Cherry Blossom Watch Update: April 8, 2015

The cherry blossoms have started to bloom and are looking wonderful. But the weather is much less impressive.

UPDATE: The NPS arborists judged that 70 percent of the trees had moved into (or through) the "puffy white" stage today. This is the last identified stage before peak bloom.

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.

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 December 31, 2015 1:57 pm

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  • Hi David, Thanks a ton for your timely information, this helps a lot. Can you please suggest me, which times will be good to visit, is it morning or in the evenings?

    • Both are very good, with very different atmospheres. The busiest part of the day tends to start around mid-morning and goes through the afternoon. My personal favorite time to be there is right after sunrise, especially if it's a clear morning. But you can't really go wrong.

  • Hi David! Thank you so much for posting the updates and your beautiful photos! I have been checking your site every day. We are coming to D.C. this Saturday and hope to experience the peak. We will be driving from Connecticut and our hotel is in Springfield, VA but we thought of stopping on our way to see the cherry blossoms. I understand that it will be very hard to find a parking space, so I was wondering if you could suggest where we park, so that we could take the metro to the Smithsonian Station and walk from there. We expect to get to D.C. around 11am. Thank you in advance!

    • You might well find a spot--you just might spend a while finding it and you might have a bit of a walk. But there's also a free shuttle circulating around Hains Point/East Potomac Park that will drop you at the Tidal Basin. A relatively straightforward but not cheap option is to park at Union Station and metro (or walk) across. There are also other paid lots throughout the downtown area. Many of the suburban metro stops also have commuter parking, including Franconia-Springield station. There's a medium-sized parking lot at Arlington National Cemetery, which is convenient but can fill up. Not much further away, Pentagon City shopping mall has large paid parking lots and there's a metro stop across the street and relatively clean shot from there down 395 to Springfield afterwards. If you end up using the yellow metro line, it can be easier to get off at L'Enfant Plaza rather than changing trains just to get to Smithsonian--it's only a couple of blocks further from the Tidal Basin.

      • Thank you so much! Very useful information indeed. Thank you for taking the time to respond and to keep all of us informed.

  • David, thanks for all the fantastic work ! I've been following the updates since Feb and thanks to you, it looks like I'll be in time to watch the peak bloom. :)

    Which day, over the weekend, do you think would be better to visit the blossoms at tidal basin? I'm driving from CT and will be in DC only for the weekend(sat-sun). I hope to see a couple of other places in DC since this is going to be my first visit. I’m seeing 2 events happening over the weekend, I’m not sure where to go when.

    Off the record, are there any local restaurants worth a visit for some good food?

    • I expect both days to be very good. If I was planning for myself and wanted to play it safe, I'd probably aim for Saturday. That said, I fully expect Sunday to be great too, and once you're on the National Mall it's so convenient to get down to the Tidal Basin that more than one visit is entirely feasible. It's entirely possible that Monday and Tuesday will look beautiful. But the whole process has been speeded up over the past week, so it's anyone's guess how quickly the flowers will disappear and it can change quickly day-to-day. On either day, getting around with a combination of Metro and walking is your best bet. There's a week's-worth of things to see just around the National Mall and downtown area, so most first-time visitors (and even repeat visitors) spend the bulk of their time there. And once you eliminate traffic worries, getting around is easy. DC is very well geared to handling large numbers of people for events, so I wouldn't let that aspect put you off unless you're driving downtown.

      As for restaurants, DC is lucky to have a huge number of excellent dining options to accommodate a broad spectrum of cuisines, budgets, and tastes. Perhaps some other locals might be able to weigh in with their favorites here. Otherwise, the Washington Post has some excellent resources on dining options here.

  • Thanks David! Your info and photos are very helpful. I'm planning to go there on Sunday and Monday. Hopefully, it's not too late :)

    • If you're choosing between days, Sunday looks to be a better bet even though it'll be much more crowded. Monday might be great too, but it's often safer to stick as close to peak bloom as you can because how quickly the flowers disappear is a bit unpredictable.

  • I live in the D.C. area and have used your site for the last several years to decide when to make my trip to the Tidal Basin. I just wanted to say thanks for all that you do, from posting pictures to answering questions and giving advice. You're an amazing resource for both locals and visitors. Thanks so much.

  • Thank you so much for posting the pictures and having the site updated so frequently. your site is in my favorites and i visit daily! We are coming in this weekend, and cannot wait to see the peak, although I was wishing to see them pink, which is after the peak. Maybe next year....

    • You'll be in luck on two counts. There are other varieties of cherry trees that scattered amongst them that are pink. And the Yoshinos will probably be turning pink at least by Sunday if not before. New photos from this morning coming shortly.

  • Hi David,
    I was thinking about either visiting tomorrow 4/10/ or Wednesday 4/15/15, which day would you recommend? Those are my only day off this week and also there will be a big storm tomorrow.

    • Tomorrow, definitely, so long as you can dodge the storm/s. I'll have a new update very shortly with some photos of how they're looking this morning.

  • Hello David,

    Will saturday be more crowded or sunday.
    Which event attracts more crowd? parade or run?

    • Count on both being very busy. The parade attracts more spectators but the run starts with a built-in 18,000 or so runners.

  • We are planning on coming tomorrow Sat 11th. Our main interest is seeing the blossoms and touring the museums. What's the easiest way to park and travel? We usually stay til after dark to see everything lit up.

    • The easiest is to park at once of the suburban metro stations and metro in to Smithsonian stop. Next easiest is to park at a commercial parking garage in the downtown/Foggy Bottom/Union Station areas, but you'll still have to battle traffic and possibly local road closures to get there. While there are parking areas near the Tidal Basin, traffic will be very heavy and there'll be a lot of competition for spots. I also suspect that you might find it hard to find a spot there where you can park all day without getting ticketed. I think, but have not confirmed, that parking might be limited to a couple or a few hours around West and East Potomac Parks.

    • While I haven't counted them myself, it's apparently just under 1,700 around the Tidal Basin, give or take. Sometimes old, sick trees have to be cut down and sometimes new ones are planted. There are another couple of thousand around East Potomac Park, Hains Point, and the National Mall.

  • It looks like that's going to be after the peak bloom. How much there will be left to see isn't clear just yet. This post should give you some idea of what to expect as we head through and beyond the bloom.

  • Hi David,

    I'll be in DC on April 14th and 15th. Will it be late for the peak bloom? Thank you.

  • The only boats or personal watercraft allowed on the Tidal Basin itself are the paddle boats that you can rent. There are companies that offer boat tours that go around the outside of Hains Point along the Potomac and Washington Channel. There are cherry blossoms lining the banks around much of that section. But they don't actually go on the Tidal Basin. There's also a scheduled water taxi service that has a stop near the FDR Memorial.

  • There should still be some to see, but it's hard to say how many. This post should give some idea of what to expect as we move through and past the blooming period.

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