Spring is my favorite time to be in Washington DC. Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming and everyone seems to have a smile on their face. What’s not to love? It’s a special time to be in the city where tourists and locals alike flock to the famous cherry blossoms to admire their beauty.
The cherry blossoms are scattered all over the city but my favorite ones to photograph are the ones around the Tidal Basin. The trees are much bigger and abundant. You can get some killer shots with the Washington memorials as your backdrop and experiment with interesting water reflections. What’s not to love?
To be fully prepared, I reference this website a lot. It’s National Park Services’ Bloom watch. I think they have the most accurate up to date information about the peak bloom. They also break down the stages so that you know what you’re looking at in case you are overly eager and want to check out the trees asap.
So if this is your first Cherry Blossom experience, let me try to break it down for you…
Favorite Shooting Location in the Tidal Basin:
The tidal basin is 2.1 miles of pure beauty so it’s difficult to know where to start, especially if this is your first cherry blossom experience in the Nation’s capital. So let me try to explain this as best as I can. My favorite cherry blossom trees are the ones located right next to the small foot bridge seen on this map. If you’re standing on it, walk towards the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial on the sidewalk. There are some great trees that hang over the sidewalk and into the water that are some of my favorites to shoot no matter the season. The branches and limbs make for great framing elements to the Jefferson Memorial or even if you want to use them as an arch way for another foreground element… like a fellow photographer 🙂
My second favorite cluster of trees are the ones located near the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. If you’re standing in front of the MLK Jr memorial, facing the Jefferson Memorial, go towards your left. Theres a great set of trees there that look perfect in the morning light if you are standing underneath them. If you catch them at the right time, they glow from the sunlight is unbelievable.
People All Around:
No matter how early you go, there will always be other people out. Theres just no way of getting around that. At times it can be a bit frustrating if you’re trying to go for a people-less image but know that this is the kind of thing to expect while at the Basin. The sidewalks aren’t the biggest so people area almost everywhere. Just be patient and hopefully you will get your shot. Just be prepared for when it happens because it probably won’t last long.
If it gets too crowded, why not use a macro lens and focus in on the little details? I can almost guarantee no on will get in your way for those close up shots. Some of my favorite images are the simplest ones.
On a usual day, parking isn’t too bad. But with everyone checking out the cherry blossoms, the car situation can be a little more challenging. Plus they close the paddle boat parking lot located on the northeast side of the Tidal Basin so it makes it even more difficult. With the very limited parking available I suggest either metro it in to the area or going really early in the morning.
There are several places where you can potentially find parking. Ohio Drive along the south east portion of the Tidal Basin is a good place. Be careful though, in the past I have seen DC police block off the street and making it a 1 way street as opposed to it’s usual 2 way drive.
If you’re coming from E Basin Drive, turn left onto Ohio Drive and you’ll see some parking lots on your left. There’s three of them but the last one is a pretty far walk. Try to find parking in the first two if you can!
Another warning, there is no more free parking in Washington DC. Make sure you pay attention to the parking meters and signs. To be on the safe side, download the park mobile app on your phone. It will save you a whole bunch of time plus help you with the parking requirements. The best part is that if you find yourself spending more time than expected at the blossoms, you can just add money from your phone instead of walking all the way back to your car.
The closest metro stop to the Tidal Basin is “Smithsonian”. It’s a pretty good walk from the metro to the Tidal Basin but it’s cool because you can also see the cherry blossoms trees by the Washington Monument on your way there. They aren’t as big but you can get some pretty unique compositions from the smaller trees as well.
Other Places to see the Cherry Blossoms:
Other viewing spots include, the US Capitol. If you’re facing east, you’ll see some great ones on the left side of the government building. Consider how you can use the cherry blossoms to frame the beautiful dome. If you walk a little further up Madison Dr, there are more nice ones on the National Gallery of Art grounds.
As a reference, here’s a guide the US Capitol just posted. Hopefully this will make it easier to maximize your cherry blossom viewing experience around the Capitol.
The Enid A Haupt Garden is one of my favorite places in general. It doesn’t have to be spring (although that’s the best time) for me to enjoy a walk behind the Smithsonian Castle. There are quite a few cherry blossom trees located inside the Moongate Garden and my favorite is the weeping cherry blossom tree. You won’t see any like it near the Tidal Basin plus its far less crowded.
To be honest though, my favorite part about the garden are the magnolia trees. They line the walkway and are so big and bountiful, I unintentionally spend most of my time photographing the pink magnolias instead of the cherry blossoms. If you’re a flower lover, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the gardens no matter what.
Hope you found these tips useful and you enjoy your time outdoors. Visiting the Cherry Blossoms is truly a magical experience. I hope this made it a little easier for you to get around and capture the images that you want to create.
If you have any other questions, put them in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer them.
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