It’s almost time for a rite of spring in the nation’s capital, the budding of the cherry blossoms. The official Cherry Blossom Festival — a twenty-four day celebration comprising a parade, performing arts, a festival, Japanese-themed dining, arts exhibits and more — begins March 20. The length of the festival represents both the city’s determination to squeeze as much tourist revenue as possible from the delicate petals and a tribute to their fickleness. Peak bloom can be challenging to predict, and a single unexpected windstorm can sweep away much of the beauty without notice, while a late frost can curtail the blooming process altogether. Whether your visit coincides with peak bloom or not, a late March to early April visit typically affords some opportunity to witness the ephemeral splendor.
According to the National Park Service, peak bloom for 2014 is expected between April 8 and 12. Peak bloom occurs when an estimated seventy percent of the blossoms have opened. 2014’s peak bloom is a week later than the most recent 20-year average.
Wondering how to go about seeing the cherry trees? Here are some of your many options:
Enjoying a Water Perspective
Several tours offer viewing from the Potomac. Cruise lines Odyssey, Spirit of Washington and National Elite each offer several cruises daily, providing views of the blossoms and the monuments from the water. On April 5, when the Cherry Blossom fireworks light up the night sky, you can see the blossoms and the fireworks from the Patriot II catamaran.
For an even closer view from water, an option families with kids might especially enjoy is the Tidal Basin Paddle Boats. This option is extremely popular and requires either advance online reservation for a boat between 10 and noon or dealing with the luck of the draw in person.
Embarking on Two and Three Wheel Tours
If wheels are more your style, Bike and Roll offers guided Cherry Blossom tours by bike or Segway. Of course, if you don’t want a tour guide, you can always rent bikes and pedal over on your own. Not up to the pedaling? National Pedicabs will do the pedaling while you do the blossom peeping.
Walking with Shutterbugs or Canines
If you’re going on foot, there are other possibilities to consider. One of particular note is the Washington Photo Safari. A photographer leads groups on an excursion not as a tour guide but as an expert in art of photography, helping you bring home the best souvenir photographs possible. The National Park Service leads free evening tours of the blossoms by Japanese lantern light as well as running tours and dog-friendly tours.
These options supplement tour buses and the Old Town Trolley tour (stop 8 is the Tidal Basin).