Cherry Blossoms at Washington DC Tidal Basin

Jefferson Memorial and the pedal boat docks
We went to Japan a few years ago to see the magnificent cherry blossoms.  There are also a large number of trees in Washington DC, which were gifted to the US from Japan, and we wanted to see them to compare.  There aren't as many as in Japan, but they are well concentrated.

It was a beautiful weekend to be in Washington DC if you enjoy pretty flowers...and hordes of people.  Still, if you're an aficionado of cherry blossoms, you have to put up with crowds.  The Cherry Blossom Festival goes on for 3 weeks, but the peak of the bloom is just a couple of days.  The national park service will normally post well in advance when they believe it will peak.
The tidal basin in full bloom
We got decently priced tickets with Southwest airlines.  The nice thing about flying with Southwest is that you can change reservations as often as you like, so just in case the flowers weren't blooming, we could have changed the date.  Hotels will be more expensive because of the demand, should you go during the Cherry Blossom season.  We found a room with breakfast at the Doubletree Crystal City, which is just a few blocks from the Pentagon City Metro and was very convenient.  They also offered a free airport and metro shuttle.

As I mentioned, there were hordes of people and we have a son who tends to get lost, so we opted for one of the hop-on hop-off buses.  Traffic was at a standstill through the monuments area, but it was a nice day and we were on the top of a double decker.  It allowed for lots of picture taking, and there was sightseeing narration and music on headphones.  At least we didn't have to worry about losing Omar.  The route usually takes just over an hour and it took us three.  There are a number of sightseeing buses and they all go to this area, so I'd say choose whatever is convenient.  I don't think there's too much difference between them.  We got the 48 hour pass which also included a night bus tour and some additional museum discounts.
This photo taken from the bus shows people picnicking under the blossoms and taking photos

Many of the girls had cute dresses with cherry blossom fabric

The next day, I got up before sunrise and met the Washington DC Photo Safari for a walk around the tidal basin.  It was really the only way to ensure I'd get good photos.  There was a marathon the same morning so the entire area was closed to vehicles. The metro station at Smithsonian is closest to the meeting point for the tour of the tidal basin.  It meant a good bit of walking.  I use a pedometer and noticed I'd done 12,000 steps before breakfast!  We got lots of instruction, tips on where and how to get the best shots, and a handout to take with us.  People with a variety of cameras joined the tour.  Some had tripods and huge DSLRs.  Others were just using their iPhone.  There were only serious photographers out at 6:30 am, but by 8:00, the sidewalk was jammed with people.  I ended up losing my photographer leader near the end of the tour due to crowds, but felt it was still worth the $79.

On the way to the tidal basin before sunrise, I saw this view
For the rest of the day we hopped back on the bus and found it a bit easier to get around, but still there were many tourists like ourselves.  We also took a boat ride from the Georgetown harbor to see the blossoms on Monday, but the boats really don't get very close to the shore so you only see them from a distance.  Still, it was a fun 50 minute ride.
View from the Potomac River
I might also mention that it's not just the cherry blossoms blooming.  There are also tulips, forsythia, and magnolia.  You'll see blossoms everywhere you go.  It was such a beautiful place.  We did manage to step inside a few of the many free museums.  There is so much to do in this city!
Magnolia and forsythia

You will meet people from all over the world.  This lady was from China.


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