Viewing the Cherry Blossoms

By Anne Kenderdine
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, March 21, 2005; 5:04 PM

The most famous place for blossom viewing is the path along the Tidal Basin. A 1912 gift from Tokyo, the cherry trees there burst each spring with spectacular pink flowers, drawing throngs of visitors to the riverside.

Located on the Jefferson Memorial grounds and staffed by the Park Service, a cherry blossom information booth is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends through April 10; call 202-547-1500.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossoms frame the Jefferson Memorial. (Khue Bui - AP)

When to Go To avoid crowds, visit on weekdays, during lunch or at nighttime. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is one of the nicest monuments to visit at night; its setting along the river creates a dramatic backdrop for a romantic stroll. For a unique vantage point, rent a pedal boat: The boathouse is directly across the Tidal Basin from the Jefferson Memorial.

Because parking is extremely scarce, the best way to get to the blossoms is to take Metro to the Smithsonian stop (Orange/Blue lines). Exit onto Independence Avenue. Walk west two blocks on Independence Avenue, then south on Raoul Wallenberg Place (15th Street) to the Tidal Basin.

By car: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is visible from Independence Avenue, Ohio Drive and Maine Avenue. As you drive around the memorial, pay close attention and keep bearing right or you could easily end up on the 14th Street Bridge heading into Virginia. There is very limited parking in several small lots along Ohio Drive.

Print a map you can take with you.

Avoiding the Crowds:

The Tidal Basin has the best-known collection of trees, but there are also excellent alternative viewing spots in Maryland and Virginia that draw smaller crowds:

Kenwood, a Bethesda neighborhood between Little Falls Parkway and River Road, has 1,200 white-blossomed Yoshino cherry trees lining the streets.

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna has 220 trees, including Yoshinos and pale-pink Akebonos, white Mount Fuji and hot-pink Kwanzan trees. Surrounding the largest lake in the gardens, the trees tend to peak about seven days later than those at other locations, with peak bloom expected April 8-10. The garden park will be open for blossom viewing 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in March and until 6:30 p.m. in April. The entry fee is $4 ($2 for students and seniors). For more information, call 703-255-3631.

The U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast Washington has several hundred cherry and Japanese plum trees of various varieties and colors spread out across the grounds. Many trees are clustered close to the herb garden and bonsai museum. Because there are so many varieties of trees, peak bloom for some trees will coincide with those at the Tidal Basin; others bloom earlier or later. The arboretum is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Call 202-245-2726 for more information.

Brookside Gardens in Wheaton has about 20 trees, including weeping cherries, Sargent cherries, Yoshino cherries and purple-leaf plums, which curator Phil Normandy notes are "not cherries but look like them." The majority of the trees are clustered in the Japanese garden and the formal garden, and they usually peak about a week after those at the Tidal Basin. Located in Wheaton Regional Park, the gardens are open sunrise to sunset. For more information: 301-962-1400.

Dumbarton Oaks Garden at Georgetown is open Tuesdays through Sundays. Hours are 2 to 6 p.m. and admission is $7 ($5 for children and seniors). For more information, call 202-339-6400.

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