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DC like a local: Cherry Blossoms

March 18, 2016

Last week we published our guide to the Best Cherry Blossom experience in Washington DC in the most iconic spot – the Tidal Basin. And it’s true, if you only have time/patience for one place, you’ve got to hit up Thomas Jefferson Memorial loop (exact location to see the memorial at sunrise). But! As great as that experience will be, it will be something that you will share with lots and lots of other tourists, locals, photographers, and brides-to-be.

If, like us, you like to explore a bit more hidden places, away from the big crowds – then this guide is for you. Below are the best cherry blossoms spots in Washington DC – enjoyed mostly by locals, and a few tourists-in-the-know.

Hains Point

This is cheating a bit, as Hains Point is part of the Tidal Basin circuit. It’s a longish walk from one to another (30 minutes to get there from FDR memorial – your suggested location on the Tidal Basin, and then another 30 minutes or so to actually stroll the area), far enough that only about 10 percent of the Tidal Basin crowd ever makes it to Hains Point.
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cherryblossoms-housetolaos-5Annual Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run, Hains Point, Washington DC. 

Here are several excellent reasons why you should go:

  • It’s the most convenient spot – from the Tidal Basin – to get to, if you are short on time. Hains Point is essentially a long strip of land on the Potomac River ringed by Cherry trees – so yes, it’s very picturesque.
  • Hains point is a local favorite all year around as a spot within DC proper to watch planes take off at the Reagan National Airport (the airport is located right across the river). Gravelly Point is more thrilling, but requires car. 

cherryblossoms-housetolaos-7Reagan National Airport across the Potomac River from Hains Point, Washington DC. 

The United States National Arboretum

The National Arboretum is a true DC gem, which is rarely on the tourist radar. There’s a reason for that of course – it’s kind of hard to get to, and it’s a bit out of the way from the National Mall and the rest of star attractions. Located off the busy Route 50, the most convenient way to get there is to drive. Luckily, parking isn’t an issue even on the busiest days. Alternatively, you could rent a Car-to-Go, or get your Uber on with a free one way ride, (you are welcome :),  or there’s always option to bike.

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cherryblossoms-housetolaos-3Exploring all 76 varieties of Cherry Blossoms at the National Arboretum in Washington DC. 

The National Arboretum is super awesome for several reasons – it’s huge, including the area where the cherry blossoms are planted. So even on very busy days, it still doesn’t feel crowded. The arboretum also boasts almost 80 varieties of cherry trees – if you love ‘check off’ lists, then this will be a bonanza for you (of course, they have brochure guides with all varieties marked along guided paths).

And there’s a super bonus feature too! You can stroll through Ellipse Meadow where the original columns from the U.S. Capitol Building (the place where presidents get inaugurated every four years, and the Congress convenes in session) are set up in an open field. The sight is rather neat and very, very picturesque. Free admission too!

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You can easily make this half a day excursion, complete with a picnic – just make sure to pack your provisions well, as there are no places nearby to stock up.

Kenwood Village

Technically the neighborhood is located outside of DC, in Maryland. However, we really like Kenwood because you can get there by bike right from the Georgetown neighborhood located in the heart of D.C. And what a great bike ride it is – the majority of the 40-minute or so ride is along the Capital Crescent trail, which is very lush and picturesque.

cherryblossoms-housetolaos-12Biking along the Capital Crescent Trail from Washington DC to Kenwood, MD. 

Another reason to head to Kenwood? Its full of fancy pants houses and locals who show up specifically to show off their fancy pants cars by driving around during Cherry Blossom bloom season. Great people watching.

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cherryblossoms-housetolaos-11Cherry Blossom mansions time! Kenwood Village, MD. 

Dumbarton Oaks Park

You guys, I hope you appreciate this one as much as I do, because it’s absolutely my favorite place in Washington D.C. It’s also in the top five happy places for me in the world. I love it so much I used to be a season member, and that wasn’t cheap! I no longer live nearby, and we travel way too much to make it worth the annual membership price, but I make it out to Dumbarton at least several times a year (its free from November to March which helps!)

cherryblossoms-housetolaos-14Strolling Dumbarton’s winding garden paths. Washington DC. 

I am not sure I can do the gardens justice in my description – but here it goes, the first time I walked in I was absolutely transfixed, I was convinced I stumbled down a rabbit hole – into the Alice in Wonderland world. Myriad of small gardens feed into and overflow over each other, somehow accompanied by a perfect mix of wildflowers, carefully curated rose bushes, perfectly manicured tile mosaics, sculptures and installations. cherryblossoms-housetolaos-17Cherry Blossom meadow at the far end of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC. 

Plan on at least 2 hours, but better 3 – you don’t want to feel rushed, as around every corner there are more enchanting surprises.

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Swimming is for members only, but looks ridiculously luxurious, no? Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC.  

There’s a good chance that you won’t have many other visitors on a weekday, probably due to $10 admission price (which I think is a steal for all this beauty, but admittedly steep for the city where there’s so much free stuff). On weekends, locals will abound, but they won’t spoil your magical time.

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On our radar for this year:
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

I debated whether to include Meadowlark BotanicalGardens as a Cherry Blossom spot on the list for two reasons:

  • It’s not truly local, at least to D.C. Located in Vienna, Virginia, it’s a ways off, so we wouldn’t normally make the effort.
  • We haven’t actually been, so I am hesitant to recommend. But! It looks pretty neat, and worth the drive, so we will be heading out there this year to determine whether it’s worthy of being included on our best places to see Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC sans Tidal Basin.

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  • http://GreenGlobalTravel.com/ Green Global Travel

    D.C. seems to be at its finest during Cherry Blossom season. There are so many beautiful cherry blossom viewing locations in the city. Hopefully, visitors to those spots can meet locals.

    • http://housetolaos.com/ House To Laos

      Green Global – you are spot on — meeting locals, or at least people watching, might be just about as neat as enjoying cherry blossoms themselves 🙂