Spring mornings don't get much better than this. Not a cloud in the sky, clear air, pleasant but cool temperatures, and the cherry blossoms in their prime. The runners of the Cherry Blossom 10-miler had a perfect morning for it.
The flowers are holding up very well, and few petals have fallen yet. That's a good sign for the coming couple of days. But they're nevertheless clearly progressing, and if you get up very close you can see some of the individual petals starting to look a little tired. In a few places--scattered for now--green leaves are starting poke through.
The dominant color is still white, but the transition to pink is underway and you can find pink Yoshinos if you look for them. Over the next couple of days they'll become even more pink. (Most of the photos below were taken with the first rays of sun of the morning, which is where the golden color is coming from. In bright sunlight during the rest of the day, the flowers are white with a hint of pink.)
We're now at peak+2 days. The cherry blossoms are looking stunning, but the clock is ticking and they won't be sticking around for much longer. A day or two more is a reasonably safe bet, but beyond that gets iffy quickly.
While there were still quite a lot of photographers and others down to enjoy the sunrise this morning, it wasn't as busy yesterday. The road closures for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler probably had a lot to do with that. But the sunrise was about as good as it gets with a clear sky.
There's no way to count the number of people who visited the Tidal Basin yesterday, but it safely qualifies as a lot. Expect the same or even more today. Traffic and parking will be even more complicated because of the road closures this morning. Even when they're lifted late this morning, there'll be a ripple effect for quite a while. Metro and walking will be the best bet for getting to and from. If you have to drive, more detailed information on parking is below.
Here are some answers to common questions I'm getting at the moment.
Will the blossoms still be out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...?
Perhaps. Monday appears to be shaping up very well. As of this morning, the trees are still looking great, and very few petals have fallen. It's a good sign for the next couple of days.
My best guess at the moment is that sometime around Tuesday or Wednesday they'll probably start heading out, and that by Thursday and Friday they'll probably mostly be gone. I don't expect there to be much to see next weekend. But there's nothing absolute about this guess, and the trees might well have other ideas. The current weather forecast is for rain on Tuesday. If it's a lot, it might knock some petals off. It's also entirely possible it'll only be light or even doesn't materialize.
For a point of reference in recent history, last year the trees bloomed at right around this time. The trees reached peak 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 be posting more updates over coming days, so stay tuned!
How Can I Avoid the Crowds This Weekend?
If you head down to the National Mall or Tidal Basin it's going to be crowded, period. It will stay that way all through the daylight hours and well into the evening. There's a good reason that many locals wouldn't be caught dead anywhere near downtown this weekend.
The Tidal Basin is a big area, with a waterfront stretching about 1.8 miles, so there's lots of room and it can accommodate a lot of people quite well. But if you just can't stomach the crowds but still want to see some cherry blossoms, the Tidal Basin isn't the only cherry blossom show in town. Here are some other ideas.
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).
The Sunday morning road closures are schedule to lift late-morning, but there'll likely be a ripple effect for a while as things get back to "relative" normal.
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, including options for commercial operators offering reserved parking in the downtown area.
Here are some photos from this morning that will give you a sense of the kind of thing you can expect to see if you head down to the Tidal Basin today.