People often ask, “When is the best time to visit DC?” Hands down it is spring, and especially during cherry blossom season.
DC in the spring is magic. The weather is mild and over the course of approximately four weeks numerous beautiful blooms paint the city in shades of peach, pink, and lavender. The timing of these impetuous blooms can be difficult to nail down. But typically, the darling plum and apricot blossoms bloom first in mid-March, followed the fragrant and bright pink magnolias in mid to late-March. Next, come the famous cherry blossoms in late March to early April, and the grand finale, the magnificent wisteria in mid-April to late-April.
Most people travel to DC to catch the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin, and while these are certainly spectacular, peak bloom is short lived and difficult to predict. This year’s initial forecast is estimating peak bloom between March 22nd and 25th. I usually suggest planning a lengthier, week-long visit to maximize your chances of catching peak. Last year for example, the blooms peaked unexpectedly four days early and did not last long thanks to storms.
Dumbarton Oaks is famous for their little, but magical row of bright pink plum trees. Well actually, they are a rare hybrid, a cross between and plum and an apricot, which gives them their distinct color. “Plum Walk” as it is known usually blooms in mid-March. But you can track all the blooms at Dumbarton Oaks on their website.
You can also admire Japanese plum blossoms at the DC War memorial. This variety is one of the first trees to bloom in the city, sometimes blooming as early as late February!
While overshadowed by the cherry blossoms, the pink saucer magnolias around DC are equally spectacular. My favorite concentration is in the Enid A. Haupt Garden, just behind the Smithsonian Castle on the mall. You can find another stunning group of these blooms at the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial and Oak Hill Cemetery. Finally, there is a particularly large and lovely tree (that professional photographers often use) just east of the Jefferson Memorial on the east-side of the Ohio Drive bridge. These typically bloom a week or two after the plum blossoms.
Most people don’t realize that DC boasts several varieties of cherry blossoms. Yoshino varieties encircle the Tidal Basin and produce delicate white and light pink single flowers. In East Potomac Park you will find the dramatic weeping Japanese cherries and the puffy, double-flowered Kwanzan cherries (I love these!) along Hains Point. The Congressional Cemetery also has a number of cherry trees as does the National Arboretum and Dumbarton Oaks. Each of variety blooms at slightly different times, but the cherries in East Potomac Park and along Hains Point usually bloom about two weeks after the Tidal Basin and last a bit longer. Of course, bloom times vary each year and are based on weather conditions, I recommend following DC Cherry Blossom Watch on Instagram for real time updates.
While I adore DC’s cherry blossoms, I think my favorite spring bloom in the city is the wisteria. You can find varieties of American wisteria on the east side of the US Capital, around the walls of the National Gallery, and a historic home in Georgetown at 3425 Prospect St NW (blooms are on the west side of the building facing 35th St.). The most spectacular wisteria in DC, however, is at Dumbarton Oaks. Not sure I need to say much more about the wisteria at Dumbarton Oaks, the pictures speak for themselves! If you are a DC local, I highly recommend investing in a Dumbarton Oaks seasonal garden pass.