The nation’s capital attracts thousands of visitors each year for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, but you can find ways to beat the crowd across the region.
Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, March 11, NPS updated its peak bloom prediction to Saturday, March 21 to to Tuesday, March 24. We have updated this article to reflect that change.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off on Friday, March 20, and the National Park Service recently announced Saturday, March 21 to Tuesday, March 24 as the estimated peak bloom dates. As always, the pink-and-white blooms will frame the nation’s monuments and line the Tidal Basin, gathering groups of picnickers, photographers and more.
But there are other less-crowded locations across the region boasting the same cherry blossoms. According to Destination DC, the region will welcome an estimated 1.5 million people for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Here’s where you can find cherry blossoms with more peace and quiet.
Green Spring Gardens
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Green Spring Gardens is ready to welcome visitors from across the region and show off its 9.5-acre garden, with cherry blossom trees found throughout the park along with other budding spring flowers. Find your peace while walking over the bubbling streams and valleys, take a peek at the 18th-century plantation house and greenhouse, and be sure to let the kids explore the children’s garden. Family-friendly activities are already planned for cherry blossom season too, meaning you can plan a whole day of fun around spending time outside, packing a picnic and letting the kids create something new related to the season. // Green Spring Gardens: 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria; free entry, event prices vary
Cherry blossoms already change much of the natural scenery across the region for the better, but if you’re in search of a true change outside of NoVA and the nation’s capital, head to Montgomery County, Maryland. The Kenwood neighborhood is home to an estimated 1,200 cherry blossom trees, which were planted in the 1930s and 1940s to attract homebuyers to the area. The area is conveniently located near downtown Bethesda and Chevy Chase, meaning you can plan your visit and still have access to everything you might need or want, including access by public transportation. Be sure to check out the bloom watch for updates since these groves tend to bloom a few days after Washington. // Kenwood Golf and Country Club: 5601 River Road, Bethesda; free
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
This 95-acre park is filled with walking trails and around 100 cherry blossom trees. When you arrive, next to the visitor center there is a paved circular trail that is lined with cherry blossoms. Feel free to take a stroll, or have a seat at the entry garden (best for those not looking to walk far) and enjoy a collection of additional spring flowers. If you do take the long way around, pass Lake Caroline, where you’ll find an estimated 60 cherry blossom trees, or catch a glimpse of the Korean Bell Garden, one of the iconic pavilions in the park. This location is a perfect way to enjoy a nice day, take a walk or even pack a picnic and let the kids play in the open fields. // Meadowlark Botanical Gardens: 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna; $6
If you’re just too excited to wait for the festival to get into full swing, take a drive across the water and check out the already-blooming 200 Okame cherry trees at National Harbor. The trees are different from the blooms you might be used to (Yoshino trees), and have only been planted on the property for three years. Catch the slightly darker pink blooms as a preview of what’s to come in the nation’s capital, but also be sure to check out the calendar. Cherry-blossom-inspired and pink-inspired events will be taking place in the coming weeks, including a lantern festival and Sakura Sunday, where visitors can enjoy drinks (including sake, of course), learn about Japanese culture, explore a vendor market and enjoy live entertainment. // National Harbor: 150 National Plaza, National Harbor, Maryland; Sakura Sunday: April 5, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; free
Making the most out of cherry blossom season doesn’t have to mean only seeing the pale pink blooms. It’s the start of spring, after all! Head to the American Horticultural Society’s headquarters at River Farm, where you will find cherry blossom trees near the entryway, followed by several acres of gardens and blooming flowers. The property is 25 acres and was once a part of George Washington’s original farmland, and is home to the Manor House, the Andre Bluemel Meadow (filled with native grasses and wildflowers) and a children’s garden. Need a new family picture? Skip the Tidal Basin and head for this backdrop and serene experience instead. // River Farm: 7931 E. Boulevard Drive, Alexandria; donations encouraged
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