It’s no secret that tourists often head to the Tidal Basin to get that perfect picture of the cherry blossoms. There is just something about those DC monuments in the background that make it extra special. But the nation’s capital has another beloved backyard that is home to a variety of beautiful cherry trees to enjoy this season. Not only is it a beautiful spot for the blossoms, but it’s also a huge area that can with more room for the crowds.
The National Arboretum is home to dozens of different types of flowering cherry trees but it’s a little different than what you’ll find downtown. Instead of finding the trees all lined up in their pink glory at the Tidal Basin, you’ll find them scattered throughout the 446 acres of the arboretum.
When we first arrived, we headed to the visitor’s office and picked up a handy Cherry Blossom booklet that included a map of all the locations of the trees. The trees are numbered around the arboretum so you are positive you are looking in the right place. We also discovered that many of the flowering cherry trees were mid to late-season bloomers – some are not even pink! This means that many of the flowering cherry trees in the arboretum will be available a little longer than their famous friends lining the Tidal Basin. While we were particularly engaged with the cherry blossom adventure for our visit, the National Arboretum has a wide variety of activities for any season.
In addition to the self-guided cherry blossom tour, the arboretum offers many other tour pamphlets available at the visitor’s center. Some of the major gardens include the Azalea Collections, Dogwood Collections, Fern Valley, and National Herb Garden. You can find explore before you go any time of the year by visiting the website.
Picnics are only allowed in the Grove of State Trees toward the back of the Arboretum. There is a parking lot nearby if you don’t want to walk all the way there or leave your snacks in your car while you explore first. There are no grills and limited picnic tables so bring blankets or portable lawn chairs!
The National Capitol Columns
Just because these cherry trees aren’t near the Jefferson Memorial, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a historic backdrop. The National Capitol Columns sit proudly in the center of the arboretum. They are the original 1828 columns that made up the East Portico of the Capitol. In 1958, they were removed during an expansion project. A reflecting pool with water trickling down the steps reflects the columns and provides an excellent photo opt or place to relax.
If you need to get your work out on with some beautiful scenery, this is definitely a good place. Whether you move fast or slow, this is a beautiful place for running, walking, biking, or roller skating. The park is also dog-friendly so your furry friends can get some exercise too.
The National Arboretum offers 35-minute tram tours on weekends that run from mid-April to mid-October. The tram is $4.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors, and $2.00 for kiddies 4-16. There are also a number of seasonal hikes, exhibits, workshops, and festivals. The most popular activity appears to be the Full Moon Hike which we hope to check out at some point this year. Many events are free but some require a fee or an advanced reservation. You can find the full list of events on the website.
A trip to National Arboretum is great in any season. However, we’d recommend you dress for the weather, wear good walking shoes, and toss a blanket, a camera, and water bottles in your car. Pack some snacks or lunch if you plan on staying for more than a few hours. There is plenty of parking throughout the arboretum so you don’t necessarily have to trek from one end to the other. Most of all, enjoy the beautiful gardens in Washington’s backyard!
Nature lovers, families, couples, picnic enthusiasts, dog owners, exercise
Free to visit but some tours and special events cost extra
3501 New York Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002