Are you a newbie to the Washington, DC scene and looking for some awesome places to see sunsets and Cherry Blossoms? Have you been trying to figure out where to go to view the Cherry Blossoms while the sun is setting? Where can you get the best pictures? When should you visit? This article will explore the best places to view sunsets and the Cherry Blossoms, as well as where, when and how to get there. Enjoy!
1. Finding the Cherry Blossoms. The best place in my opinion to view the Cherry Blossoms is in the Tidal Basin. The reason I choose this location as the prime spot is because the Tidal Basin comprises a circular walking path, which enables you to walk in a full circle around the water, checking out different Cherry Blossom trees in your path. Additionally, viewing the Cherry Blossoms here also gives you a chance to check out the Cherry Blossom Festival tents. The festival tents offer different types of food, as well as mementos from the festival for purchase, like t-shirts and flowered umbrellas. The Tidal Basin’s circumference includes the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, giving you a chance to enjoy the Memorial on your walk around the water. The Tidal Basin is adjacent to the Washington Monument, so you’ll be able to take some awesome pictures that include the flowers and the Washington Monument itself.
The Cherry Blossoms aren’t limited to the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, however. If you start at the Tidal Basin and walk around, you’ll easily spot different places where the flowers bloom. If you head south from the Jefferson Memorial, you’ll reach East Potomac Park. Walk south through the park to find plenty of Cherry Blossoms. Towards the Southern point of the park, you’ll also find Haines Point, with more Cherry Blossoms!
2. Ways to View the Cherry Blossoms. The easiest way to view the Cherry Blossoms is to simply walk around the Washington, DC area and look at them on foot. You can start at the Tidal Basin, walk down to Haines Point, and head over to the National Mall. Wear comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll cover a few miles if you try to see all of the Cherry Blossoms, but it’s worth it to get in the exercise!
If you’d rather not walk around, one alternative way to see the Cherry Blossoms is from the water. There are two ways to view the flowers from the water. One is to rent a paddle boat at the Tidal Basin. The other is to take one of the boat tours for the blossoms cruise.
Bicycling is my favorite option. Cyclists can cover more territory in less time and with less effort. Luckily, the Washington, DC area boasts many hiking and biking trails that make it easy to see the Cherry Blossoms from one’s bicycle.
3. How to Reach the Cherry Blossoms. The best option is to take the Metro. Parking can be a nightmare during the Cherry Blossom festival, as many roads are blocked off and some parking places are even closed. For example, during the Cherry Blossom Festival, the Tidal Basin parking lot is off limits to vehicles. Take the Metro to the Smithsonian exit, and then walk past the Washington Monument towards the Tidal Basin.
A second option is to ride a bicycle to see the Cherry Blossoms. If you’re coming from Virginia, the Mount Vernon trail takes you to the Fourteenth Street bridge, and there is a trail on the bridge that safely gets you across and right to the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin. If you’re in Washington, DC, there are any number of bike paths that lead to the National Mall area and Tidal Basin. For example, there is a bike lane on 15th street. Take 15th street to the National Mall area by Constitutional Avenue, and then head over to the National Monument and on towards the Tidal Basin.
If you really want to brave the roads and bring your car, you’ll have to be crafty. The parking spaces will be hard to find, and limited due to the amount of tourism in the area during the Cherry Blossom festival. Your best bet is to come during the workday through the week, as the spots will fill quickly as soon as people get off work. The weekends will be packed with tourists from all over the world! I’ve seen them each year. On the weekends and during the evenings after rush hour is over, you can find parking along Independence Avenue and some of the side streets to the south of the National Mall. Make sure to bring money/credit cards to pay for parking. If you come during the day, you can sometimes find parking in the lots near the Tidal Basin area, south of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on Ohio Drive.
4. Finding the best Cherry Blossom Sunsets. The sun sets to the west, which means you’ll want to be on the East side of something looking west to get some great shots of the sunset itself. Many tourists try taking pictures of the sun through the trees. One place to do this is to stand on the Eastern side of the Tidal Basin, with the water west of you. This is the side where the parking lot and Cherry Blossom festival tents can be found.
If you’re looking to take pictures of the actual blossoms at sunset, it’s best to be standing west and facing east to get pictures of the flowers in color. This also holds true for getting shots of people with the Cherry Blossoms behind them. If you face west, the people in your photo will look more like silhouettes due to shadowing (sun won’t be hitting their face or front.) To get around this, you can use your camera flash, but this will only work for close up shots and not for those more than the distance the flash covers.
As an alternative to taking shots at the Tidal Basin, you might want to try heading along Haines Point to get shots of the trees and the water. Stand on the east side of the tree, and take the shot through the tree facing towards the west. You may also get some shots of the water and the Cherry Blossom trees this way.
5. When Can You Find the Cherry Blossoms? The Cherry Blossoms seems to come out about one to two weeks after the weather starts to feel like spring, based on my previous experience. What this means is that after the weather gets above freezing consecutively for a few days and doesn’t go back to freezing, it is generally a week or two later for the blossoms to appear. This generally happens around the first few days of April, but it’s not an exact science. In 2013, I recall that the blossoms came a week or two early, because of the early spring. However, in 2014, as I write this article on April 7th, only a few of the Cherry Blossom trees have blossomed. The majority seem as if they will bloom in the next week or so.
So how do you know when this happens if you’re coming from California or a foreign country such as Norway, Germany or Japan? One way to gauge the weather is to look at websites that show forecasts for months at a time, such as Accuweather.com. Check back frequently to get updates closer to arrival time.
So what if you have to make your travel plans for visiting Washington, DC and the Cherry Blossoms way in advance? Your best bet is to plan around April 1st, a few days after and a few days before. This is my opinion based on years past. This will help you catch at least the beginning of the Cherry Blossoms or the end of the flowers. Also, around April 1st you will generally be able to catch the Cherry Blossom festival itself, which this year is running from March 27th to April 13th, 2014.
There are many websites and news sources that track the Cherry Blossoms. For instance, one useful website I have found is Have Camera Will Travel. The Washington Post also prints articles every couple of days talking about the latest projections for the Cherry Blossom blooms.