Want to check out the Cherry Blossom Festival? Here’s how!


Cherry blossoms are seen on April, 10, 2013, in Washington. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
Robert Thomson
Columnist March 15

harsh winterThe biggest tip we can offer blossom seekers is don’t drive. More than 1.5 million people are expected to visit the Washington region during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. That means the city’s already frustrating traffic will be even more so.

Despite the crowding, riding Metro is almost always better than driving to downtown because of the traffic congestion near the festival’s attractions. The agency plans to run more eight-car trains than normal to temporarily increase capacity. Metro also will suspend weekend track work during the festival to ease things for riders.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region. View Archive

Trains are especially crowded with commuters on weekdays from 8 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m., so if you can avoid riding during those crunch times, you’re likely to have a better experience.

A couple of warnings for visitors and those who don’t normally ride the trains: On the Metro escalators, we stand to the right and walk on the left. Don’t try to hold the train doors open; they don’t bounce back like elevator doors, and they are easy to break.

Metro fares. Visitors who plan to make a few trips on a single day should consider buying a one-day pass for $14. The pass is available as a paper Farecard or on a plastic SmarTrip card.

Selected events during the Cherry Blossom Festival

Parking is free on weekends at the lots and garages operated by Metro. Drivers who park and ride on weekdays will need a SmarTrip card or a credit card to pay at the exits. SmarTrip cards have another advantage: Riders who use paper Farecards pay $1 extra on every trip.

Walking. Smithsonian is the Metro station closest to the Tidal Basin, but it’s jammed at blossom time. If you’re up for a little more walking, get off at L’Enfant Plaza, Federal Triangle or Foggy Bottom. For a great walk in good weather, get off the Blue Line at the Arlington Cemetery station and cross the Potomac River on the Memorial Bridge, past the Lincoln Memorial to the Tidal Basin.

Consult visitor maps on downtown streets or the ones posted by the National Park Service around the Mall. Bus shelters also often display large maps.

Biking. Capital Bikeshare has many stations along the Mall. At its Web site, you can sign up to be a member for 24 hours, three days, a month or a year, then take a bike from any station. The first 30 minutes of each trip are free; riders pay a fee for every additional 30 minutes.

Riding around the Mall and East Potomac Park is delightful, but bike parking is limited. There is some parking near the Washington Monument and by the Jefferson Memorial.

Parking. Car parking near the Tidal Basin during blossom time is extremely scarce, and traffic is heavy. Drivers can park at Hains Point and take a shuttle.

Limited parking — very limited — for people with disabilities is available near the memorials.

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