The cherry blossoms are in full bloom now. Nearly all the trees are out. While it’s still possible to find trees that haven’t yet fully popped, they’re only a small percentage now, and a peak bloom announcement can’t be too far away.
The trees should look beautiful throughout the weekend. The Yoshinos are white now but will turn pink over the next few days (there are other varieties scattered amongst them that start pink). The indicator tree, which is reliably ahead of the others, is still in full bloom, which bodes well for the other blossoms sticking around. The deeper we get into next week the dicier things become. At some point there’ll be a pivot and the petals will start falling off.
The cherry blossoms are looking beautiful now, but the weather still isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. For the third morning in a row the tip of the Washington Monument has been hidden by clouds and mist. The rainy spell of weather is expected to head out with a bang this afternoon with some storms, clearing the way for a beautiful weekend.
It’s going to be a busy weekend. Be prepared for large crowds and heavy traffic both days. Saturday is the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. On Sunday morning there’ll be extensive road closures in the area around the Tidal Basin for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. You can find a map of the road closures here, and the Washington Post has some very handy tips to getting around town this weekend here.
What Effect Will Storms Today Have?
Wind, rain, and storms can and do knock petals off the trees. Once they reach peak bloom they become more vulnerable each day. At this stage, chances are that it’s still only a small percentage of the massive amount of flowers on the trees, so they’ll almost certainly still be looking beautiful. There can be quite a blanket of petals on the ground and the trees can still be looking great. Of course, there’s always exceptions and the chance of an unusually severe storm like the one that added the word “derecho” to the local vocabulary. There’s also a chance any storms will be localized and miss the Tidal Basin entirely.
If I’m making plans for myself, the threat of storms today wouldn’t dissuade me from visiting over the weekend. (Be safe during the storms, of course–most of the Tidal Basin area is pretty exposed with limited options for seeking cover.)
Will They Still be Around Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…?
In a “normal” year, you can usually expect to see a beautiful scene for at least 3 days after peak bloom. At the time of writing, there has not been an NPS announcement that we’ve reached peak bloom, so we don’t know when the clock starts (or started) ticking. Storms, wind, rain, and hot weather can hurry things along. And there’s always natural variation–as this year has shown clearly, the trees aren’t much interested in historical averages or “normal.”
Since I have no special way of seeing into the future, my only real answer is “perhaps” and that the further we get away from peak bloom the less there will be to see. There can be a big changes even within 24 hours. So the chances Monday are significantly better than Friday.
For another point of reference, last year the trees bloomed at right around this time. The trees reached bloom on a Thursday (April 10). They were looking stunning through a beautiful and warm Saturday and Sunday (you can see photos here). By Monday they were very quickly on their way out, and by Tuesday morning there wasn’t much left to see (photos here).
I also have a photo timeline based on past years of what to expect, when that might help.
I’ll also be posting more updates over coming days, so stay tuned!
Where is the Best Parking?
There aren’t any magic solutions to the parking crush, so some combination of Metro and walking is by far the best bet (see: How to Get There).
If you do plan on driving and parking, don’t forget the road closures on Sunday morning.
There’s parking along Ohio Drive SW and around the outer edge of East Potomac Park/Hains Point (with a free shuttle bus circulating). There are also three smallish parking lots just under the 14th Street Bridge behind the George Mason Memorial. All the nearby parking options are well signed. There will, however, be a lot of competition for the spots, so expect to be battling traffic gridlock throughout the National Mall and Tidal Basin area (the photo at the top of the How To Get There page was taken on this weekend last year and gives a good illustration of the problem).
Here are some more good tips from the Washington Post.
Here are some shots from early this morning that will give some idea of what you can expect to see.
The indicator tree is still very much in bloom. While some petals have started falling off, it’s still a relatively small percentage.
Cherry Blossom Visitor Guides
Planning on visiting DC to see the cherry blossoms? The uncertainty with predicting when the bloom will take place certainly makes things hard, but I've put together some information to help you make an educated guess to maximize your chances.
And if you're coming into town for the events of the cherry blossom festival or just for the flowers, I've also put together some ideas on where to stay and how to get to the cherry blossoms once you're here.
Washington DC Visitor Guides
If you're coming in from out of town, here are some useful travel guidebooks that can help you make the most of your visit. Because as stunning as the cherry blossoms are, there's an awful lot more to do and see in DC.
These are some of the most popular ones. Many of these are available as both traditional books and e-books that you can read on your phone or tablet.
- DK Travel
- Publisher: DK Eyewitness Travel
- Fodor s Washington D C with Mount Vernon Alexandria Annapolis Full color Travel Guide
- Fodor's Travel Guides
- Lonely Planet Washington DC
- Lonely Planet, Karla Zimmerman, Regis St Louis
- Elise Hartman Ford
- Publisher: FrommerMedia
- DK Travel
- Publisher: DK Eyewitness Travel
And here are some interesting options for less traditional guidesbooks if you'd like an emphasis on exploring DC on foot or diving into some of the region's very rich history.
- NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
- Barbara Noe Kennedy
- A History Lover s Guide to Washington D C Designed for Democracy
- Alison Fortier
Books on DC's Cherry Blossoms
If you're looking for books specifically on DC's cherry blossoms for yourself or as a gift, these two are my favorites.
- Ann McClellan
- Publisher: National Geographic