Predicting Peak Cherry Blossom Blooming in DC is Not an Exact Science, but the Time to Book is Now.
Now that the brittle Christmas trees have hit the sidewalks, it is time to start planning and booking your 2014 Washington DC Cherry Blossom trip.
The official Festival dates are March 20 – April 13, and a glance at hotel rates for weekend stays on Tripadvisor during that period indicates rooms could be filling up. Then again, I booked in mid-March for my 2013 visit and was able to choose from a variety of Kimptons for well under $200/night.
You might want to book something cancelable now, and keep checking for better rates.
Amtrak is still showing their lowest tier fares – $49 – for regional service from NYC to DC for the Fridays and Sundays March 28 – April 13, but the lowest fares from Boston are gone.
If you’re planning to take the train, book soon – or now. When I started researching this trip last January Amtrak fares were well over $100 each way and I ended up on the comfortable, but still traffic-reliant DCtoNY bus. Never again. Traveling to DC early on Friday wasn’t so bad; the return trip was heinous – it took at least an hour to get out of DC and 5+ hours total. But, DCtoNY’s line system is a lot more civilized than the discounted buses, and they allowed a no-fee schedule change.
After scouring many “peak bloom” calendars and sites, I booked April 12-14. Thanks to a late spring, I would have seen peak blooming around the Tidal Basin had it not rained torrentially all day on the 12th. By the time I got to DC, many of the trees around the basin were fading, but there were lushly blooming trees all over the city.
The area around the Tidal Basin was crowded, but not unbearable. It is most crowded by the pedal boat dock, then the crowds thin. Due to the beautiful, warm day the boats were in use. When I returned on Sunday after the Cherry Blossom cruise, the crowd size was similar.
A friend in DC forwarded a half-off Groupon special for Capital Yacht Charter’s cherry blossom cruises. The cruises are fun, well organized and a nice way to spend an hour, but you really don’t get close enough to the trees. You do get to see DC from a different vantage, and get great views of the Pentagon, airport and historical buildings. Capital Charters has a variety of yachts and cruises.
Where to Eat:
My usual DC dinner partner was out of town, so Friday night I checked out the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl – the perfect place to dine if you’re alone (or not). I relished every bite of my Original Chili Half Smoke, knowing it would be a long time before I risked a similar thing. So tasty!
To compensate for my somewhat heart-unhealthy DC meals, I visited Sweetgreen Saturday night for a dinner of salad. The huge selection and obvious quality of the offerings at Sweetgreen makes me glad they just opened in NYC.
On Sunday, I made my usual visit to Market Lunch at Eastern Market for crab cakes. With Baltimore and DC so close to NYC, why is it impossible to find decent crab cakes here?
And, finally I must mention Schneider’s of Capitol Hill – one of the few stores in the US that carries One Barrel rum from Belize. And, 100s of other hard to find wines and liquors.
Where to Stay:
Hotel Helix – one of Kimpton’s well priced and well located hotels in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Steps from the restaurants on 14th Street; a 10 minute walk from the Dupont Circle Metro stop.
Donovan House – read our review here.
The Mandarin Oriental – the closest hotel to the Tidal Basin.
Or, contact me via the form here or by emailing Eva @ SuitcaseReady.com if you would like me to book this trip for you.
Washington and Cherry Blossom Info on Amazon:
Cherry Blossom Tour Washington DC – A Self-guided Pictorial Walking Tour
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Washington DC (updated for 2014)
The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration – an overview of worldwide Cherry Blossom Festivals
This article was originally posted January 20, 2014.