Photograph by Flickr user justgrimes.
Come cherry blossom season, whether you're a novice or a hardened veteran, the swarms of people along the Potomac can be pretty overwhelming. Sure, the halos of white and pink around the Tidal Basin and Hains Point are lovely, but having to fight through the crowds to see them almost takes the pleasure out of the whole experience. So what to do to avoid being smothered?
While we can't help with the crowds, we do have some suggestions for other hot blooming spots. Here are nine places to visit to get the most of Washington's spring--away from the thronging multitudes.
US National Arboretum
One of the best places to avoid the Tidal Basin and still take in the blossoms is at the National Arboretum. Visitors can explore upward of 400 types of cherry tree in the research and display collections. Pack your bike and a picnic, as this 446-acre park is great for both.
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
This Northern Virginia park is full of walking trails, lakes, and more than 20 varieties of cherry tree. The trees in this 95-acre park bloom a little later than those at the Tidal Basin.
Don't forget there are cherry trees blooming along the Anacostia River, too. Head to Anacostia Park, where you'll find 1,200 acres spanning the river shoreline and dozens of cherry trees. There are trails, boat launches, picnic areas, and Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens to keep you busy.
UDC David A. Clarke School of Law
Near UDC's Mason Law Library there's a small grove of ornamental cherry trees where Van Ness Street meets Connecticut Avenue, Northwest. Stroll along the sidewalk or take a seat on one of the cement stoops in the plaza and people-watch.
Stanton Park, Capitol Hill
Named for Edwin Stanton, President Lincoln's secretary of war, this four-acre park is rimmed by cherry trees--some old, some young. Sure, Capitol Hill traffic runs around the periphery of this park, but there's a large grassy area that's perfect for picnicking. Plus there's a playground for small children. Massachusetts Ave. between Fourth and Sixth Sts., NE.
These blossom-lined streets are known as the best-kept secret among springtime revelers. Bloggers writing about these tree clusters often lament how neighbors will ostracize them for exposing the precious information. Most streets have Yoshino cherry trees, but if you're late to check out the blooms, turn down Surrey Lane, which is lined with Kwanzan cherry trees that blossom slightly later than trees on the Mall. Between MacArthur Blvd., NW, and Glover Archbold Park.
Another neighborhood with cherry-tree-lined streets is Kenwood. The enclave of trees is located just off River Road in Bethesda and is very close to the Capital Crescent Trail, a biking hotspot. Off River Rd. near Little Falls Pkwy.
This small public display garden in Wheaton Regional Park boasts around 20 cherry trees, mostly Yoshino, Sargent, and weeping cherries. It's a great alternative for Marylanders who don't want to trek all the way into DC. The park itself includes sweeping forests, 11 miles of trails, a playground for kids, and plenty of open space.
A well-guarded secret amid the bustle of Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks has nearly ten acres of gardens interspersed with weeping, Cornelian, and sour cherry trees. They bloom slightly earlier than the Yoshinos on the Mall, making a great prelude to the later festivities.
See our Cherry Blossom Festival 2012 Guide here.