Here we finally are. It is the LAST DAY OF FEBRUARY! It may be cold and rainy outside, but I'm just holding on to the fact that tomorrow it will be March. And in DC, March is the month where we start to get warm spring days, blossoms pop up EVERYWHERE, and that heavy winter gloom lifts. If you're anything like me, you're also starting to incessantly check the Cherry Blossom Watch's website in hopes that they will soon forecast their first peak bloom prediction!
Speaking of, the cherry blossoms will be here before we know it. Historically speaking, they typically bloom in the last week of March or first week of April, but in my nearly ten years in the DC area, I've seen them bloom as early as mid-March and as late as mid-April. It just totally depends on what the winter looked like!
So, as we await the arrival of our favorite little springtime guests and we begin to plan our visits with them, I'm sharing my top five tips for seeing DC's cherry blossoms below!
1. Go at sunrise on a weekday!
Trust me on this one. If you go on a weekend or weekday evening, you'll be fighting the crowds. And nothing is a bigger cherry blossom buzzkill than having to squeeze by sweaty strangers while simultaneously trying NOT to fall into the Tidal Basin, ugh. OR having to wait for people to clear the frame as you try to take that perfect photo!!
To avoid this, you MUST go on a weekday at sunrise. I recommend this for two reasons:
Obviously, you beat the big crowds. Not only is this great if you're hoping to take nice photos without tons of people in them, but it's also KEY for social distancing during these Covid times.
The early morning light is simply magical. Even if you're not taking pictures, experiencing the blossoms in the soft, golden light is something else -- trust me, it's worth the early alarm. Pro-tip: Ease the pain and bring a travel mug full of your favorite hot caffeinated beverage!!
2. Steer clear of the trail directly along the Basin's edge.
When I have a cherry blossom photo session at the Tidal Basin, I only spend about 25% of my time on the path directly along the water's edge of the basin. It's just too crowded! There are so many other great spots at the Tidal Basin to take photos or have a little picnic. Try the FDR Memorial, the MLK Memorial, or the grove of trees just northwest of the Japanese Lantern!
3. Park in the West Potomac Park parking lots.
One of the toughest parts of any visit to see the cherry blossoms is fighting the inevitable traffic and trying to find a parking spot! Again, if you go early, you'll avoid traffic AND have no trouble finding a place to park. When I have a shoot planned at the Tidal Basin, I personally avoid Ohio Drive all together. It fills up fast and if I don't find a spot, I have to loop all the way back around the basin along Independence Avenue and that's a huge time suck, especially if we're approaching rush hour. So what I do is park in one of the three West Potomac Park parking lots! You'll have to walk about 5-10 minutes to get to the Basin, but trust me on this one -- don't attempt Ohio Drive unless you're literally there in the middle of the night. Save yourself the time and hassle!
4. Skip the Tidal Basin altogether!
While seeing the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin is certainly a must-do, you can find cherry blossoms at a number of other locations across the city! Personally, I love seeing them at the National Arboretum and there are also a good number at Stanton Park on Capitol Hill! This is another great way to beat the crowds and continue to fight the Covid fight. Another magical spot in DC during the springtime is the Enid A. Haupt garden at the Smithsonian Castle -- it's filled to the brim with Saucer Magnolias. These typically bloom BEFORE the cherry blossoms and are just as beautiful in my opinion.
5. Wear a mask.
If you're visiting DC from another part of the country, you may not know that there is a mask mandate across the city -- including the Tidal Basin! Rules are if you can't properly social distance, you need to be wearing a mask.
And there you have it, folks! Do you have any other advice for seeing DC's cherry blossoms? Share in the comments below!