I'm a published wedding and portrait photographer located in a small town outside of Charlottesville. In addition to capturing beautiful images, I love spending time with my family, am freakishly good at word games (Hey Wheelmobile!), love an ice cold can of Coke or Dr. Pepper, know every line to Hocus Pocus and can never pass up a Chick-fil-A waffle fry or a trip to HomeGoods.
One of my favorite things to do each spring is visit the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C. Each spring, thousands of cherry trees bloom through the nation’s capital. The trees were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912 to commemorate the lasting friendship between the two countries. Now granted, the first batch of trees arrived diseased in 1910, but new trees came in 1912 and were planting and several trees were replaced and planted throughout the years. Each year, the trees are celebrated with a four-weekend festival which attracts more than a million people.
I know what you’re thinking, holy crowds, but they are so worth it. Even though the festival spans four weekends, the blooms are largely based on weather. There’s been years when the festival happened with no trees, years when the trees bloomed early and years when the trees have bloomed late. Catching peak bloom is somewhat of a crap shoot. Earlier this year, the National Park Service predicted peak bloom to occur the first week in April, however, they moved that up today to March 18-23. The festival itself doesn’t start until March 20.
However, if you miss the peak, no worries. Peak only means that 70 percent of blooms are open. Blooming starts several days before peak and can last up to two weeks depending on weather. If you can’t hit the peak, you still have a chance of catching the blooms. Keep an eye on the 2016 Bloom Watch and the Blossom Cam to determine the best time to go.
Keep in mind it can also be hard to find a good, pink tree that hasn’t been swarmed by people. I usually go near the Tidal Basin, which is yes super crowded, but full of trees so you’re likely to find a good, unattended one for some photos without 50 tourists in them. I’ve also heard if you go early in the morning you’re likely to have a less crowded experience. And please, be nice to the trees. I get irritated when I see people cutting off branches and plucking off blooms. First, that’s just annoying. Leave them alone so everyone can enjoy them. Second, I’m fairly certain they’re National Park Service property and that little branch you just had to have could end up costing you.
Take advantage of a warm day, pack a picnic (which I’m absolutely horrible about because I never think of it until I get somewhere picnic worthy) and enjoy a day under the trees. You’ll be glad you did.