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My Top Tips + Advice for Visiting the Tidal Basin During Peak Cherry Blossom Bloom | Washington, DC Family Photographer

As a family photographer who has been taking photos at the Tidal Basin during peak bloom for over ten years, here’s my best advice for visiting the cherry blossoms!

Getting to the Tidal Basin:

If you have the flexibility and the funds, you’ll definitely want to either take the metro OR grab an Uber. Parking at the Tidal Basin can be a BEAR, especially if you are planning to go on a weekday evening or a weekend. 

  • Closest metro stops:
    • Smithsonian (Orange, Silver, and Blue lines)
    • L’Enfant Plaza (Green and Yellow lines)
    • Here’s the Metro map
  • If you choose to get an Uber, I strongly suggest getting dropped off a quarter to a half mile away so that you don’t run into bumper-to-bumper traffic. Also, be prepared for surge pricing!

WILD CARD: DC’s Water Taxi has a stop right at the FDR Memorial! If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hop on the water taxi in Old Town Alexandria, Georgetown or the Wharf and arrive at the Tidal Basin by boat!

Where to Park:

If you choose to drive, you can find parking in the following locations:

  • All along Ohio Drive SW, the entire stretch from Lincoln Memorial to Jefferson Memorial
  • The West Potomac parking lots: A, B, C 
  • All along Hains Point and East Potomac Park near the golf course 

Unless you are going before the sun rises, I would strongly recommend NOT driving as parking will be extremely difficult.

When to Go to the Tidal Basin:

If you have the flexibility with your schedule, the best time to see the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin is sunrise on a weekday. There are significantly less people AND the light is usually stunning. If you’ve never seen the sun rise over the Jefferson Memorial, I highly recommend it! 

If you’re not a morning person or you’ve got kiddos in school, the next best time to see the cherry blossoms would be sunset on a weekday. Parking will be hard to find, but it won’t be as crowded as the weekend. 

Whatever you do, don’t go to the Tidal Basin on the weekend. The crowds and the traffic significantly take away from the magic that is the cherry blossoms! You’ll leave feeling frustrated and deflated. Take it from someone who has been going to the Tidal Basin for photo shoots for YEARS! You do NOT want to do this. 

If you only have free time on the weekends, consider going to see the cherry blossoms at Stanton Park on Capitol Hill, the National Arboretum or Lower Senate Park. All of these locations will be significantly less crowded, but still have a number of trees for your enjoyment!

What to Wear:

For family photos:

  • See my recommendations for spring family photos here
  • Check out my “Cherry Blossoms: What to Wear” Pinterest board here!
  • Check out my “Spring Family Photos: What to Wear” Pinterest board here!

If you’re not taking photos, dress comfortably! 

  • Wear sneakers or another pair of supportive walking shoes. You’ll be walking a LOT. It’s inevitable. 
  • Bring layers. Late March in the DC area is always a wild card. Be sure to bring an extra layer in case of a cool breeze or clouds roll in. 
  • Have sunglasses or a hat on hand too. The sun reflecting off the Tidal Basin can be intense at times.

What to Bring:

  • Sustenance: water and snacks!
  • To relax: bring a blanket to spread out and unwind beneath the blossoms!
  • In case it gets chilly: sweatshirt or jacket
  • For the sun lovers: sunscreen and sunglasses
  • For the photographers: bring your camera – there are SO many amazing photo opportunities at the Tidal Basin.
  • Please, for the love of the cherry blossoms, bring your dog. I LOVE running into dogs at the Tidal Basin!!! They ARE allowed.
  • Just in case: bring your metro card! Especially if you took an Uber or Lyft to get there. You never know when surge pricing will get out of control. There have also been times when cell service was not great due to the crazy crowds of people. 
  • Do NOT bring a big bag. Pack light if possible! The path along the Tidal Basin can get super crowded – you’ll do a lot of squeezing past people.

Restrooms near the Tidal Basin:

You can always find restrooms at the Jefferson Memorial, MLK Memorial, and FDR Memorial. There are also temporary port-a-pottys near the MLK and FDR memorials – this is ONLY during the Cherry Blossom festival!

Where to see cherry blossoms *besides* the Tidal Basin:

Pictured above: Kwanzan cherry blossoms | Source: Cherry Blossom Watch

Keep in mind there are multiple kinds of cherry blossoms – not ALL of them look like the ones at the Tidal Basin, but all of them are still absolutely beautiful!

  • National Arboretum
  • Basilica of the National Shrine
  • Stanton Park
  • Hains Point Loop Trail
  • Dumbarton Oaks Garden
  • Congressional Cemetery
  • Oxon Run Park
  • Sharon Armesto Memorial Park
  • The Spirit of Justice Park
  • Kenwood, MD

Fun cherry blossom events + activities across Washington, DC!

Pictured above: Resident’s Cafe + Bar | Source: Washingtonian Magazine

To Eat:

Grab a Cherry Blossom Cold Brew from Compass Coffee

Get a Cherry Blossom Donut from Astro Donuts!

Indulge in a Cherry Blossom Poptart from Ted’s Bulletin!

Grab a scoop of Cherry Ice Cream from Ice Cream Jubilee

Sip on a Sakura Spritz beneath the canopy of cherry blossoms at Resident’s Cafe and Bar

To See:

Head to City Center to see the famous alley of Pink Lanterns!

Enjoy all of the decorated porches across the city competing in the Petal Porch Competition!

To Do:

Family Art Class at the National Museum of Asian Art | Saturday, April 6th from 11AM – 12:30PM

The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade | Saturday, April 13th from 10AM – 12PM

Petalpalooza at Yards Park! Featuring: art, music, interactive art installations, a cashless beverage garden, family-friendly hands-on activities, roaming entertainers, and more! | Saturday, April 6th from 1PM – 9PM

The Blossom Kite Festival on the National Mall | Saturday, March 30th from 10AM – 4PM

Peruse the Cherry Blossom Market at Big Bear Cafe | Saturday, March 23rd

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