Running Destination: DC's Cherry Blossoms

by Jeff Burtka

Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms

Washington, DC's cherry blossoms are going to be at peak bloom in a few days, and it is quite an experience to see them up close. Even though I lived in the DC area for almost fifteen years, I stayed clear of cherry blossom fever until my last spring living there.

Blossoms outside the Capitol

I finally found the inspiration to visit the cherry blossoms when I was on Capitol Hill on a beautiful Sunday morning. After one of the worst DC winters in years, the warm sun and cool spring air refreshed my spirits. The many cheerful families taking pictures under the blossoming branches of the cherry trees surrounding the Capitol building convinced me that it was finally time to check out the famous cherry blossoms surrounding the Tidal Basin.

And I thought a run would be the best way to see them.

Low hanging blossoms over the Tidal Basin

The following Thursday morning I drove across the 14th Street Bridge into DC and found a parking spot in East Potomac Park, which is just south of the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin. Equipped with only my phone, I set off.

I ran toward the Tidal Basin and saw that the sidewalks around the cherry trees were packed with tourists. I wanted to have a decent run without having to slow down and stop for the crowds, so I kept my distance and ran around the other side of the Jefferson Memorial. I ran along the surrounding streets and crossed the Kutz Bridge, where I marveled at the view of the blossoms encircling the entire Tidal Basin.

Cherry blossoms encircling the Tidal Basin

After crossing the bridge, I veered to the right, where there is a visitors center near the World War II memorial. A school band’s drumline was practicing, and my visceral response was to increase my pace to match the beat of their drums. After passing the vistors center, I found myself on the south side of the Reflecting Pool. I turned left and ran about halfway to the Lincoln Memorial  before turning around to begin the leisurely part of my run.

A school band practicing near the National Mall

When I reached the visitors center again, band members were twirling flags while the brass section played a few patriotic songs. I stopped and took a few pictures before continuing my run.

Jefferson Memorial

This time I veered to the right along Independence Avenue, so that I could see the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. I had seen the memorial before, but I had not noticed how the civil rights hero’s words juxtaposed with the view of a memorial to a champion of freedom who also was a slaveholder.

MLK's words with the Jefferson Memorial in the distance

MLK Memorial

I then ran back along the Tidal Basin toward the Kutz Bridge. I stopped many times to take pictures or to avoid running into sightseers who were as lost in the beauty of the blossoms as I was. I soaked in the sun reflecting off the rippling water of the Tidal Basin. The wind rustled the branches and brought a peaceful feel to the surroundings despite the crowds.

Cherry Blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial

Unlike the humid days of July and August, the air was cool and dry, and each breath reinvigorated my lungs. When I made it back to my car, I felt relaxed and satisfied with my first visit to the Tidal Basin cherry blossoms. Saturday or Sunday crowds during cherry blossom season might be too much for runners, unless you start really early, but if you can find time during the week, I highly recommend a run through the cherry blossoms.

The Washington Monument reflecting off the Tidal Basin