Cherry Blossom Watch Update: March 24, 2016

It looks like we might hit peak bloom later today, and it'll be prime viewing now through at least the weekend.

It's on. We'll probably hit peak bloom later today. There are still a number of trees that aren't yet fully out, but with today's warm weather we'll likely cross that 70 percent threshold at some point during the day if we haven't already.

It will be prime viewing from now through at least the weekend. As we get into next week we start getting much more uncertainty. Sometimes the flowers can stay on the trees for a week or more; sometimes they disappear much sooner. And for all the reasons I've outlined before, I really can't give a flat yes or no as to whether there'll be cherry blossoms to see on specific days next week. The rule of thumb is that prospects are best earlier in the week and the risk increases for each day we get deeper into next week. Chances are good for seeing flowers on Monday but much poorer for next Friday. Here's more detail on what I mean.

It was busy at the Tidal Basin this morning, with a lot of people out. Parking spots disappeared well before sunrise, and there were people still caught in their cars in gridlock when the sun was coming up.

But there were also a lot of people enjoying themselves, whether it was just admiring the view, taking photos, having photos taken, or having a picnic. And it was a beautiful morning for it. The weather is really turning it on for us at the moment. Some high clouds caught the predawn light nicely, but then obscured the sun itself until about 7:30. And if you were on the other side of the Tidal Basin you could watch the almost-full moon set over the cherry blossoms.

I've had several questions about the effect of potential rain tonight and tomorrow will be. It is certainly true that rain can knock petals off the trees. But there are also so many petals on the trees that even if a huge number get knocked off you can barely notice. While I don't know how much rain, if any, we'll end up getting tomorrow, I'm not at all concerned that there won't be any flowers left for the weekend. So I wouldn't let the threat of rain put you off. And here's a more detailed note on the effect of rain on the cherry blossoms.

Weekend Logistics

If you're planning on heading down over the weekend, here's some logistical information that might be helpful.

Getting There / Parking

It's going to be busy. And I don't mean just a little bit busy. This is going to be an excellent weekend not to be driving anywhere near the Tidal Basin. There is a very good chance you won't be able to find a parking spot even after you've battled the gridlock traffic to get there. Spots will be in heavy demand from well before sunrise and stay that way all day and into the evening. Just about any other form of transportation aside from driving will be a much better idea this weekend. Follow the locals' cue--they wouldn't be caught dead driving anywhere near it.

For other alternatives, Metro is a good choice, and the closest stations are Smithsonian and L'Enfant Plaza. Stations open at 7am on weekends. Here are some other alternatives.

Food & Drinks

There's a food tent in the parking lot next to the paddle boats, and there are two snack kiosks, one right next the paddle boats and another behind the Jefferson Memorial. But those are really the only options for buying food and water in the immediate area. There's a slightly bigger snack kiosk as you head up to the Lincoln Memorial which has a few more options.

Other food options are a bit further afield. If you want something different and a very local experience, I'd recommend a short walk over to the Maine Avenue Fish Market, where you can get freshly cooked seafood and steamed crabs. There aren't many areas there to sit and eat it, especially with the massive construction site next door, but it's a very local DC experience.

If you're looking for more of a sit-down meal, options on the National Mall itself are mostly limited to the Smithsonian museum cafes or the restaurants/cafes in the National Gallery. The Pavilion Cafe in the Sculpture Garden is a particularly nice setting. Other options around the Mall are mostly limited to some food trucks that have snacks and things like hot dogs and pretzels.

But once you get to the opposite side of the Mall there are many, many options stretching from Foggy Bottom all the way up to Union Station. That stretch includes a huge number and variety, from the usual quick and cheap takeout options to some of DC's best high-end restaurants. For recommendations, start with the Washington Post Food Guide.

Restrooms

You can find restrooms at the Jefferson Memorial, MLK Memorial, and FDR Memorial. There are portajohns in the parking lot next to the paddle boats and about a dozen out the back of the Jefferson Memorial.

There are also restrooms under the Lincoln Memorial and at various places along the National Mall.

A Suggestion

And finally--and I don't want to sound all preachy here--but I'd like to offer a suggestion: and that is that if you come across the NPS rangers as you wander under the cherry blossoms, let them know you appreciate their efforts. They're not just there to be tour guides and help with directions. It's the NPS staff who, day in day out and year-round, empty the trash cans, keep the facilities clean and safe, clear the snow and leaves, and keep the monuments in great shape--and I know from witnessing it personally that they do it at all hours and even in the most miserable weather conditions. And, of course, it's NPS staff that tend to the cherry trees and keep them in such tip-top condition that some of the trees are now over a century old. The National Park Service itself is woefully underfunded, but the NPS staff still manage to do a wonderful job in caring for the monuments and Tidal Basin area, and a simple "thank you" goes a long way.

Photos From This Morning

Here are some shots from this morning that give a sense of what you might expect to see if you head down today.

It's the nearly-full moon, by the way--not the sun.

Don't ask me what this was all about--I have no clue!

Information About the Photo at the Top of the Page

Following up with what I said yesterday about providing some information about how some of the photos were taken, here's how the photo at the top of the page was taken--the close-up of the flowers against the blue.

It was handheld using a Nikon D810 with a Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens. Exposure info is 1/250s at f/3.5 at ISO 110. It was natural light--no flash.

Want to Help Support DC's Cherry Trees?

If you'd like to help support the care and upkeep of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin, the Trust for The National Mall has launched an Endow a Cherry Tree Campaign. Donations go to the official Cherry Tree Endowment, which will give the National Park Service additional resources to fund the care, maintenance, and possible replacement of the cherry trees. You can find more information here.

The Trust is dedicated to marshaling private support for maintaining and improving the history National Mall area. I'm not affiliated with the Trust--just an admirer of their efforts.

Last updated November 18, 2016 5:16 pm

View Comments

  • If I get there at a little before 7 am on Saturday morning, I won't be able to get a spot in any of the lots under the bridge on Ohio Drive? Will I really hit traffic coming from Arlington before sunrise??

    The Metro is disgustingly crowded as well through these things. It's hardly a viable option in my opinion (last year took an hour to WALK from L'enfant to the tidal basin), and I couldn't even ride to work this morning as I usually switch to the Blue/silver/orange and hope over to Smithsonian (had to get out at L'enfant and walk). The platform was completely full.

    • The stretch of Ohio Drive by the FDR Memorial was full by around 6:30 this morning, and I saw several cars who had gone to the lots under the bridge and had turned around without finding a spot. It's not so much the Arlington traffic, but once you get to the Tidal Basin all the traffic is pushed into a single, slow one-way traffic pattern that backs up easily.

  • Thanks for all the information. They are really helpful for visitors whom need plan ahead and have certain drive distance to DC. Hope this could carry on in the future years!
    BTW, I love your pictures and articles, they are really cute!

  • I talked with a family visiting from Ohio yesterday. I recommended your site. They said oh we know about it!

    Keep up the great work.

  • Great sight! we missed out this year because peak bloom is way earlier than previous years. We booked our flight on April 12-15. Will there be Kwanzan cherry blossoms left on the week of April 12? Or at least do you have pictures of the Tidal Basin without the cherry blossoms? Thank you

    • There's a good chance of Kwanzans around then, but impossible to say for sure, of course. I'll check in on them from time to time in the coming weeks. As for a non-flowering Tidal Basin, it looks like this during the summer.

      • thank you so much for the pics, regular trees aren't as pretty as the cherry blossoms hahah-. I hope we do have Kwanzans bloom that week. I did see your post on Kwanzans, please keep posting! thank you!

  • For the first time in 7 years, I won't be able to see the cherry blossoms in person. Thanks for the descriptions and incredible photos, so I can enjoy them remotely. Gorgeous!!

  • We will be arriving on 4/7, will there be any on trees for us to view or will most of the petals be on the floor?

    • The main ones will be gone by then, but you might catch the Kwanzan cherry blossoms. It's a different variety that blooms a couple of weeks later. There aren't as many, but they're very pretty. More on them here.

  • Hi David,
    We flew in late 3/23, we had wonderful 2 days so far. We will have another beautiful tomorrow morning before catching the late evening flight. Without your site, I don't think we would see so much in s short visit. The cherry blossom is beautiful. Again, many thanks.

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