Washington D.C. is known for its stunning cherry blossoms, particularly those found at the Tidal Basin. Every spring, visitors from all over the world come to see the famous pink blooms. But what’s the history behind these trees, and when is the best time to see them?
The history of the cherry blossoms in D.C. goes back to 1912, when Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gifted 3,000 cherry trees to the United States as a symbol of friendship. Unfortunately, upon their arrival, the trees were found to be infested with insects and disease and had to be destroyed. Undeterred, Mayor Ozaki sent another shipment of 3,020 trees in 1915, which were successfully planted around the Tidal Basin. Today, there are over 3,700 cherry trees in D.C. that bloom in spectacular fashion every spring.
So, when is the best time to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom? Typically, the blooms appear in late March or early April, but the exact timing can vary depending on the weather. And climate change has made peak bloom a bit earlier and more unpredictable. Peak bloom is defined as the point at which 70% of the Yoshino cherry blossoms are open, and the National Park Service provides daily updates on the status of the blooms leading up to peak bloom. While definitely the star of the show, the Yoshino cherries, are not the only variety of cherries in DC. So, if you happen to miss those, you will certainly find others blooming around the city throughout March (quite a few plum varieties bloom as early as late February).
If you’re planning a visit to see the cherry blossoms, it’s important to dress appropriately. The weather in D.C. can be unpredictable in the spring, with temperatures ranging from freezing to warm. Layers are key, so you can adjust your outfit throughout the day as needed. Additionally, wearing comfortable shoes is a must, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking to take in all the beautiful blooms. The Tidal Basin is also prone to flooding and can be very muddy after even the smallest rain shower.
If you want to capture the magic of peak bloom at the Tidal Basin, you will need to get up early! There is limited parking, road closures, and tons of traffic. Plan even more time than you think you will need and when possible take public transportation into and around the city instead of driving.
Once you make it to the Tidal Basin, patience is key. Everyone wants the same shot and if everyone is considerate, that can happen. Sadly, you will find the occasional rude tourist who is not willing to step out of your shot for just a couple seconds. But the good news is that the Tidal Basin is quite large and there are tons of great spots to shoot from.
When it comes to taking photos, wearing complementary colors to the blossoms can make for stunning shots. Pastels, particularly pink and white, are a popular choice, as are light blues and greens. Avoid wearing anything too busy or brightly colored, as it can be distracting in photos. It’s also a good idea to bring a few accessories, such as a hat or scarf, to add interest to your outfit and provide a pop of color.
Overall, a visit to see the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin is a must-do for anyone visiting D.C. in the spring. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can have a memorable experience and capture some truly beautiful photos.