Planning to see DC’s cherry blossoms in 2020? Consider an approach from National Harbor

The 200 Okame cherry trees at the National Harbor in Maryland, just outside of D.C., are already blooming, and if you want a preview of what’s to come in the 2020 National Cherry Blossom Festival, the Harbor is offering a number of cherry-themed activities in the coming weeks.

The trees have only been growing at National Harbor for three years, and they are different from the Yoshino trees that predominantly dot the National Mall in D.C.

Those trees are only at the green bud stage of bloom as of Friday, the National Park Service said.

The two-month-long event at National Harbor starts this weekend. The pink-themed cherry blossom celebration kicks off on March 1 and runs through April.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. is scheduled to run from March 20 to April 12.

Visitors who walk across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge or drive into the National Harbor neighborhood will be greeted by pink-hued pathways. The Capital Wheel will be lit pink, as will the Harbor’s streets.

One of the Harbor’s events — Sakura Sunday on April 5 — is an official participating event of the 2020 National Cherry Blossom Festival.

“We’ll have a Japanese market where you can buy Japanese food, live music, and a wide range of Japanese cultural items will be on display,” said Deborah Topcik, National Harbor’s Director of Marketing.

If you’re already itching to see cherry blossoms in 2020, you can see some of the early-opening trees at National Harbor in Maryland. These blossoms bloomed in the later weeks of February. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Shops and restaurants at National Harbor are prepping for the neighborhood’s cherry blossom celebration starting March 1. (WTOP/Kristi King)

A wide view of the approach to National Harbor shows trees already in bloom.

The Carhartt store at National Harbor is even getting in on the act with pink items.

It’s possible to walk to National Harbor from Virginia via the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by cherry blossoms.

The Okame cherry trees at National Harbor produce flowers about two weeks ahead of those along the Tidal Basin.

A view of the blossoms on the young cherry trees at National Harbor in 2019.
A view of the blossoms on the young cherry trees at National Harbor in 2019.

Consider launching your visit to the cherry blossoms via a water taxi leaving from National Harbor.
Consider launching your visit to the cherry blossoms via a water taxi leaving from National Harbor.

Not only can you start your cherry blossom trip from the National Harbor, but the pink-hued streets also will await your return in the evening.

Not only will there be cherry blossoms and lights at the National Harbor, but events like Sakura Sunday, on April 5, will include cultural presentations.

The cherry trees around National Harbor are only a few years old, so the blossoms are not quite as robust as the ones near the Tidal Basin.

If you’re not a fan of the dense crowds sure to be posing for Instagram photos along the Tidal Basin, the National Harbor’s trees should make for a more relaxed experience.

The National Harbor in Maryland provides another way to enjoy cherry blossoms in 2020.

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A view of the blossoms on the young cherry trees at National Harbor in 2019.
Consider launching your visit to the cherry blossoms via a water taxi leaving from National Harbor.

In addition, many of the shops and restaurants in the neighborhood are participating in Japanese- and cherry blossom-themed activities.

Some of the other events will include origami and papermaking classes, and some of the bars and restaurants will offer mixology classes for those interested in learning how to make cherry blossom-themed drinks.

There also will be a water lantern festival, Topcik said. Those who want to participate can write their wishes on a lantern and launch it into the Potomac River.

Eventually the lanterns will be collected and disposed of responsibly after they float in the harbor for a time.

The harbor provides a good starting point for those looking to find an alternative way to view the famous cherry trees along the Potomac, closer to the Tidal Basin. The water taxi periodically departs from National Harbor.


Find the latest on events and blooms dates on
WTOP’s National Cherry Blossom Festival page.

Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for USATODAY.com, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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