These are the best dates for seeing Washington, D.C.’s cherry blossoms in 2024

Jefferson Memorial surrounded by cherry blossoms
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

The nation’s capital comes alive with color when its thousands of cherry trees bloom each spring.

The annual spectacle of dainty, light pink flowers attracts travelers from all over the world. But timing your visit to line up perfectly with the bloom is always tricky, as it can vary from year to year because of the weather.

And 2024 has been no different. Washington’s cherry blossoms peaked earlier than expected this year — on March 17, the National Park Service shared posts on social media declaring “peak bloom.”

The blossoms seem to have caught the NPS out this year: Earlier this spring, the park service said the trees were expected to reach peak bloom from March 23 to March 26 in 2024. If you were hoping to see these beautiful blossoms for yourself, these are the dates you likely planned your trip around.

Warm weather this March pushed 2024’s peak bloom to its second-earliest ever, The Washington Post reports, tying with the March 17, 2000, bloom. The peak bloom on March 15, 1990, remains the earliest since record-keeping began.

“Peak bloom” refers to when at least 70% of the Yoshino cherry trees’ blossoms have opened. Of course, the trees start blooming before this peak period — and continue afterward — so even if you can’t make it over those exact dates, you’ll likely still see some good color. Last year, the trees reached peak bloom on March 23; the year before, on March 21. But in some years, they haven’t reached peak bloom until nearly mid-April.

Stellan Hendrick, almost 2, gets a boost from his mom Evelyn Hendrick to touch cheery blossoms that cover the trees in the Kenwood neighborhood of Bethesda, Md., Thursday, March 26, 2020.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

MORE: The best places in the U.S. for seeing cherry blossoms in bloom

Each tree typically blooms for several days, though calm, cool weather can extend this period. (Unfortunately, windy and rainy conditions can also put an abrupt end to the blossoms — so fingers crossed for mild conditions.)

How does the park service know exactly when the trees will bloom? The agency employs a group of expert horticulturalists — collectively called the “Tree Crew” — who monitor the trees for signs that blossoms may soon appear. The trees go through several distinct phases on their way to blooming, starting with green buds that turn into florets. At the time of this writing, this year’s green buds and florets have already been recorded: March 2 and 5, respectively. Next, these florets extended out farther and farther from the branch. Eventually, small, puffy blossoms begin to emerge, then open into full flowers.

There are roughly 3,800 cherry trees throughout the Tidal Basin, the 107-acre man-made reservoir next to the National Mall. These beloved trees date back to 1912, when the people of Japan gave them as a gift of friendship to the United States.

Harry Washington, of Washington D.C., fishes for crappies from the Tidal Basin as Yoshino cherry trees bloom, Friday, April 12, 2013, in Washington.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, which this year will take place from March 20 to April 14, commemorates the anniversary of this gift. Festivities include a Japanese lantern-lighting ceremony, live music, educational programs, ranger talks, art installations and a parade, to name a few.

Can’t make it to D.C. this year? You can still soak up the beauty of this springtime tradition from home by tuning into the Trust for the National Mall’s “#BloomCam” live stream. The park service also offers several ways to participate virtually.

MORE: Turns Out, D.C. Is Not The Cherry Blossom Capital Of The U.S.

Sarah Kuta and Taylor Kuether contributed to this report.

News, Science & Nature, Travel
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