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Not Bored in DCNot Bored in DC Things to do, eat, and know in Washington, DC

DC’s 5 Best Peak Blooms, Ranked

When people in Washington, DC hear the term “peak bloom,” they immediately think of the cherry blossoms. It’s easy to understand why when they are world-renowned for their beauty and the whole city seems to celebrate.

However, DC has more to offer than just the cherry blossoms! Here are the 5 best peak blooms in Washington, DC (plus, one bonus).


Top 5 peak blooms in DC (plus one rare one). Cherry blossoms along the tidal basin are not number 1 for me #washingtondc #dmvtiktok #flowers #thingstodoindc #cherryblossom

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5. Crape Myrtles at the National Arboretum

Throughout DC, you will find crape myrtles blooms a beautiful variety of vibrant, varied colors. If you want to experience a grove of crape myrtles that you can walk beneath, the National Arboretum has the best opportunity to do so.

The arboretum is managed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and they test different varieties of plants for the Mid-Atlantic climate at the arboretum. Because of that, you can see some variety of plants that you don’t normally see.

For the crape myrtles, you’ll see different sizes and shapes of the flower clusters, heights of the trees, and colors.

Bloom Timing: late June to late summer, with a long blooming time. Typically see crape myrtle peak bloom in late July to August.
Location: US National Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002. Second entrance at 24th Street & R Street NE is open on weekends but has limited hours on weekdays.

4. Sunflowers at McKee-Beshers

A vibrant close-up of sunflowers at McKee-Beshers with bright yellow petals, some with bees pollinating them, set against a backdrop of lush green leaves under a partly cloudy sky.
Sunflowers at McKee-Beshers

A bit outside of DC in Poolesville, MD, you will find fields and fields of sunflowers at the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area that you can visit for free. They have multiple fields of sunflowers growing that you can check out.

This is a huge tract of land with 300 acres, and while you may see other people at the sunflower fields closer to the parking lot, it usually is not many. Plus, if you want to be truly alone, you just need to walk to one of the other sunflower fields further from the parking lot. You are not allowed to go into the fields, but can stand at the edge for photos.

A field of towering sunflowers peak bloom at McKee-Beshers, their large heads with yellow petals drooping slightly, amidst a sea of green leaves, with a clear blue sky above and trees in the distance.
Sunflowers at McKee-Beshers

You cannot view the sunflower fields after the end of August. The reason the sunflower fields are planted by the state of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources is to provide a food source for mourning doves. The doves are hunted here during the dove hunting season, which typically starts in September. Which fields are planted with sunflowers will change each year, so be sure to download the map before you go (cell phone service may be spotty once you get in the fields).

A sun-drenched field of sunflowers in full bloom at McKee-Beshers, with the flowers facing various directions, creating a lively and textured sea of yellow and green under a hazy sky.
Sunflowers at McKee-Beshers

This is very much a wildlife area, not a park. There are no restrooms, no park rangers, and the trail maintenance just includes mowing the paths, so there is poison ivy in some areas (wear closed toe shoes). But it’s also extremely tranquil and your dog (on their leash) will love it. The more western parking lot has pretty ponds you walk past.

Bloom Timing: mid-July to mid-August, with peak bloom of the sunflowers generally towards the end of July.
Location: McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, 18600 River Rd, Poolesville, MD 20837

3. Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin

You cannot have a list of peak blooms in DC and not mention the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin specifically. The views are unbeatable, it is a beautiful setting and something that everyone should see at least once.


In order to see them, you need to brave the crowds and the traffic. As a local, I do not go to this every year, while I do go to the others on this list every year. I can’t handle the crowds, and will go here ever 5 or so years (when the memory of the crowds is more distant). There are other spots around DC that I’ll go to instead, but honestly none are as breathtaking as the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin.

Bloom Timing: the majority of the blooms happen March to April, but you have to time it right for peak bloom as the flowers do not last long. The average cherry blossom peak bloom for the past 19 years has been March 30.
Location: Tidal Basin, 1540 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20004

2. Azaleas at the National Arboretum

These are a treat every year. The National Arboretum azaleas are planted on the hillside with trails winding through and in a formal garden. The first time I went, I loved the formal garden the most; since then, my favorite spots have been along the trails.

Like I mentioned with the crape myrtles, the arboretum also serves as a research facility for the USDA, and you’ll see varieties developed by the USDA here. There’s a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of the blooms, with some flowers larger than my palm and some the size of my pinky fingernail. There’s no lack of bright colors, and walking the trails is like floating among pockets of colorful clouds.

In years past, a bald eagle has nested in part of the azalea collection (the arboretum set up an eagle nest cam so you could watch the baby eagles), and you were unable to walk the trails. In 2023, the eagles were no longer nesting there and I was able to walk all the trails for the first time in years, but we don’t know until the spring where they’ll be nesting.

A close-up photo of a dog named Lil Mikey, with soulful eyes and a red collar, in front of a blurred backdrop of bright red azalea flowers at the National Arboretum.
Lil Mikey at the National Arboretum azaleas

On weekends during peak bloom, you may find yourself parking in fields. If you can go in the morning around when they open (8:00 AM), it’s less crowded.

Bloom Timing: different varieties bloom at different times, but in general peak bloom of the azaleas at the National Arboretum is late April to late May. Mother’s Day usually has good blooms.
Location: US National Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002. Second entrance at 24th Street & R Street NE is open on weekends but has limited hours on weekdays.

1. Lotus Flowers at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

A single pink-tipped lotus flower during peak bloom stands out against a backdrop of large green lily pads and a clear blue sky at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, with a person in soft focus walking in the background.

The lotus flowers are some of the coolest looking flowers that exist. They are huge, both in terms of the height of the stems and the size of the blooms themselves. They are ephemeral looking, with pale yet vibrant colors. They grow in ponds, so it’s not something you will see in the gardens in your neighborhood. And even after they bloom, the seed pods are hypnotizing.

The lotus flowers at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are unique in the area. There are many ponds of both lotuses and water lilies, but for me, the lotuses steal the show. This is a must visit for anyone visiting DC in the summer. The flowers will close in the mid-day heat, so the mornings are typically best. Parking is also easiest early in the morning (they open at 8:00 AM).

Vivid pink lotus flowers at various stages of bloom, interspersed among large green lily pads in a tranquil pond, with a dense array of flowers in the distance at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Bloom Timing: lotus peak bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens tends to be in July, with blooms happening early July to mid-August. If you go later in the season or in the fall, you’ll get to see the dried seed pods!
Location: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, 1550 Anacostia Ave NE, Washington, DC 20019

Bonus: Corpse Flower at the US Botanic Garden

The corpse flower got its name from its smell: it smells like rotting flesh. It has a humongous 8 foot tall flower that emerges seemingly from nowhere.

Native to Sumatra, Indonesia, it has only been on display in the United States a limited number of times. It has a very short flowering time, with corpse flower blooms only lasting 1-2 days. In addition to the small flowering window, they aren’t guaranteed to bloom every year. It lays dormant until it has amassed enough energy to bloom. It could be a few years or over a decade between blooms.

The US Botanic Gardens has displayed a number of blooming corpse flowers over the years, but still only 16 ever. They had blooming flowers in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2017 (three blooms), 2020 (two blooms), 2021, and 2022 (four blooms). In 2023, they were hoping for a bloom in June, but it did not end up blooming that year, illustrating how unpredictable it can be.

The Botanic Gardens may give a couple days notice of when the flower will be in bloom and available for viewing, and will frequently stay open late to accommodate visitors who want to see it. They do not typically bloom in the cooler months, and summer is the best chance to see one, with May being the earliest.

Bloom Timing: unpredictable, but summer months
Location: United States Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 2000

Valerie Moore

Having lived in Washington, DC for the past 16 years, Valerie has a lot of thoughts about the best things to do, eat, and know around the city. She loves doing deep dives into the interesting things she finds, and sharing with the world. You'll often find her dog, Lil Mikey, along for the ride.

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