What You Need to Know About Seeing the D.C. Cherry Blossoms Like a LocalBy Robin Bennefield
Most Washingtonians make a point of steering clear of the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season. Avoiding the surge of peak bloom peepers means taking to other parts of the city to spend our own private time underneath the delicate pink flowers.
But we aren’t stingy. After all, the cherry trees were a gift from Japan and meant to be shared with the world. In that spirit, we turned to Daniel Klibanoff, a concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C., to share some off-the-beaten-path ways to enjoy this annual spring awakening the way locals do.
If you have to get those iconic shots of the blossoms at the Tidal Basin, when and where should you go?
Early morning at 7 a.m., even a little earlier so you can catch the sunrise. That’s also the least crowded and most gorgeous time of day. If you’re going later in the day, score a paddle boat and go around the inside of the Tidal Basin. It’s great viewing and you can get a two or four-seat boat.
Another idea is to rent kayaks and find a peaceful spot to view the cherry blossoms from the Potomac River outside of the Tidal Basin.
I’ve heard Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown is a great place to see cherry blossoms. Are there any other unheralded places that host the blossoms?
Yes, the museum of Byzantine and Pre-Colombian art has cherry trees across its beautifully manicured gardens. Just past the Georgetown area by the reservoir is Foxhall Village, where you’ll find a park with a nice collection of cherry trees.
Also, the National Arboretum is a huge place that is absolutely wonderful, with old columns in the middle that used to be a part of the Capitol building. The best way to get there is by car, otherwise, it’s hopping on the D.C. metro and then a bus. They have a number of species of cherry trees that bloom along a three-mile trail from early-mid March to late-April.
Most of the Tidal Basin trees are the same two or three species that bloom at the same time, unlike the 15 species at the arboretum that bloom from light to dark pink.
While most are lured to the D.C. area for the cherry blossoms at this time of year, what local thing should they absolutely do while here?
The Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens, a bit north of the National Zoo. This is Marjorie Merriweather Post’s former estate, and home to the largest collections of Russian Imperial Art outside Russia. The cereal heiress and socialite wanted her estate to become an art museum. It has beautiful manicured gardens and grounds. They do a lot of events each spring, such as family days and an Easter egg event for kids. It’s a true hidden gem.
Klibanoff’s best advice, though, is to plan your trip to D.C ahead of time and hire a private guide.
“It’s the most personalized experience,” he says. “Bike tours are also great and a good way to get to the Cherry Blossom Festival as the Metro can get crowded.”