My mother wants to go to DC next year at Cherry Blossom time.
Does anyone know how far out I should make a reservation and where to stay that is somewhat reasonable yet close to the action.
We love staying in old town Alexandria which is a 15-20 minute ride on the metro to D.C. There are lots of metro stops that will take you just about anywhere you want to go - I wouldn't drive in D.C. - lots of traffic - very expensive parking - not a lot of available parking. We stay at the Embassy Suites in Old Town Alexandria across the street from the Metro station - very convenient. Old town is such a fun experience in itself. From the Embassy Suites (and several other hotels), you can walk down to the Patomac - lots of wonderful, charming shops and restaurants and museums along the way. Alexandria is definitely a safer place to stay than right in D.C. If you rent a car, take your Mom to Mount Vernon - George Washington's wonderful home on the Patomac River - it is about a 30 minute drive from Alexandria - take the George Washington Parkway - very beautiful and it leads directly to Mt. Vernon. Another fabulous place to visit - that is about 45-60 minutes away from Alexandria is Annapolis, MD - a great historic town right on the water (the Sailing Capital of the World) with lots to do and see - the walking tours are wonderful (Walking with the Colonials Tour). I'd fly into Reagan National or Baltimore (BWI). Access to rental cars is much better at BWI than National. Do an internet search for hotels in the Alexandria old town area if you want to shop around for rates. Hope this helps.
Also, please be aware that the cherry trees do not always blossom on schedule! Some years the trees are late due to the weather. The festivities will go on anyhow.
Thw Washington Post Metro section gives a forecast each year for the peak of blooms. Having lived in the area for 6 yrs and seen the blossoms at varying levels, I think it's best to aim a little early than late.
PLACES TO STAY - I visited as a tourist several times before moving here and previously stayed in the Crystal City area, near the Rosslyn metro. The metro is probably the easiest way for out-of-towners to get around. Now that I live here, I know little tricks for getting around and parking, but it can still be very frustrating. If you are driving, you might consider the Bowie, MD area. It's a straight shot out Rt 50, is close to the New Carrollton metro and also another 20 min. to Annapolis, which is definitely worth visiting. The northern VA area has gotten extremely congested and I would not recommend driving there if you are unfamiliar with the area - especially anywhere near the Pentagon. There are more road closures and less street parking in the whole area post 9/11.
SEEING THE CHERRY TREES- My husband and I were at the Tidal Basin at dawn a couple of years ago. Parking was wherever we wanted, since we beat the crowd. We walked around the basin, had a picnic breakfast, then went to Arlington since they opened at 8 am. We like to do these touristy things even though we live here.
Everyone should make it to Washington at least once. It's a beautiful city and there's so much to see and do. Keep in mind the cherry blossoms bring the biggest crowds of the entire year. Plan some things off the beaten path so you're not dealing with crowds the whole time. There are plenty of things that fit that description and will not make you feel so tired from the press of other tourists.