Updated March 23, 2020: BLOOM CAM! – Given the need to stay home in order to do our part in flattening the curve, allow me to introduce BloomCam! I know it is not the same as strolling along the Tidal Basin, bumping into other people, jockeying for the best spot to get the perfect photo of cherry blossoms framing the Washington Monument, BUT it is the safest way to enjoy the experience this year. Let’s all do our part, okay. Stay home, wash your hands, and be kind to each other.
Updated March 11, 2020: PEAK BLOOM UPDATE! – With significantly warmer than forecast temperatures over the last week and warmer than average temps expected to continue, we are now forecasting peak bloom to start in the range of March 21-24 (from the National Parks Service)
Originally posted March 4, 2020: – Once again, we are close to the annual Cherry Blossom Festival! This is an annual event that sees my city swell with tourists. People from around the U.S. and the world descend on D.C. to stroll among the fairytale-like lanes of cherry trees along the Potomac. There are all sorts of events, like a parade, a kite festival, and the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival – all set against the backdrop of pink, confetti-like blossoms. The dates of the festival (and assumed dates of bloom) for this year are March 20 to April 12, 2020.
The history of cherry blossoms in D.C. dates back to the 1880s when Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore petitioned to have the trees she admired during her first visit to Japan, planted along the river bank. Her requested was denied, but after years of back-and-forth and a gift batch of diseased trees, Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave the gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the U.S. in 1912. In 1965, Japan gave another 3,500 trees to Lady Bird Johnson. These trees can be seen around the Washington Monument. Just in case you were worried the U.S. didn’t exercise good etiquette, we did send flowering dogwood trees as a “Thank you”.
If you are planning a visit, be sure to keep an eye on Bloom Watch, this will tell you all you need to know. With the bonkers weather we have been having I can’t even guess how accurate the dates will be this year but according to the experts, the peak bloom date is when 70% of the Yoshino cherry trees along the Tidal Basin are open. The blooming period is defined with 20% of the blossoms are open. Blooming starts several days (or even a full week) before the peak bloom date and can last as long as two weeks.
A stroll along the Tidal Basin is a good idea at any time of year because there are plenty of scenic stops and memorials to take in. You can pose with an oversized Scottie at the FDR Memorial, marvel at the MLK memorial and the sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. carved into the Stone of Hope, powerfully embedded between two boulders, known as the Mountain of Despair, and admire the graceful white Imperial Danby marble columns of the Jefferson memorial. Adding cherry blossoms to these must-see monuments lends an extra special element to your visit.
Just know, it will be crowded and people are stupid, so be aware of pickpockets, watch where you are going (last year I saw two separate selfie seekers step backward into the chilly Potomac River), and be sure to wear layers. D.C. is usually quite chilly at the end of March. If you are like me, you’ll wish for rotten weather because it keeps the crowds at bay, and when appropriately attired, you can still get maximum enjoyment from the experience.
Pro Tip – when you have had enough of the crowds and jockeying for the best photos along the Potomac, consider strolling through some of the residential neighborhoods to get your fill of cherry blossoms (and other spring blooms). Georgetown, Stenton Park, Foxhall Village, Glover Park and other neighborhoods offer some lovely views of architecture, flowering trees, and local flavor. You can enjoy cherry trees, camelias, tulips, azalea, and more with a leisurely amble along the lanes of history.
There you have it! If you made it all the way through this post, please enjoy some photos of mine from the past two years of blooms!
Have you been to the Cherry Blossom Festival? What did you like? What tips do you have to make the most of it? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for stopping by!