Your cherry blossom questions, answered

Cherry blossoms with a cloudy sky on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 (Kevin Ambrose/The Washington Post)
Cherry blossoms with a cloudy sky on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 (Kevin Ambrose/The Washington Post)

April 10 update: We've reached peak bloom.

Want to know what that means, or need help making plans for the National Cherry Blossom Festival? We've answered some of your questions below.

I'm new here. What are cherry blossoms?
The first cherry blossom tree were planted as a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912. There are now approximately 3,750 trees and 16 different varieties on National Park Service land, with the highest concentration around the Tidal Basin on the National Mall.

When is peak bloom this year? And when is the festival?
The National Park Service is predicting peak bloom for April 8-12, but the festival itself is much longer: It officially began March 20 and runs through April 13. Peak bloom is defined as the day 70 percent of the blossoms of the Yoshino cherry trees around the Tidal Basin are open, according to the National Park Service.

I just want to see the blossoms. Where do I go, and when?
The when is the tricky part, but whenever peak bloom happens, you'll want to be ready since the blossoms don't last for more than a few days. If you want a really leisurely walk with lots of people around, go on a Saturday afternoon. Try to visit the Tidal Basin early in the morning or after 5 p.m. to avoid crowds. Beginning March 29, National Park Service rangers lead two-hour, two-mile evening tours around the Tidal Basin from 8-10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.


Click on the map above to download a PDF.

How do I get there?
By Metro: Ride the Blue or Orange lines to the Smithsonian station. The L’Enfant Plaza station, on the Blue, Orange, Yellow and Green lines, is a 10-minute walk from the blossoms. By bus: The 7Y, 11Y, 13F, 13G, 16F, H1, L1, N3, P1, V7, V9, X1 and 52 bus routes stop within a half-mile of the Tidal Basin.

By bike: There are roughly a half-dozen Capital Bikeshare stations within walking distance of the blossoms. Capital Bikeshare will have bike corrals available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Ohio and West Basin drives during festival weekends. If you ride your own bike, there will be free bike racks near the Jefferson Memorial.

By car: Parking is extremely limited. Hains Point has free parking for about 800 cars. There is also limited free parking along Ohio Drive SW in West Potomac Park.

By boat: On April 5, 6, 12 and 13, you can take a water taxi from Georgetown to the Tidal Basin and back. It leaves Georgetown at noon and returns at 4:25 pm. Tickets are $20 round-trip ($16 for children age 4-12) and $12 one way ($8 for children), and must be purchased online. Children younger than 4 are not allowed.

I'm a true cherry blossom enthusiast. What events should I go attend?
The festival boasts a parade, fireworks, a Japanese film festival and more.  Here's a comprehensive listing.

What if I get hungry?
Food near the National Mall is sparse — you won't find a restaurant next to the Tidal Basin. Plan on eating before or after you head to the Mall. Or pack a picnic.

I don't live in D.C. Are there any cherry blossoms near me?
D.C. doesn't have a trademark on the trees. Here are places in Virginia and Maryland you can see them too (note, peak bloom may vary for these locations).

Virginia:

Green Spring Gardens
4603 Green Spring Rd., Alexandria; 703-642-5173
The park is hosting three separate events in honor of the blossoms, including a children’s festival with crafts and games on April 5, and an umami tasting party on April 12.

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct., Vienna; 703-255-3631
Meadowlark has at least four varieties of cherry blossom trees. Peak bloom is generally a few days after the Tidal Basin peak. $2.50-$5 admission per person.

Wiehle Avenue in Reston
North of the intersection of Wiehle Avenue and Baron Cameron Avenue, Reston
A group of about 60 cherry blossom trees was planted 20 years ago as part of a Reston streetscape project.

River Farm
7931 East Boulevard Dr., Alexandria; 703-768-5700
This historic 25-acre site on the banks of the Potomac River was once part of George Washington's original collection of farms. It is the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society and boasts cherry blossoms along with a variety of other flowers and trees.

Maryland:

Kenwood
Between Little Falls Parkway and River Road, Bethesda
This neighborhood has approximately 1,2000 cherry blossom trees, planted in the 1920s. Kenwood has the area’s largest concentration of blossoms in one single neighborhood.

Brookside Gardens
1800 Glenallan Ave., Silver Spring; 301-962-1400
Most of Brookside Gardens’ cherry blossom trees are in the Gude Garden, which has a Japanese teahouse and pond.

Crofton Parkway
Bounded by Crain Highway, Defense Highway and Davidson Road, Crofton
Dozens of cherry trees were planted along Crofton Parkway’s 3.5-mile loop, along with the white blossoms of Bradford pear trees.

Need more cherry blossom information? Visit wapo.st/dcblooms.

RELATED: The Tidal Basin isn't the only place to see blooms. See our map of blooms around the rest of the city, and share pictures and videos of cherry blossoms in your neighborhood using the hashtag #DCblooms.


Margaret Ely is a producer and reporter for Local Living and Weekend. Previously, she was an intern for the Post’s Metro section.
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