Travel, Virginia

Seeing the Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C: What NOT To Do

Everyone who knows me, knows of my love for flowers! I buy them for myself, I grow them in my yard, and I will to travel to see them. And cherry blossoms are no exception!

When we were stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington, we braved the crowds to see the Skagit Valley tulip fields. It was one of the highlights of our time there.

(Skagit Valley tulip field, circa 2011.)

After I found out that Washington D.C was less than 5 hours from Fort Bragg, I HAD to add it to our Fort Bragg Bucket List. And what better time to visit D.C than during the Cherry Blossom Festival?

Our trip to see the cherry blossoms was very spontaneous! We pretty much just hopped in the car and went – no planning, no research, just out the door and gone.

That was our first mistake.

Needless to say, our trip to D.C was rough. I was completely unprepared for the insane crowds that accompany the beautiful blooms.

Cherry blossoms have a very short lifespan of about 1-2 weeks. So, everybody and their mama packs into the Capital City to see them while they can.

If seeing the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C is on your bucket list, don’t make the same mistakes that I did.

Cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C.

Don’t Wait Until the Weekend of the Blossom Festival

The day that we went to see the cherry blossoms also happened to be the same day as the Blossom Kite Festival. While that sounds pretty cool (and it kinda was), the whole city was PACKED.

The National Mall was overflowing with people flying kites, having picnics, and taking in the sights. The sidewalks were so jammed with people that we could hardly get around. And restaurants were so busy that we almost didn’t find anything for lunch.

If I could go back and do it again, I would try to see the cherry blossoms on a week day to avoid the throngs of selfie-takers like me!

The girls loved seeing the cherry blossoms almost as much as I did!
(The girls liked seeing the cherry blossoms almost as much as I did!)

Don’t Forget Your Camera

Imagine my disappointment during the drive to mark an item off of my personal bucket list when I realized that I forgot my camera. I was crushed! It was too late to turn around and I was kicking myself for my lack of planning.

Of course, I was still able to snap some pictures with my phone. However, they aren’t the best quality.

Don’t make my mistake – bring your camera! The blooms are gorgeous and after a day of walking till your feet hurt and fighting the crowds, you deserve pictures that do them justice!

The sun peeking through cherry blossoms.
(Sun shining through the fluffy blooms.)

Don’t Mistake Magnolias for Cherry Blossoms

Fortunately, this is one mistake that I did not make. However, I heard many other people doing it and it drove me nuts!!

I can’t tell you how many times I overheard people telling the ones around them to look at the cherry blossoms, when what they were actually looking at was a magnolia tree. Where I grew up in North Florida, we called these tulip trees or saucer magnolias.

When they bloom, the entire tree fills with big, gorgeous blooms. Because of their pink color, it’s easy to see why some people might mistake them for cherry blossoms. However, when you put them side by side, they look very different.

Cherry blossoms are much smaller than magnolia blooms. The petals of a cherry blossom are soft and ‘fluffy’, whereas magnolia blooms are stiffer and have a more waxy feeling.

Don’t Expect a lot of Pink

I have to admit I was confused when we first saw the cherry blossoms. I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing were cherry trees or Bradford Pear trees. The blooms were more white than pink.

Huh???

All of the pictures that I had seen on-line depicted trees with fluffy, light pink blooms. In real life, the blooms are almost completely white with random pink petals mixed throughout.

In fact, I edited the pictures that I took to make the blooms look more pink than they actually were. And I suspect that a lot of others do too.

(Unedited pictures of the mostly white cherry blossoms.)

Don’t Miss the Tidal Basin

This is, by far, my biggest regret from the whole trip. If you read my post about all the things that went wrong during this trip, then you know that our feet were horribly sore after the first day there. So, when we went to see the cherry blossoms, we were not able to do a lot of walking.

We didn’t go to the main part of the Tidal Basin (where the Jefferson Memorial is). We viewed the cherry blossoms along a smaller section of the Tidal Basin before crossing the bridge.

While there were plenty of beautiful trees in this area, I really would have liked to see the blooms and the monuments together. If you are going to see the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C, definitely make sure you visit the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial.

(Obviously not my picture, but courtesy of Thrillist.)

Seeing the cherry blossoms in D.C has been one of my personal bucket list items for a long time and I’m so glad that I finally had the opportunity to see them. Despite the insane crowds, the aggravation, and the miles upon miles of walking, I can honestly say that it was worth the trouble.

I will always cherish the memories that we made on this trip and the pictures we took – as edited and low-quality as they may be!

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