The Tidal Basin, shown last year, is about to bloom. If you’re headed there, you’ll need our handy guide to getting there. And if you want to avoid the crowds? We’ve got a guide to blossoms off the Basin too. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Consider this your guide to getting to the Tidal Basin and festival events, avoiding the crowds; and finding blossoms far off the Mall. Here’s what you need to know.

When to go: To avoid the prime tourist hours, try to hit the Tidal Basin in the early morning or after 5 p.m.; with daylight savings, the sun has been setting around 7:15 p.m. Lantern walks of the Tidal Basin, held at night, begin March 24, which shouldn’t be too late to catch the blossoms.

If you’re driving: Consider Hains Point an option for parking; it has 800 parking spaces. Street parking might be available on Independence Avenue NW between 14th and Seventh streets SW or on 14th Street NW, but bring quarters or prepare to pay by phone. Meter fees are $2 an hour; many meters limited to two hours of parking at a time, and payment is required on Saturdays. No such restrictions exist on Sundays, so if you insist on driving, that might be the best day to go.

Taking Metro: Many visitors will take Metrorail to the Smithsonian station (Independence Avenue exit); to avoid the huge crowds there, consider exiting at Federal Triangle or L’Enfant Plaza Station instead and adding a couple of extra minutes to your walk. Another great option is taking a leisurely bike ride, from home or from one of the many Capital Bikeshare stations. Find out your bike options here. UPDATE: On Friday, Capital Bikeshare installed the first two of the planned five stations that will eventually be on the Mall. One is at Jefferson Drive SW near 14th Street, and the other is at Ohio and West Basin drives SW.

Where else you can see cherry blossoms: Dreading the crowds and the daunting task of parking or Metro-ing to the Tidal Basin? There are a dozen other options in the city and the ’burbs. Places such as the National Arboretum and Dumbarton Oaks are reporting that their trees are already beginning to bloom, so don’t wait too long to see them. Check out the best places to see cherry blossoms beyond the Tidal Basin .

Learn more:

Take our podcast Tidal Basin tour , full of fun facts about the cherry blossoms, or just print out our handy map.

If you’re visiting Washington, be sure to check out our guides to top local attractions , and tips and tricks every D.C. tourist should know . And finally, be sure to scan the Going Out Guide for our comprehensive list of festival events, exhibits, cherry cruises, tea times and more.