Why you might roll your eyes:
Head to the Tidal Basin when the cherry trees are at their peak? Are you kidding? With the hordes of people?
Why you’ll love it:
You can ooh and aah over cherry blossoms in other spots around the area, but nothing beats seeing them reflected off the water, with the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument providing monumental backdrops.
Beat the crowds: You won’t avoid people altogether, but the crowds on peak days tend to be thinner between dawn and 9 am.
Another great vantage point: After admiring the Tidal Basin’s nearly 1,700 trees- most of which are the popular Yoshino variety- walk or bike to Hains Point at East Potomac Park, where another 1,700 trees provide the glory of the season without the throngs.
Get out on the water: Sure, it’s touristy, but it’s fun and memorable to rent a paddleboat and see the blooms from the basin itself- where you won’t have to elbow anyone out of your way. During the Cherry Blossom Festival (March 20 through April 12), you can reserve a boat through tidalbasinpaddleboats.com. Reservations are for mornings between 10 and noon; other times are walk-up only. Or see the Hains Point trees by getting out onto the Potomac at Key Bridge Boathouse, or you can join one of its Cherry Blossom Paddles. (Those boats aren’t allowed into the Tidal Basin.) Or sign up for a cherry-blossom cruise past Hains Point on the Odyssey. The dining room is walled-in glass, so you can see from every table as well as the deck; a two-hour lunch cruise ($50 to $60, depending on the day of the week) features such fare as chicken with cherry demi-glace and cheesecake with chocolate-cherry compote.
If you really want to avoid the Tidal Basin: Our next-favorite place to see blossoms is the Kenwood neighborhood of Bethesda, which is thick with about 1,200 Yoshino trees. Forget driving and trying to park; instead, hop on a bike and get there via the Capital Crescent Trail. Other beyond-the-basin thickets of trees can be found at the National Arboretum in Northeast DC; Stanton Park on Capitol Hill; Dumbarton Oaks and Foxhall Village, both in Georgetown; and Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, where 130 cherry trees are planted mainly around two of its lakes as well as in the enchanting Korean Bell Garden.