The annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC is one of those things that everybody should see at least once in their lifetime. There is something magical about thousands of trees blooming simultaneously that draws in huge crowds of people every year to see them. The cherry trees were a gift from Japan in the early 1900’s and are a symbol of friendship between the nations. They bloom a beautiful pink for a short amount of time from late March in to April every year. I’ll be the first to admit that going in to DC is a bit of a chore, so I am going to share some tips on how to make your adventure go as smoothly as possible. First tip: plan on wearing comfortable shoes because you’ll be doing a good bit of walking.
If you are driving from Delaware, you will either come across the bay bridge or down 95. The easiest (and most painless) way to get to the cherry blossoms is by metro. It’s also cheaper than parking in the city and much less stressful. If you come across the bay bridge, aim for the New Carrolton metro station and take the orange line to the Smithsonian stop. If you are coming from Northern Delaware or PA, park at the Greenbelt station and take it all the way to L’Efant Plaza. From there you can transfer to the orange line to Smithsonian station. When you get off at the Smithsonian station, walk toward the Washington Monument to get to the tidal basin. This is where most of the trees are. There is a public restroom near there so you don’t have to use the port-a-potties that are closer to the water. I would HIGHLY suggest looking at a map of the area online before you go because it can be hard to get your bearings once you are there.
A few metro notes:
1) You will need to buy a metro card ($2 each) and load money on to it. I would suggest looking up the fares ahead of time so you know how much you will need. With the card, the fares will be $1 cheaper than what is posted. A nice old man gave us this tip when we were buying our cards. Hang on to the cards to use again next time you go to DC so you don’t have to pay the $2 again.
2) Kids under 4 ride free with an adult (2 per adult) but kids 5 and up have to pay adult fares.
3) Strollers and the metro are tricky. If you can find the elevator (and it works) it’s small and there’s often a line to ride it. Additionally, the elevators are not usually located near the main metro entrances. They can be up to a block away so you may come out at a different spot than you thought you would and be discombobulated. If you are able to babywear, I would highly recommend it because it will save you A LOT of trouble. There’s also the option of folding it and carrying it down the stairs or escalator but if you are like us, it may be difficult to carry the kid and all the stuff while going down stairs against the flow of traffic…
|This is what happens when the escalator is broken and the elevator is a block away!|
4) The metro will probably be scary for young kids, especially the first time they see it. It’s loud and it moves very fast coming in to the station. Definitely talk to your kids about what to expect before you go and try to ease the anxiety, but expect there to be a possible meltdown during the first ride.
|Once he realized it wasn’t so scary, he had fun going fast!|
5) Escalators and little kids are a challenge at first. I realized on this trip that D had never ridden an escalator on his own before. I stupidly expected him to just walk on and go. He freaked out at the moving steps but my arms were full so I couldn’t carry him down. I had to just pull him on to the step the first time and after that he got the hang of it and did fine.
6) There are no bathrooms at the metro stations in the city. Make sure your kids go potty and diapers get changed prior to getting on the metro if possible.
7) Metro stations are hectic. There are people everywhere and everyone is in a hurry. That alone can make it stressful but when you are there with kids who may be metro newbs, it amplifies the anxiety so knowing what to expect and preparing as much as possible will make it go a lot more smoothly!
If you would like to hit up the National Zoo while you are there, hop back on the metro and head to the Cleveland Park Station. You could also take the Woodley Park stop but then you would be walking up hill the 1/2 mile to the zoo instead of down hill… If you go to the zoo first and then the festival, you would do the opposite. Woodley Park station on the way there and Cleveland Park on the way back.
|Checking out the elephants and orangutans over head!|
For our trip, I drove in to the city and parked at the zoo. We went to see the cherry blossoms first and then walked through the zoo on the way back to the car. Parking at the zoo is $22 and the lots fill up fast, so get there early to get a spot! The zoo is FREE so it balances out the cost of parking. The National Zoo is a bit hilly, so plan on getting a bit of a workout if you are pushing a stroller around and have water on hand. For the most part, it is very stroller friendly but you can’t take them in to any of the buildings and often times the entrance and exit are in different locations so you have to park the stroller in one place and walk back around to retrieve it. You can take your own food and drinks in which we usually do to save $ but they also have places you can buy your lunch while you are there, at a premium price of course. If you visit in the summer, bring a change of clothes for the kids because they offer misting stations and splash pad type areas to cool off. You might want to bring a change of clothes for yourself too if you don’t mind getting wet 🙂 Overall, it is a great zoo and there’s always something exciting and new going on. Currently, the star attraction is Bei Bei, the new baby panda who is as cute as can be. If you follow their Facebook and/or Instagram page, they have documented his life daily from birth and have posted about each of his adorable milestones.