The average annual peak bloom of the most commonly planted cherry tree -- the Yoshino -- is April 4, but it varies from year to year, based on weather conditions. National Park Service horticulturalists, (nps.gov/cherry/cherry-blossom-bloom.htm), have the peak bloom prediction down to a science. The annual spring National Cherry Blossom Festival runs from the last week of March to about April 10 and features a parade, garden parties, tours, teas, a street festival, talks, photo tours and fireworks. The festival is heavily attended, so book early.
There are three prime spots in Washington, D.C. where you can immerse yourself in the sights and scents of a sea of pale pink and white cherry blossoms: the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, Hains Point in East Potomac Park and the Washington Monument grounds. If you plan your trip for late March to early April, you will see about 3,750 cherry trees of various species in their full glory. The plantings of cherry trees began in 1912 as a gift of friendship from the people of Japan to the United States.
When to Visit
Tidal Basin, West Potomac Park
The Tidal Basin,a man-made inlet next to the Potomac River,is home to more than 1,600 cherry trees including the Yoshino, Akebono and Usuzumi varieties. One of the best ways to view the cherry blossoms is on foot. It is easy to take the Metro and get off at one of these stations: Archives/Navy Memorial, Memorial/Penn, Quarter, Federal Triangle, GWU/Foggy Bottom, L'Enfant Plaza and Smithsonian. A free shuttle runs between West and East Potomac Park, which you can catch at the Tidal Basin terminus area.
Hains Point, East Potomac Park
On a peninsula jutting into the Potomac River, Hains Point is a prime spot to watch planes take off and land at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and an even better spot for cherry blossom appreciation. The blooms look lovely reflected in the water. The point area is home to more than 1,600 cherry trees including Yoshino, Kwanzan, Akesimensis and weeping varieties. The closest Metro station is Smithsonian. A free shuttle runs between East and West Potomac Park, which you can catch at the Hains Point parking area.
Washington Monument Grounds
There are about 350 Yoshino and Kwanzan cherry trees scattered throughout the Washington Monument grounds. In addition to basking in the pink and white glow of the trees and mild spring weather, you can take in the National Mall, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam Veterans Memorials for free. You can't miss the area, as the Washington Monument is the most prominent structure in the city and can be seen from 30 miles away. Again, the best way to get around is via public transportation, walking or taxi. Parking is extremely limited. The Smithsonian Metro station is at 12th Street and Jefferson Drive. Metro fares vary from about $1.50 to $5.00 one way, depending on distance, as of March 2011.
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