Washington, D.C. Sights

Tidal Basin

  • Bordered by Independence and Maine Aves. Map It
  • The Mall
  • Promenade/Boardwalk
  • Fodor's Choice
  • Jefferson Memorial, Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C., USA

    Orhan Cam / Shutterstock

Fodor's Review

The Tidal Basin is the setting for memorials to Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and George Mason.

Two sculpted heads on the sides of the Inlet Bridge can be seen as you walk along the sidewalk that hugs the basin. The inside walls of the bridge also feature two other sculptures: bronze, human-headed fish that spout water from their mouths. Sculptor Constantine Sephralis played a little joke: these fish heads are actually modeled after the head of Jack Fish, the chief of the park, who was retiring at the time he made the sculptures.

Once you cross the bridge, continue along the Tidal Basin to the right. This route is especially scenic when the cherry trees are in bloom. The first batch of these trees arrived from Japan in 1909. The trees were infected with insects and fungus, however, and the Department of Agriculture ordered them destroyed. A diplomatic crisis was averted when the United States politely asked

the Japanese for another batch, and in 1912 First Lady Helen Taft planted the first tree. The second was planted by the wife of the Japanese ambassador, Viscountess Chinda. About 200 of the original trees still grow near the Tidal Basin. (These cherry trees are the single-flowering Akebeno and Yoshino variety.)

The trees are now the centerpiece of Washington's two-week National Cherry Blossom Festival, held each spring since 1935. The festivities are kicked off by the lighting of a ceremonial Japanese lantern that rests on the north shore of the Tidal Basin, not far from where the first tree was planted. The celebration has grown over the years to include concerts, a running race, and a parade. The trees are usually in bloom for about 12 days in late March or early April. When winter will not release its grip, parade and festival take place without the presence of blossoms.

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Sight Information

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Bordered by Independence and Maine Aves., Washington, District of Columbia, 20024, USA

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