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    Cherry Blossoms in Washington: Tips on When and Where to Photograph Them

    Who I am
    Lluis Enric Mayans
    @lluisenricmayans
    SOURCES CONSULTED:

    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    I cherry trees in bloom they always suggest Japan, but the spectacle of pink petals that fills the branches and floods the lawns below can also be seen in other places. One of the most famous cities in the world for this unmissable appointment with nature is the capital of the United States.


    Every spring Washington DC turns pink and witnessing the cherry blossom leaves everyone spellbound. But what are the best days to fully enjoy this spectacle of nature? And in which areas of Washington should you go to see it at its best? In this article I will try to answer these questions, so that your spring vacation in the US capital is truly unforgettable!


    Index

    • Cherry Blossom Festival
    • How much do cherry blossoms bloom?
    • See the bloom in Washington
      • Where to see the flowering
      • How to get there by public transport
      • What time to go for the best photos
    • Accomodation

    Cherry Blossom Festival

    In 1912 they were planted in Washington 3020 cherry trees like a sign of friendship between the United States and Japan, a country in which these plants abound and in whose culture their flowering has a very specific meaning. For the Japanese, in fact, the cherry blossom symbolizes the evanescence of human life, which is beautiful but at the same time fragile and short.


    It all started many years earlier, in 1885, when the lady Eliza Ruhamanh Scidmorereturned to Washington from Japan and proposed planting a row of cherry trees on the bank of the Potomac River. An idea initially ignored by the municipal administration, but which was then revived over the years by others, was the subject of fundraising and saw a first concrete attempt at realization in 1910, when two thousand trees arrived directly from Japan.


    Unfortunately, the cherry trees arrived in America sick and were then burned. Two years later the 3020 cherry trees, of 12 different subspecies, which were planted along the river. Interestingly, over the years some new plants have come from Japan, while some of the original ones have been sent back to their original land so that the Japan Cherry Blossom Association could preserve their genetic lineage.

    The first took place in 1935 Cherry Blossom Festival, sponsored by many civic groups and which became an annual event, which citizens immediately fell in love with. Even in 1938 a group of women chained themselves next to these trees to protest President Roosevelt, intending to stop the workers preparing to clear the land for the construction of the Jefferson Memorial. At that moment a compromise was reached which provided for the planting of more trees to frame the monument.

    The Cherry Blossom Festival today is one of Washington DC's busiest annual events, with approx one and a half million visitors who go to the capital every spring to admire the beauty of the cherry trees in bloom. In addition to immersing yourself in this fairytale setting, you can participate in a series of events organized for the occasion. Here are some examples:


    • Ranger Walks and Talks: National Park Service rangers offer guided walks in which they explain the history of the trees.
    • Lantern lighting: one of the symbols of friendship between the two peoples is the Japanese stone lantern, which every year during the festival is lit during an official, very suggestive ceremony.
    • National parade: the most popular event is undoubtedly the great parade of the festival, where among giant colored balloons, floats and marching bands, Washington comes alive and colors even more.
    • Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival: it is the day dedicated to Japanese culture, which sees the setting up of food stands and artistic cultural exhibitions.

    How much do cherry blossoms bloom?

    Let's start with one fundamental premise to organize a trip in which you want to see, among the other attractions that America has to offer, also the flowering: when the cherry blossoms bloom? Spring is long and each species of tree blooms on different days, but even the same cherry tree varies from year to year when it turns pink.


    Normally the entire flowering, that is, from the first flowers to bloom to the last ones, usually lasts about a month from mid-March to mid-April. The peak of flowering, when most of the flowers (at least 70%) are open, often occurs in first week of April.

    But beware: this is not always the case! Depending on the weather, the flowering peak can vary greatly. In 2020, for example, it was from 21 to 24 March. On the contrary, in 2015 it was later than usual: from 8 to 10 April.


    The first thing to do, therefore, is to inquire about when will be the peak of flowering in the year of our trip? It is difficult to know well in advance, but if you are planning a trip in the weeks between March and April, a good idea may be to wait for February (when it is easier to make forecasts) and possibly change our itinerary slightly to get to Washington on the best days.

    In uncertainty, it is better to arrive a little late rather than early. Before the flowers bloom, or when they are still few, the visual effect is minimal. Once in bloom, however, the flowers remain for days on the trees and in lucky years you can admire a beautiful bloom even a week after the peak.

    Obviously, if the Washington weather is mild and no strong winds or sudden rains come to ruin everything. So, it is preferable to book in early April rather than March, to have more chances.

    See the bloom in Washington

    As you may have guessed, Washington DC is one of the best places to go see cherry blossom in the United States. If you go to the American capital on the right days, it is impossible to be disappointed. But the city is big and cherry trees don't grow on every corner. So let's see exactly where to fully enjoy flowering, what time of day to dedicate to this activity and how to go home with good photos.


    Where to see the flowering

    The vast majority of cherry trees are planted in Potomac Park and around the Tidal Basin. On this page you can also see the detailed map. If you just want to have a look at the trees in bloom, just go here and take a stroll, but know that there are three circular paths to make your walk even more interesting.

    • Tidal Basin Loop. Taking a full loop around the Tidal Basin involves walking for about 3 kilometers, immersed in the white blossoms of the Yoshino cherry trees. If you happen to be here in the days of the peak of flowering, you will feel like you are immersed in a cloud. On this walk you will also see the memorials to Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt, the pagoda and the Japanese granite lantern, as well as the interesting flower library where depending on the season you will find daffodils and hyacinths or tulips.
    • Trail Memorial Loop. Almost 4 kilometers of ring around the famous Reflecting Pool inside the National Mall allow you to range from the romantic setting of cherry blossoms to some of the most symbolic monuments of the city: the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, the touching memorials dedicated to Martin Luther King, the fallen of the Second World War, the veterans of the Vietnam War and those of the Korean War.
    • Hains Point Loop Trail. The longest loop is about 6 and a half kilometers and runs along the bank of the Potomac River, running along the entire perimeter of the park to Hains Point. To see the greatest possible variety of flowers is certainly the most suitable path. During the festival, the route is also served by a special shuttle.

    How to get there by public transport

    To move in the green areas where the cherry trees grow the best thing is to walk, but a valid alternative is the bicycle. Using city bike sharing for a few hours can be an excellent idea. In all cases, you may need to use Washington public transportation to get here from your accommodation.

    • Metro. The Smithsonian stop is the closest and is served by the blue and orange lines. An alternative is the L'Enfant Plaza stop, also served by the yellow and green lines.
    • Water Taxi. Docking in West Basin, two water taxi companies DC Cruises and Potomac Riverboat Company offer a quick service to get around on water rather than land.
    • Bus. The DC Circulator National Mall line connects all major museums and monuments in the area and is a great service to this area.

    What time to go for the best photos

    It's hard to say what is the best time to take pictures of flowering trees. Any time of day can be good, it depends on the type of photo you intend to take. If you are an expert photographer and are looking for good quality shots, you certainly do not need my advice on the best times, which you will be able to choose better than me based on the weather of the day.

    The nice thing about Washington is that the cherry trees bloom they can also be photographed at night. Unlike other natural attractions, which being outside the city are not clearly visible after sunset, here we are talking about trees that grow in the parks of a large city. Public lighting is designed to enhance them and when the sun goes down the light from the street lamps makes it magical walk among the clear reflections of the petals.

    However, an advice that applies to everyone concerns the presence of other people. As you can imagine, you won't be the only ones wanting to visit Washington on these very special days there will be no shortage of tourists to crowd the city and its parks, especially in the years when Easter falls on the same days as flowering. And obviously even the locals don't mind a nice walk in the green during the beautiful spring days.

    Therefore, if you aspire to take a photo in a setting where the only protagonists are the cherry trees, with few other people besides you, aim early in the morning. Shortly after dawn, few will be moving through the streets and you will have the flowered parks all to yourself.

    Accomodation

    Washington is a big city and the neighborhoods are very different from each other. Depending on whether you are looking for tranquility or nightlife, a more historic or a more modern setting, a luxury hotel or a Spartan accommodation, the best choice will fall on a different neighborhood. To get an idea, read our article dedicated to how to choose the right accommodation in the US capital.

    Tips on where to sleep in Washington DC

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