Seeing the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. has been a bucket list trip for years. As spring approached this past year, I found myself wondering what was I waiting for? D.C. is not that far from Cleveland (six hours to be exact) and can easily be driven there and back in a couple of days. And so the decision was made – I was going to D.C. Once I knew that I was going, I had to verify that the cherry blossoms would actually be in bloom.
It turns out there is a whole website devoted to tracking the cherry blossoms. The site is updated daily, letting you know what stage the cherry blossoms are currently in, which it turns out is really hard to predict more than a few days in advance. The weather plays a huge role as to how early or ate late the cherry blossoms start to bloom. In my case, the cherry blossoms were at their peak the week prior to when I was planning on going. There was no way that I could make it that week, so I resigned myself to the fact that if I went, there might not be any blossoms left. I was okay with taking that chance. Tip: the peak time to see the cherry blossoms in 2019 is estimated to be April 1.
A friend and I hit the road on a Thursday afternoon and arrived in Baltimore exactly six hours later. The tolls were a bit steep at $27, but much cheaper than flying, especially when splitting it with another person. We ended up staying in the Baltimore area (our friend lives there), which is just a short 45 minute train ride via the MARC commuter train (assuming the train computer system doesn’t shut down and you’re stuck on a rush hour train for two hours on the way home. Yep, that happened to us). For only $8 you can go from Penn Station in Baltimore to Union Station in D.C. If I went again, I’d probably stay right in the city to save some time commuting back and forth.
What’s great about D.C. is that you can do so much in the city and it doesn’t cost a thing. In our case, we also had a very simple agenda – see the cherry blossoms and check out the monuments. We took the Metro from Union Station to the Smithsonian stop and from there you’re practically on top of the Washington Monument. You can also visit the World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and Korean War Memorial. Then on to the Tidal Basin for superb cherry blossom viewing. Even with it not being the peak week, at least half of the trees still had flowers and some hadn’t even started blooming.
After spending the majority of the morning and early afternoon swooning over cherry blossoms and marveling over how lucky we got with unseasonably warm weather, we started to get a bit hangry. We decided to refuel at a very popular restaurant near the White House called the Old Ebbitt Grill. Politicians and presidents have been dining here for decades, and it was well worth the wait.
Our waiter even recommended a museum not far from the restaurant, so after lunch we walked over to the Renwick Gallery. It was amazing and only took us about a half hour to walk through, which is just short enough to hold my attention (I’m not really a museum person). In total we walked about 10 miles that day, starting at the monuments, exploring the tidal basin and then ending up at the White House.
Tips for Visiting D.C.:
- Check to make sure that the cherry blossoms will actually be in bloom at the time you are visiting, especially if that is the only reason you are traveling to D.C. I checked this site daily before my trip.
- Plan to go in the spring. Aside from the cherry blossoms, everything else is starting to come alive and there are flowers everywhere.
- Have at least one day where you don’t have a set itinerary. On the day where our objective was only to see the cherry blossoms and the monuments allowed a lot of flexibility for checking out other sites we weren’t really expecting.
- If you want to go up in the Washington Monument, buy your tickets in advance. They do sell out, as we found out once we got there.
- The vast majority of museums are free in D.C., so plan a day of museum hopping if that’s your thing.