It’s hard to imagine after having the kids home for two MORE snow days, but Cherry Blossom Peak season is right around the corner. Droves of tourists, many for the first time, attack the Tidal Basin (the area that has the 100+ trees around the Jefferson Memorial) here in DC like brides at a Filene’s Basement sale. As a 20 year veteran of the blossom wars, I have some tips that will save you from most of the rookie mistakes (like don’t bother if it’s Spring Break week at most schools, the crowds will be unbearable).
Come Early. REALLY Early. I mean Dawn. Sunrise. You’ll find free 2-3 hour parking right on the Tidal Basin, even on the weekend, if you come first thing. By 8AM it will all be packed.
The Tidal Basin is a 1/2 mile from the Metro, so the train may not help as much as expected. That always surprises folks on their first visit to the Blossoms. I know, 1/2 mile doesn’t seem long to you, but how long will it seem to your 3 year old who is a “big girl” and refuses her stroller? The blossoms are a rare case in Downtown DC where I actually recommend driving if feasible.
For a tourist destination, the Tidal Basin is lacking in facilities you might expect. The Tidal Basin is run by the National Parks, and the services are more what you might expect at a campground than at a world-class tourist attraction. Pack snacks, bottled water, and don’t expect a short hike to the bathroom from anywhere…if you pass one, make your kids GO. Trust me on that one.
Don’t fear the weather…but DO dress for it! Some of my favorite Cherry Blossom pics are from cloudy or even rainy days (see above). The area takes on a mystic quality that feels like you’ve walked into a Japanese scroll. That said, I’m always amazed by the folks I see in shorts and flip-flops: yes, this is technically Spring, but DC is still pretty chilly…especially if you’re going at dawn like I recommend. Ditto for walking shoes…don’t skimp on your comfort as you’ll be 100% on your feet.
After another never-ending winter, I can’t wait to see the Blossoms again. We’ll pile in the car before sun-up probably Sunday morning and head down and back before our traditional pancake breakfast. And their emergence, as always, will be a sign that it’s FINALLY time to put this horrible winter away and celebrate the Spring!
Any other great tips? Please share in the comments.