This cherry blossom scenic drive offers close-up views of the Washington DC blooms around and near the Tidal Basin from the comfort of your car. We highlight our favorite route and places where you may find parking if you want to get out and take some photos of the DC cherry trees in bloom.
3/22 UPDATE: DO NOT take this drive in 2020. DC has asked the Park Service to close all access to the Tidal Basin until the cherry blossom season is over (and we hope they agree). You can not visit the cherry trees and maintain a safe social distance. Please wait until next year to see the blossoms.
When to Take a Cherry Blossom Scenic Drive
Please note that timing is very important if you want to enjoy this drive without sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. On weekdays, plan to take your drive between 10:00 and 3:00 to avoid the heaviest rush hour traffic.
On weekends, complete the drive early (before 10:00) or late (after 4:00) in the day. Check traffic updates before you head out and stay away if traffic is heavy.
DC Cherry Blossom Scenic Drive Route
Our scenic drive route is not the most direct route but one that gives you the best cherry tree views from your car. The highlights are a drive around the Tidal Basin, through East Potomac Park, and past the Washington Monument and World War II Monument.
Here is a Google map of our suggested route. Below are basic directions and highlights to watch for on your drive.
Cherry Blossom Scenic Drive Highlights
Cross the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and go straight on Constitution (50E), with Constitution Gardens on your right. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool are also on your right but they are not visible from the road.
Turn right on 15th Street NW. You’ll have great views of the Washington Monument and surrounding cherry trees on your right.
Stay straight until the road merges into Maine Ave, then bear right onto E. Basin Drive. The Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial will be on your right, and you’ll see a nice section of cherry trees from your car.
Turn left on Ohio Dr. SW following signs for Hains Point. The George Mason Memorial, at the corner on your left, is surrounded by beautiful saucer magnolias, a few cherry trees, and forsythia.
To continue your drive, go straight until you have to turn left at the Do Not Enter signs. The drive around East Potomac Park is one way, so you turn left here then turn right again on Ohio Dr. SW.
East Potomac Park Scenic Drive Loop
The scenic drive through East Potomac Park is about 3 miles long on a two-lane, one-way road. There are water views throughout, and most of the drive is lined with cherry trees. The park is a popular place to fish, jog, cycle, walk, and picnic. There is a paved walkway along the water’s edge, but portions of it are closed due to damage from frequent flooding.
There were lots of helicopters flying by during our visit and one passed dramatically close overhead.
There are many free parking spots along the drive, which fill up quickly on nice weekends. If you are able to find a parking spot on the west side of the park you can watch flights take off and land across the river at National Airport. Notice how the planes bank as they come down the Potomac, avoiding the restricted airspace over the Pentagon.
West Potomac Park
When you exit the park, continue straight on Ohio Dr. SW (the Tidal Basin will be on your right). You are now driving through West Potomac Park between the river and athletic fields. The FDR Memorial is on your right but is not visible from the road.
Make the first right on East Basin Dr for more views of the cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin. You’ll pass the Martin Luther King Memorial on your right, though you will only see the back walls as the statue faces the water.
Turn right on Independence Ave past the northern end of the Tidal Basin, curving to the left until you can take a slight right onto 17th St NW. Here you will have a brief but fabulous view of World War II and Lincoln Memorials on your left, and the Washington Monument on your right.
Now turn left on Constitution to complete your drive. If left turns are not allowed, follow the map above to route back onto Consitution. Watch for a glimpse of one of our favorite DC hidden gems, the Albert Einstein Memorial.
As you head onto the bridge you’ll have a nice view of cherry trees in front of the Institute for Peace.
You have completed our recommended cherry blossom scenic drive in Washington DC. As noted above, this is not the most direct route to any of the points highlighted on our map, and this is not the route Google will suggest. It is easy to get lost when you are navigating the confusing streets in this section of DC, but you can always loop back and try again.
We hope you enjoy the beautiful cherry tree views and encounter minimal traffic on your scenic drive. Happy cherry blossom season!
Find more beautiful road trips in our guide 5 Fantastic Northern Virginia Scenic Drives.