It’s springtime here in Washington, D.C.!
Growing up in Colorado, Spring was always kind of hit or miss. Most of the time we could expect fluctuating temperatures (I mean majorly fluctuating… 75 degrees one day and 20 degrees the next), and snow storms that ruined any chance of flowers or leaves arriving before May.
Washington, D.C. is much different. The weather in March has been consistently warm, and there are more flowering trees than I ever imagined! I love Colorado, but D.C. definitely wins when it comes to Springtime.
There is something special in Washington that occurs in the Springtime: the Cherry Blossoms surrounding the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial bloom. If you search for a picture of the Jefferson Memorial on the internet, one of the first things you’ll see is a picture of the monument surrounded by pink flowering trees. The pictures are gorgeous. The real thing? I’m happy to report, is even better!
That’s right, Connor and I made our way downtown the other day to stroll through the thousands of blossoms (and thousands of people) to see the beauty of nature first hand. I highly recommend it to everyone! We spent hours just looking at the flowers and soaking in the beauty. We feel blessed that we were able to experience something so special.
Of course, I learned some things that I want to share with you, just in case, someday, you find yourself near Washington D.C. during this very special time.
1. There is a very specific time to see the Cherry Blossoms.
Just like any other flower, the Cherry Blossoms have a “peak blooming” period that only lasts for about a week. Unfortunately, that means there is a small window for you to make the journey downtown to see them. Fortunately, experts are able to predict the peak blooming period every year! Go to Cherry Blossom Watch and stay updated with the latest news from the Cherry Blossom experts.
2. Do not drive downtown during this time
Sigh… we made the mistake of driving. Granted, we arrived downtown around 5:00 pm, so a lot of the traffic was because of people leaving work, but it was still not a pleasant experience and I blame the cherry blossoms. Not only were we competing for parking, but there were so many people that it took 20 minutes just to go one block. If you traveled to Washington just to see the Cherry Blossoms, you can bet that thousands of other people did as well. I suggest taking the metro!
The closest stops to the Tidal Basin are the Smithsonian stop and the L’Enfant Plaza stop. Here is a complete map of the metro system.
3. Anticipate tourists by the masses
Being the idealist that I am, I imagined Connor and I strolling hand in hand, peacefully walking through the Cherry Blossoms, and stopping to take the perfect picture wherever we wanted. Reality: there are thousands of people all trying to do the same thing, most of the time you’re either squished or running into people who stopped to take pictures, and there is a constant stream of tourists walking right into your perfect picture. I still think it’s worth it to see the trees, but don’t expect to be the only people there. Unless, of course, you go super early in the morning.
4. Wear your walking shoes and bring a snack
If you want to make the most of your time with the cherry blossoms, you’ll be doing a lot of walking. There are so many picturesque spots and you don’t want to miss anything! The Tidal Basin is a large place, and it takes even longer to walk around it when you factor in all the people. So, wear shoes that are super comfy for walking, and bring a small snack and water so you can take a break on the grass or at the Jefferson Memorial and refuel!
5. Make sure the camera is charged and has plenty of storage available
You will be taking hundreds of pictures! Trust me, you won’t want to stop taking pictures. And why should you? It’s beautiful! Make sure the camera is prepared for hours of constant clicking.
6. If you can, attend some of the festivities that take place throughout the season
The Cherry Blossom Festival lasts for about a week with activities for everyone! There are parades, kite flying, fireworks, Japanese cultural events, etc, all celebrating the cherry blossoms and everything they represent. Check out this website for a schedule of all things Cherry Blossom Festival.
7. Read up on the history of the Cherry Trees
This probably goes without saying, but the Japanese Cherry Trees did not magically appear along the Tidal Basin. Rather, they were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912, and have held great significance since then. Yes, they are beautiful, but they are much more than that. It’s quite a fascinating history, actually, so I encourage you to read up on it! This site gives a good general overview of the history of the Cherry Blossoms over the last 100 years.
Going to see the Cherry Blossoms can be hectic, but once you’re there, don’t forget that you are witness to something super special and meaningful and beautiful. Take time to really look at the trees and enjoy the views!