park Service has done a good job of putting up signs that are also very helpful.

To gear your bearings, you can see the Washington Monument from just about anywhere. That stands in the middle of the National Mall.

While you're at it, here are some other Washington DC sights to check out.

Enjoy your visit!

Where to Stay for the Cherry Blossoms?

If you're visiting from out of town and looking for ideas on where to stay, I've put together some suggestions here.

Last updated February 7, 2019 2:16 pm

View Comments (21)

  • I am coming there on April 11 & 12. Hopefully by that time I expect to see Peak Bloom. This is very informative, so thank you !!

  • I've been following your site since Jan when the first wishes of spring (no winter!) entered my head. Your frequent updates helped me plan the date spot-on. Returning home with a light sunburn from walking for five hours. I must comment that DC needs to do a better job posting info and directions for first time visitors.
    Thanks to YOUR effort, our weekend was very enjoyable.
    nhoJ

  • Hey David, We are planning to visit DC this weekend ..Can i hope to see blossom yet ? Pls help by responding at the earliest.

  • Is there a train station relatively near that offers parking so we can ride the train to the blossoms?
    Thanks

    • Best bet for that are the suburban stations. There are at least 44 stations in the system that have parking available, and you can find the list here. Most of the inner-city stations don't, although there are exceptions like Union Station (not technically Metro parking, but still attached). There is paid parking at the Arlington Cemetery station, and you can actually walk directly from there to the cherry blossoms without getting on the metro at all, but the spots fill up quickly.

    • There's accessible parking near the FDR Memorial/MLK Memorial. That's also probably the best place to be dropped off--it's out of the general traffic flow, has plenty of space for passenger dropoff/pickup, there are plenty of seats for waiting, and it's very close from the curb to the Tidal Basin's rim without any steps in between. Next to the Jefferson Memorial is another good dropoff/pickup option. During busy times there can be a lot of competition for the accessible parking spots, so if you end up parking further away, there's a DC Circulator Bus that does the circuit that serves as a shuttle bus ($1 fare). I don't know its specific accessibility features, but they use new, modern buses. The Tidal Basin itself is accessible, and it's possible to go all the way around and through all of the monuments without dealing with steps.

    • Yes, so long as it's on a leash. Technically there are restrictions within the areas of the monuments but area allowed elsewhere, but it's not a very practical distinction because the areas tend to flow into each other. I have a more detailed answer here.

  • Hi David,

    Thanks for all of the great information. My plan - during the week - is to try a timelapse of sunrise over the Jefferson Memorial prior to peak. I did check several sources but didn't the following:

    Are there restrictions on parking around 5am? (As you note, DC does have weird restrictions)
    Do I need a permit when using a tripod for my timelapse? (It's non-commercial, but some places require a permit)

    Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Cheers, Scott

    • No and no. Technically the parking zone along Ohio Drive opens at 6am, but that's really to stop overnight parking and I've never run into a problem parking there before 6am. Enjoy the shoot!

  • Thank you so much for all the hard work you put into this website. It really helps those of us who live in the region but are not close enough to make seeing the cherry blossoms anything less than a day trip. We plan on visiting the city Monday, since we both work the weekend. As you mentioned above, there is so much more to do in that area, so we hope to fit a few of the museums into our trip as well. Any recommendations for lunch near the Tidal Basin/Smithsonian area while we're there?

    • Most of the larger Smithsonians have some kind of cafe or eating. The cafe in the Museum of the American Indian is notable if you're looking for something a bit different and a cut above the usual. There are also a few in the the National Gallery of Art, including one in the Sculpture Garden that's a very pleasant place to be when the weather's nice. New this year are some other very good options in the Southwest Waterfront area just a short walk from the Tidal Basin (now renamed The Wharf). There are several new restaurants in that area, several of which are getting a lot of buzz. And right in amongst the cherry blossoms, the Welcome Area right on the Tidal Basin (near the paddle boats) has a food tent with some fairly standard offerings.

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