How people get to the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin is almost as much of a spectacle as those famous clouds of pink petals. As I marched over Wednesday afternoon, I joined up with a parade of pedestrians, cyclists, scooter riders, Segway tourists and a particularly memorable Rollerblader with wobbly antennae attached to his helmet.
Most folks seemed to be looking for the perfect photo opportunity. I had a different destination: the Hains Point Shuttle.
The $1 ride, available through Monday (the day after the close of the National Cherry Blossom Festival), takes passengers on a loop around East Potomac Park. There are several stops along the route, but the main pickup point is the least picturesque. It’s behind the Jefferson Memorial, beside a jumble of roads. (On the plus side, it’s also by restrooms, a refreshment hut and bike parking.)
A shuttle pulled up just as I arrived, and three girls visiting from Philly disembarked. “It looks like a wedding aisle,” one gushed as she urged me to hop on and enjoy the view.
In exchange for my buck, the driver handed me a pink ticket outlining the rules. This was for one trip only, nonrefundable. “Heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic” served as the warning that it’d be slow going.
So there was time to meet my fellow passengers. What brought Charles Mascaro of Long Island on to the shuttle that afternoon? “Exhaustion,” said Mascaro, who’d been walking around with his wife, Barbara, for eight hours.
For me, the ride was the destination. But like most folks on the shuttle, the Mascaros were using it as a lift back to their car, which they’d left near the golf center. Parking spaces were definitely more plentiful around the tip of Hains Point than closer to the Tidal Basin, which is why 32-year-old Seema Patel ended up seated in front of me.
“We would have skipped this. I didn’t know this park was here,” marveled Patel, who was visiting from Pittsburgh, as we rolled underneath the canopy of blossoms, past people picnicking, lounging in the sun and minding their fishing poles.
With fewer than 20 passengers on an oversized bus, there was plenty of room to stretch out. We all leaned toward the open windows to get a better look and some breeze — it’s shadier on board than in the direct sunlight, but there’s no air conditioning. Other than a few kids shrieking in delight (or possibly fatigue), it was a quiet trip, a more relaxed way to soak in the sights.
It was a little jarring after a lazy 45 minutes to pull back up to the Jefferson Memorial, where a queue was waiting, holding strollers and red-white-and-blue Rocket Pops. But it was time to move on.
There aren’t special shuttles to see the D.C. area’s other cherry blossom trees. But the regular buses work just fine. To get to Kenwood, Bethesda’s blossom-bursting neighborhood, head to Friendship Heights and take either Metrobus T2 or Ride-On Bus 23 to the corner of River Road and Ridgefield Road. If you’d rather see the trees at the National Arboretum, get over to the Stadium-Armory Metro. From there, ride the B2 to Bladensburg Road and Rand Street.