The blossoms have peaked but the Cherry Blossom Festival events are just cranking up. Meanwhile, baseball returns to Nationals Park, with two exhibition games against the Minnesota Twins.
It’s a combination that’s going to produce a lot of extra traffic and put more people on the sidewalks this weekend. Rain, possibly thunderstorms, could contribute to a traffic slowdown in some areas on Friday into Saturday. See the Capital Weather Gang forecast.
The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is at Verizon Center all weekend.
Metrorail has suspended its regular track work program this weekend and for the remaining weekends of the Cherry Blossom Festival.
If you’re launching a long-distance trip on Friday or early Saturday, be aware that we’re getting into the warm weather season when southbound traffic is extra heavy on I-95 beyond the Capital Beltway. Drivers are likely to encounter lengthy delays near Garrisonville Road in Stafford County, where the 95 Express Lanes and the regular lanes of I-95 merge.
Here are some tips about the events to be aware of this weekend.
The Nationals are scheduled to play preseason games against the Minnesota Twins at Nationals Park, starting at 6:05 p.m. Friday and 12:05 p.m. Saturday.
Metrorail. The Green Line’s Navy Yard station is the closest to the ballpark. The Half Street SE exit is the nearest to the park and has the most escalator capacity. If the Half Street side is backed up after games, consider walking east and across M Street SE to the station entrance at New Jersey Avenue.
Visitors and occasional Metrorail riders: You will need a plastic SmarTrip card to pay the fare. The faregates no longer take paper farecards. The big blue fare vending machines in the station mezzanines sell the SmarTrip cards.
Parking at Metro lots and garages is free on weekends, but on Friday, the regular fees are in effect all day.
Buses. These Metrobus routes serve Nationals Park: 74, A42, A46, A48, P6, V1, V4, P17, P19, W13, A9, W9. See Metro’s online timetables and route maps. The fare is $1.75 and everyone pays the same amount, whether they use SmarTrip cards or cash.
MetroAccess. The paratransit service for people with disabilities will drop off and pick up customers at the corner of New Jersey Avenue and M Street SE, by the entrance to the Metrorail station.
The District operates a Circulator bus route linking the Navy Yard station, the Eastern Market station and Union Station. The fare is $1. See the Circulator route map.
Driving. Before and after games, traffic is particularly slow in the blocks around South Capitol and M streets, on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway and on the 14th Street, Douglass and 11th Street bridges. Street parking for nonresidents near Nationals Park is banned or very expensive all the way north to Capitol Hill. Off-street parking options are plentiful at lots and garages north and east of the stadium. Parking prices at the official lots vary with the distance from the stadium. See a map of parking options on the Nationals’ Web site.
Biking. There are more than 250 bike racks around Nationals Park. In addition, the park has a free bike valet in Garage C at First and N streets SE. The valet takes bikes two hours before the game starts and closes an hour after it ends.
Capital Bikeshare has three stations close to the stadium, at First and N streets SE, M Street and New Jersey Avenue SE, and Third and Tingey streets SE. See a map of Bikeshare stations.
Taxis. After the game, cabs will be at the taxi stand on the north side of M Street SE between South Capitol and Half streets SE. Taxis can pick up riders there beginning about two hours after the first pitch and continuing till a half-hour after the game ends.
Walking. There are several easy walks from Metro stations and spots near the Mall and Capitol Hill. Here are a few possibilities: From L’Enfant Plaza, head south on Seventh Street, turn left on I (Eye) Street and continue south on Sixth Street to M Street SW. Turn left and walk to South Capitol Street.
From the Federal Center SW Metro station, head west on D Street, turn left to go south on Fourth Street, make a left on I (Eye) Street, a right on Third Street and a left on M Street SW.
From the Capitol South station, take New Jersey Avenue south to M Street SE and make a right. From Eastern Market station, head south on Eighth Street and turn right onto M Street SE.
Cherry Blossom Festival
Kite festival. The kite festival is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday on the Washington Monument grounds, near 17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. This is popular event, with competitions and open areas for flying kites, but it is highly dependent on good weather. As of Friday morning, it’s on schedule, but watch for updates. The rain date would be noon Sunday. Nearest Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle.
Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run and 5K Run-Walk. The event is scheduled for 7:20 to about 10 a.m. Sunday, starting and ending on the Washington Monument grounds. Metro will open at 5 a.m. Nearest stations: Smithsonian and Federal Triangle. A bike valet area at 14th Street and Independence Avenue SW will open at 6 a.m. and close at noon.
Festival travel tips
Parking. Parking near the Tidal Basin during blossom time is extremely scarce. The traffic is heavy, and travel patterns may be altered. Limited parking for people with disabilities is available near the memorials.
Parking is available in three lots along Ohio Drive SW, but there are nowhere near enough spaces to accommodate demand. Street parking is available along Ohio Drive SW between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, but visitors can spend a lot of time searching for those scarce spaces.
Biking. Riding around the Mall and East Potomac Park is delightful, but bike parking is limited. There is some extra bike parking near the Jefferson Memorial during the festival. This weekend and for the festivals next two weekends, Capital Bikeshare will set up several bike corrals in the Tidal Basin area.
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.