And they're off! It's as if Mother Nature snapped her fingers and told the trees to get cracking. All of a sudden the cherry blossoms are putting on their show.
Most, but not all, of the trees are now blooming. There's no need to go hunting for the indicator tree anymore--the entire Tidal Basin is ringed with beautiful flowers. They look great today and will get better and better over the next few days.
In the close-up shots below I've tried to show a good representation of the various stages the trees are currently in, and as you can see, some have yet to really get going while others are fully out. There are several varieties of cherry trees in the mix around the Tidal Basin. The most famous ones, the Yoshinos, will start with white flowers that gradually turn pink.
It's been quite the turnaround. Less than a month ago, the Tidal Basin was still frozen over. Even a week ago, the cherry trees's development stages were lagging a week or more behind even last year's late bloom. But over the past week the process has suddenly accelerated, with an unusually quick progression as they've raced through the various stages. It's a reminder of how the trees don't pay much attention to historical averages. Even the indicator tree appears to be less than a week ahead of the others; it's usually a week to ten days ahead.
This morning it's cool and drizzly, but that's also keeping the crowds away. So early this morning we had the place pretty much to ourselves aside from joggers and only the occasional visitor. So, while dreary, it's also very peaceful and pretty in a drizzly and misty kind of way.
The weather is less than ideal for the next few days, with intermittent rain and drizzle. Thunderstorms are expected Friday afternoon, clearing out for a pleasant weekend. If you're planning to head down for sunrise or sunset, I've posted the times here.
If you're choosing between visiting this weekend or next, this weekend (11-12) is shaping up as a much better option. The deeper we get into next week the less there'll probably be to see. I've posted a timeline using photos from past years that should give you and idea of what to expect as we move into and past peak bloom.
The weather forecast for this weekend is looking good. Expect big crowds. And there are two events you should factor into your logistical planning.
Firstly, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade will be held Saturday. It's not actually down at the Tidal Basin, but it will swell the crowds and there'll likely be some flow-on traffic complications as Constitution Avenue is closed.
Secondly, Sunday sees the running of the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run. It does actually go around the Tidal Basin--and Hains Point--and there are significant road closings during the morning. You can still access the Tidal Basin by foot--after finding a way to safely cross the road with a stream of oncoming runners--but you won't be able to park along Ohio Drive or around Hains Point during the morning. Road closures will start at 2AM and run through 11:30AM. Expect a ripple effecting lasting beyond that. Here's a map of the road closures [PDF]. By far the best bet will be to walk or use the Metro.
Where to Stay for the Cherry Blossoms?
If you're visiting from out of town and looking for ideas on where to stay, I've put together some suggestions here.