[Note: This was originally published on KidFriendly DC, but has been updated and repurposed for District Mix.]
Lots of people love a good flower bloom, myself included. Lucky for us, there are some spectacular seasonal displays of flora around the DC area. They all occur during the warmer months, though their peaks vary. And there are several places that are particularly great to view them, a few even known specifically for the bloom. Here’s where you can stop, smell, see, and just enjoy the beauty of them all. Plan on amazing photo ops, too!
Where: Tidal Basin | National Mall Area, DC
When: Late March – Early April
DC’s most famous bloom, in a way, marks the arrival of spring. It may not always be in sync with the calendar, but when the beloved flowers start to appear around the city, a collective seasonal shift seems to begin. The most iconic place to view the cherry blossoms is at the Tidal Basin, where you can walk the path around the water under a canopy of pink and white flowers. It’s a sensational scene that draws a lot of visitors, so these tips come in handy when you plan to view them, especially if you’re visiting with children. [Note: The tips are part of an annual KidFriendly DC post that began in 2011.]
Where: Enid A. Haupt Garden | National Mall, DC
When: Late March – April
Magnolias have become more of a celebrated DC bloom in recent years, perhaps as an alternative to the cherry blossoms that always draw large crowds. The specific variety that create spectacular pink and white scenes are saucer magnolias, and they often start blooming before the cherry blossoms in some locales. The Enid A. Haupt Garden is one of the best places to see them, with magnolia trees lining the path surrounding the parterre (the beautiful, meticulously groomed center part of the garden) and growing throughout the grounds. While you’re there, plan on a museum visit (or a few), too! [PS: There is also a gorgeous display of blooming magnolia trees at Indiana Plaza, at the corner of 7th Street, Pennsylvania, and Indiana Ave. — plus, picnic tables with swing seats and nearby places to get a good bite or bring back to the tables make it worth the stop.]
Where: Riverbend Park | Great Falls, VA
When: Early-Late April
The hike from Riverbend Park to Great Falls Park is a favorite, and it’s especially great in spring when the bluebells bloom, lining the trail along the banks of the Potomac River. The periwinkle, bell-shaped flowers add delightful pops of color to the rest of the still-budding landscape emerging from winter. Every year, Riverbend hosts Bluebells at the Bend, a day of fun festivities, to celebrate the bloom — this year it will take place April 8 (sign up for time slots here and here). You can read more about a great Riverbend hike here.Read more about Riverbend Park on KidFriendly DC here.
Where: Dumbarton Oaks Gardens | Georgetown, DC
When: Mid-April – Mid-May
One of my very favorite spots in DC showcases all kinds of gorgeous flowers, but the wisteria blooms here like no other place in the city (that I can think of, anyway). The purple-petaled flowers drape over walls and trellises in several areas of the grounds, but it’s especially exquisite in the Pebble Garden. Read more about Dumbarton Oaks Gardens through the link above as well as here and here on KidFriendly DC (we’ve been there a lot!). Note that days and hours are limited — it’s open Tuesday – Sunday, 3-6pm Mid-March-October and 3-5pm November- Mid-March — admission is also free during the cold months. If you’re with kids, I recommend taking them to play at Montrose Park first and/or grabbing a bite in Georgetown before or after your visit (this post includes some restaurant recs).
Where: U.S. National Arboretum | Northeast DC
When: Late April – Early Summer
The National Arboretum is beautiful any time of year, but it’s especially stunning in the spring when the flowers begin to bloom. The azalea collection is particularly fantastic and draws visitors from all over to see the vibrant hues blanketing the hillside where they are located. Red, pink, purple, and white flowers saturate the landscape starting around late April and peak in stages over several weeks. If you go see them, plan to make a day of it at the Arboretum — there is so much to enjoy beyond the blooms! View more scenes from the azalea bloom and read more about the National Arboretum on KidFriendly DC here.
Where: Burnside Farms | Nokesville, VA
When: Mid-April – Mid-May
Admission: $19-29/weekdays, $21-31/weekends
Burnside Farms’ annual Festival of Spring showcasing the season’s flowers has fittingly also been called Holland in Haymarket (where it used to take place). Giant fields contain over 50 different varieties of tulips in a rainbow of colors, and you can pick your own to enjoy at home ($1 per tulip, $1 for 2 daffodils). It should be noted that the winter can have an affect on the bloom, and the full crop of flowers may not make it (as happened a few years ago). But what is there is always sure to be gorgeous. Have your camera handy for some brilliant photo ops!
Lotus and Water Lillies
Where: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens | Northeast DC
When: Late June – Mid-July
Of all the big annual blooms that occur in the DC area, the lotus flowers and water lilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens may just be my favorite. Not only is the sight of the bursting pink, white, and peachy-hued flora absolutely breathtaking, its secluded location — the park is located in an unexpected part of Northeast DC just blocks from the buzz of 295 — makes it a glorious oasis of beautiful nature in the city. The bloom begins early to mid summer and peaks around the middle of July, and it’s celebrated annually at the Lotus and Water Lily Festival, a day full of activities for kids, cultural dance performances, gardening workshops, and park tours. View more scenes from the bloom on KidFriendly DC here.
Where: McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area | Poolesville, MD
When: Mid-Late July
This bloom is amazing! The thirty acres of sunflowers at McKee-Beshers is such a happy sight, like a big congregation of smiling emoji sunshine faces. It occurs during what is typically the hottest time of the year in the area, but it’s worth braving the temps and humidity to experience. You can walk along the edges of the fields, and there are a few paths to follow into them to immerse in the brilliant flowers. Even more, McKee-Beshers is right down the street from Homestead Farm, so you can pair a visit to see the stalks of yellow joy with a berry picking outing. Hats, close-toed shoes, sunscreen, and a bottle of water are recommended. View more photos from the McKee Beshers sunflower bloom here on KidFriendly DC.
Where: U.S. Botanic Garden | National Mall, DC
When: Mid-May – August
The roses in the National Garden, the outdoor part of the U.S. Botanic Garden, are a lovely sight to see — and smell, of course. Showcasing several varieties that thrive in the Mid-Atlantic using organic methods, the area is a floral sensation during late spring through the summer. There are even more flowers across Pennsylvania Avenue at Bartholdi Park (though roses don’t star), and the rest of the USBG is always fantastic to tour. Find more about both gardens on KidFriendly DC here and see more about the whole Botanic Garden here. PS: Take little ones to the Children’s Garden, where they can have fun flexing their green thumbs!
Other wonderful gardens around the DC area, where you can enjoy flowers, but aren’t necessarily known for any specific bloom…
* Franciscan Monastery in Brookland, DC
* Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral, DC
* Tudor Place in Georgetown, DC
* Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD
* River Farm in Alexandria, VA
* Meadowlark Botanical Garden in Vienna, VA
* Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA