No area of Washington is more iconic than the 2.1-mile stroll around the Tidal Basin. Not only is it home to the Cherry Blossoms but it’s also home to the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Make sure your cameras are ready.
WHAT YOU SEE: The Tidal Basin is a small body of water near the National Mall along Independence Avenue. It’s surrounded by Cherry Blossom trees that the Japanese gave to Washington in 1912. They bloom only in the Spring but they hold onto their beauty all year round. You’ll often see ducks in the water, as well as the occasional fisherman. Not sure what you can catch there though. You’ll also occasionally see an artist trying to capture the beautiful scenery on their canvas.
The best place to start the Tidal Basin walk is at Independence Avenue and 17th Street, which will be close to the World War II Memorial. It’s where the Kutz Memorial Bridge is located. As you’re facing the water, walk to the right which will take you toward the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. You can’t miss the beautiful stone statue of King looking across the Tidal Basin.
Keep going in the same direction around the basin and you’ll come upon the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. It includes waterfalls and a narrative display about Roosevelt and his moment in history. Several of his iconic quotes are engraved in stone. It also includes a statue of Roosevelt sitting in a wheelchair with his dog at his side.
As you continue to make your way around the basin you’ll get to the Jefferson Memorial. You’ll climb many steps to get to the top where a large statue of the third president of the United States and principal author of the Declaration of the Independence. The inside of the memorial also has several Jefferson quotes engraved in stone.
And then just before you end up back at Independence and 17th, you’ll stumble upon the Floral Library. (Just don’t step on any flowers as you stumble.) At least 92 flower beds house various varieties of beautiful blooming flowers. Each bed has a number and a nearby pamphlet can tell you the species of flower. This is a great picture-taking opportunity as long as you don’t disrupt the flowers.
And all along the Tidal Basin route you’ll see the beautiful old Cherry Blossom trees. Some are older than others and there are other species of trees. See my tips on the best way to see the Cherry Blossoms without disrupting their beauty.
There is also a paddle boat rental business near the Jefferson Memorial. Paddle boats can be taken around the Tidal Basin for an even better view.
GOOD FOR KIDS: The Tidal Basin walk is great for kids as along as they have good walking shoes. Younger kids should be in a stroller if they can’t walk the 2.1 miles. It gets crowded along the path but people usually make room for strollers. One thing to keep in mind is that many parts of the path don’t have railings separating people from the actual basin. So a rambunctious or curious child could easily fall into the water. It’s not terribly deep but it will be very dangerous for a young child to fall in. Children will also need to be reminded that they can’t pick or shake the Cherry Blossom trees. It’s oh so tempting for young children. But there’s plenty of blossoms on the ground that they can pick up.
GIFT SHOP: There’s no gift shop at the Tidal Basin but several souvenir shops around Washington have Cherry Blossom memorabilia.
WHERE: The 2.1-mile Tidal Basin loop can be easily accessed at Independence Avenue and 17th Street or Ohio Drive in between the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Roosevelt Memorial.
HOURS OF OPERATION: There’s no gate or official entrance to the Tidal Basin so it can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
PARKING: There’s a small parking lot near Maine Avenue but it’s extremely limited. And parking on streets around the Tidal Basin is limited as well but completely impossible. One must be patient and willing to walk.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Public transportation is the best option when visiting the Tidal Basin. Take Metro to the Smithsonian and take the 12th Street and Independence Avenue exit out of the station.
WEBSITE/TELEPHONE NUMBER: http://www.nps.gov/cherry/index.htm; 202-426-6841
SPECIAL EVENTS: The Cherry Blossom Festival is held annually around late March/early April.