Seven Tips to Enjoying the DC Cherry Blossoms
The District of Columbia is well-known for many reasons; one of the most captivating is mother nature’s grand welcome to spring – the blooming of the cherry blossom trees. This exquisite miracle is celebrated yearly to commemorate the gift of the trees from Japan to the United States in 1912 as a symbol of friendship. The beauty of these trees is interwoven with the history of DC. A very special and poignant moment came in 1981 when the United States gifted cuttings of the trees back to Japan to replace the ones that had been lost in a flood. The flowering of the cherry blossoms are a beacon of hope, a sign of rejuvenation and the promise of beautiful, warm weather to come.
Numerous Yoshino cherry trees grow along the Tidal Basin, framing the Jefferson Monument. They also flourish on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The ideal time to visit is during peak bloom, the period when more than seventy percent of the trees are in blossom. The actual period varies from one year to another based on the weather conditions leading up to the spring season. Unpredictable weather like heavy rain and wind gusts affects its duration, so it is important to visit as soon as peak bloom begins.
The hues of the blossoms range from pure white, champagne and blush pink to deep rose. Walking along the tidal basin in the gentle, fragrant breeze with petals falling like snowflakes, is a unique and intoxicating experience. In addition to the many planned events of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, I enjoy quiet walks and often pick a spot on the grass to have a picnic. This spectacle of nature attracts many artists who immortalize the colors, textures, and movement of the blossoms on canvas and I am always mesmerized by their creative renditions.
The date when the Yoshino cherry blossoms reach peak bloom varies from year to year, depending on weather conditions. – www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org
The following seven tips will make your visit to the DC cherry blossoms more enjoyable and memorable:
1. Use Public Transportation
During the festival, traffic around the Tidal Basin is usually gridlocked and parking spaces are scarce. I recommend using DC’s public transportation to visit the area. The Metro is an affordable and efficient way to get to the Tidal Basin. Riders can exit at the Smithsonian Station (Blue/Orange lines). Alternatively, the L’Enfant Plaza Station (Blue/Yellow/Green lines), is only a pleasant 10-minute walk away and much less crowded.
2. Cruise the Potomac
A more picturesque way of making the same trip is to take a water taxi from Georgetown. Several companies offer cruises that focus on the spectacular views of the monuments and the blooming trees that look like floating pink clouds from a distance.
Alternately, rent a paddle boat at the Tidal Basin to gain a unique view of the blooming trees and float among the rivulets of fallen petals. The water sparkling in the sunlight and dancing reflection of the dusty pink blossoms look like a picture postcard!
3. Dress for the Spring
Remember to wear sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable clothing. The circuit around Tidal Basin is long and much more enjoyable with sturdy walking shoes. DC weather in late March and early April is rather unpredictable, so a light jacket is a good idea.
4. Avoid the Crowds
Over a million people travel both domestically and internationally to attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival each year. The sidewalk along the Tidal Basin is fairly narrow and becomes a river of humanity moving at a very leisurely pace. Arrive early in the morning or late in the evening to enjoy a more peaceful visit and avoid battling the crowds.
Sunrise in DC is one of the most breathtaking moments of the day. The sun paints the sky in shades of burnished gold, burnt orange, and apricot with wisps of lavender. Stay until the sky turns blue to gain a range of shots from dawn to light. As mentioned in the last tip, early morning is also the least crowded which means prettier, uninterrupted views.
6. Eat and Drink Pink
Remember to carry water and a light snack or pack a picnic basket of delicious pink food from nature’s bounty like berries and refreshing salads of beets and tomatoes. Get creative with a pink and green trail mix, made of dried tart cherries, strawberries, sunflower seeds, pistachios, and organic dark chocolate. In addition, sample cuisine and cocktails at the many DC restaurants that participate in the festivities by offering innovative Cherry Picks menus.
7. Escape the Tidal Basin
The United States National Arboretum, Hains Point in East Potomac Park and the gardens at the historic estates of Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown also have flowering cherry trees. These locations are usually not as crowded as the Tidal Basin and offer abundant photo opportunities.
Discover More of DC’s Plants at the US Botanical Gardens
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gia Coelho was born in India and holds a BBA in Accounting and an MBA in Marketing. She lived in Toronto and has traveled extensively in India and Europe. She now lives outside Washington DC and pursues passions that include wildlife conservation, writing, culinary adventures, painting, and creating colorful Zentangle art that she sells on her Etsy site at www.etsy.com/shop/giacoelho.
How do you enjoy cherry blossom season? Share your tips in the comment section below.