7 Less-Crowded Places to See Cherry Blossoms

Bypass the throngs at the Tidal Basin and savor the first signs of spring along these gardens and trails—or by boat. 🌸
Cherry Blossoms Up Credit S Stanton For Visit Alexandria

This year’s cherry blossoms in Northern Virginia and D.C. are expected to hit peak bloom from March 23-25. (Photo by S. Stanton for Visit Alexandria)

Since 1912, when the Mayor of Tokyo gifted 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees to the city of Washington, D.C., as a symbol of friendship between the U.S. and Japan, cherry blossoms have become an iconic part of the gentle season in the DMV. If you’ve been enjoying the outdoors or following the “Bloom Cam,” you know that this year the trees are flowering a bit earlier than expected.

Although some trees have already progressed past the bud stage, peak bloom is now anticipated to occur March 23-25. While the famous trees along the District’s Tidal Basin bring in over a million visitors each year (and even have their own festival), there are also plenty of under-the-radar spots to see the blossoms if you’re not so keen on crowds. Here are seven options in Virginia and D.C.

Water Taxi Cherry Blossom Credit City Cruises Anchored By Hornblower

Take in the pink spectacle by hopping on a water taxi from Old Town Alexandria to the Wharf in D.C. (Photo courtesy of City Cruises anchored by Hornblower)

Old Town Alexandria

Stroll through Colonial-era neighborhoods awash in pink petals and stop by the grounds of the historic Carlyle House, where dozens of blooming cherries create a prime spot for wedding and engagement photos, not to mention selfies.  Beginning on March 18, you can also hop on the Cherry Blossom Water Taxi from Alexandria to The Wharf in D.C. for spectacular views of trees along the riverfront. Yet another option for water views: Book the Cherry Blossom Riverboat Cruise on Saturday, April 8, complete with a Bento box lunch and a cherry blossom dessert. From March 20 to April 16, Old Town will also offer Cherry Blossom Guided Electric Bike Tours twice a day on weekends, or on weekdays by appointment. 

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Cherry trees bloom in Section 16 of Arlington National Cemetery (Photo by Photo courtesy of Rachel Larue/Arlington National Cemetery)

Arlington National Cemetery

This final resting place for more than 400,000 military service members and their families is consecrated ground. It’s also one of the most beautiful and peaceful spots in Arlington, and the blooming trees this time of year are a stunning tribute to America’s veterans. Throughout the burial ground’s 600+ acres you’ll find 417 spring-blooming cherry trees. Check the cemetery’s website for a helpful guide to landscape’s most notable trees. On April 1, follow up your cemetery visit by heading over to nearby Long Bridge Park for National Landing’s Pink in the Park festival, which promises kids’ activities, live music performances, food trucks and photo-worthy art installations.

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Springtime at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna (Photo by Tom Stovall/Meadowlark Botanical Gardens)

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

This 95-acre botanical garden in Vienna has approximately 100 cherry trees that tend to reach peak bloom a few days later than those lining the Tidal Basin. Enjoy a blossom-filled stroll around the grounds, which are home to some 30 manicured gardens, as well as woodlands and a lake. Don’t miss the Korean Bell Garden, a cultural landmark with a dramatic hand-carved pagoda and one of the only bell gardens in the Western Hemisphere. Don’t want to leave your dog at home? On March 15, Meadowlark will host a special Pup Day, opening its grounds to four-legged friends. Dogs must be leashed and you’ll need to purchase a ticket for your canine friend.

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Magnolias and other blooming trees at the U.S. National Arboretum in D.C. (Photo courtesy of DC Gardens/National Arboretum)

U.S. National Arboretum

Spanning nearly 450 acres in Northeast D.C., the arboretum is home to several species of blooming cherries, including three varietals that were developed on site, but the spring spectacle also includes flowering dogwoods, crab apples and magnolias. With 9.5 miles of roadways, plus walking trails and open spaces, this verdant sanctuary is a haven for pedestrians, bikes, strollers and leashed dogs. Check the Arboretum’s app for maps and guides to the full range of flowering trees. On Saturday, March 18, a special event, Connecting Cultures: Japanese Flowering Cherries in America, will explore the history of Japanese cherry trees in America, ancient restorative practices and the flowering cherry research program at the Arboretum, with a tree-side presentation of a new installation near the National Herb Garden.

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The Crystal City Connector to the Mount Vernon Trails (Photo by Elvert Barnes on Wikimedia Commons)

Mount Vernon and the Mount Vernon Trail

It’s a great time of year to get back on your bike or to re-lace your running shoes. Savor the first signs of spring along the 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail, which winds past the Potomac riverfront, through Alexandria and into the woods to George Washington’s estate. You’ll spy all manner of blooming trees and woodland flowers along the route, as well as on the grounds of our first president’s Virginia manor. George Washington’s Distillery and Gristmill reopen for weekend tours beginning in April. These fascinating reconstructions and fully-functioning structures are a little less than 3 miles from the estate’s main entrance.

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Cherry blossoms and forsythia at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown (Photo courtesy of Dumbarton Oaks/DC Gardens)

Dumbarton Oaks

Here’s an upside to this year’s early bloomers: The grounds of this Harvard University research institute, library and museum can be accessed for free until March 14. Home to stunning gardens originally planted by acclaimed landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, the 53-acre Georgetown property is meticulously maintained, with flowering trees scattered throughout. Find your way to Cherry Hill, a lush grove with multiple varietals of cherry trees, meander through the vibrant yellow Forsythia Dell, and take in the Prunus Walk, which is majestic when the plum trees are in bloom.

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Spring blossoms give way to summer roses at Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill in DC. (Photo by Smallbones on Wikimedia Commons)

Congressional Cemetery

Livelier than its name suggests, this historic Capitol Hill landmark is especially gorgeous this time of year. The cemetery—popular with both dogs and their humans—is home to several kinds of cherry trees, including the Okame, which bloom up to two weeks before the more common Yoshinos (the type that line the Tidal Basin) and the Kwansan, which can bloom up to two weeks after the Yoshinos. It’s a great place to catch a sneak peak—or last glimpse—of the capital city’s flowering trees.

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