In the Pink

Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin
Pedal boats offer a unique vantage point for viewing the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin. (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post)
By Anne Kenderdine Staff Writer
Monday, March 6, 2006; 2:39 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.

Staffed by National Park Service volunteers from March 25-April 9, a cherry blossom information trailer is located near the southwest corner of Independence Avenue and 17th Street; call 202-547-1500.

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.

The National Park Service strongly recommends that visitors use Metro. 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 (toward the Washington Monument) on Independence Avenue, then south (left) on Raoul Wallenberg Place/15th Street to the Tidal Basin.

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. 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 $5 ($2.50 for seniors and ages 7-17). 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 5 through March 14 and until 6 afterwards. Admission is $7 ($5 for children and seniors). For more information, call 202-339-6400.

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