The cherry blossoms are putting on quite a show. Too bad the weather isn’t playing along. It’s drizzly, cool, and with very dull light so far. But the trees are looking beautiful.
They’re in full bloom now. The National Park Service judged that 70 percent of the trees had reached or passed through the “puffy white” stage as of yesterday. The historical average is that that is reached 4-6 days ahead of peak bloom. But in keeping with the unusually fast progression over the past week or so, it’s likely to be a shorter period this year. For a visualization of just how quickly things have been moving, here’s how differently they looked just three days ago.
While not every tree is fully out just yet, the ones that aren’t are in a clear minority. Some of the non-Yoshino varieties appear to be lagging just a little behind. As always, in the shots below I’ve tried to include samples of the various stages the trees are currently at to give a realistic view of what you might see if you were down at the Tidal Basin with me this morning (just add water for the rain). Based simply on how the trees look this morning (I haven’t done any counts), I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a peak bloom announcement today or perhaps tomorrow once the NPS arborists judged that we’re past the 70 percent threshold.
As we move through the peak bloom period, the clock is ticking. Last year peak bloom fell on a Thursday. The trees were looking glorious through Saturday and Sunday (you can see photos from the Sunday here). But by Monday most of the trees were on their way out. By Tuesday there wasn’t much left to see (photos here). In other years the process is a bit slower by a day or two. What’s going to happen this year isn’t clear, but the reality is that the closer your visit is timed to peak bloom the safer the chances of a beautiful scene.
The weather forecast is very good for the weekend but not great for today and tomorrow. The rain we’ve had so far hasn’t really had a negative effect on the trees. While it’s possible to find occasional scattered petals on the ground, it’s nothing to be concerned about and you don’t notice them unless you look for them. Storms tomorrow might have more of an effect, but there are so many flowers to start with that they can absorb large losses and still look beautiful. If I was making plans myself, I wouldn’t let the risk of storms tomorrow dissuade me from coming over the weekend.
This morning there was hardly anyone down at the Tidal Basin. There were a few more people than yesterday, and a few photographers out taking photos and the usual joggers, but early this morning there was wide open parking and lots of space to enjoy the cherry blossoms and hear the birds chirping. Expect bigger crowds over the next few days, and if you’re planning to come on the weekend be sure to factor in the events on Saturday and Sunday (see yesterday’s update for details).
A number of photographers have asked about lenses. I’ve included the lenses used for each shot in the captions below. I’ll throw some different lenses into the mix in the next update. Others have asked about the Reflecting Pool. As of this morning it’s still drained; I don’t know what the schedule is for filling it.
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