Each spring, travelers flock to the National Mall in Washington, DC for a glimpse of the iconic pink-and-white cherry blossom trees in their full splendor during the month-long National Cherry Blossom Festival. And now it’s time to plan for this year’s pilgrimage. The National Park Service announced its forecast that this year’s peak bloom date should fall between March 23 and March 24.
Of course, these Yoshino cherry blossom trees—which celebrate and symbolize the relationship between the United States and Japan—will be in bloom for quite a bit longer than a few days. According to NPS and the National Cherry Blossom Festival organizers, the peak bloom date merely indicates the predicted time that 70 percent of these blossoms will be open, while the overall blooming period can last for as long as two weeks. That blooming period usually begins several days before the peak bloom date.
It’s worth noting that predicting bloom dates is extraordinarily difficult. NPS horticulturalists have determined these dates based on the current bud development of the trees and expected temperatures. But, as cherry blossom visitors discovered last year, a harsh winter or late frost can push back peak bloom dates. Still, barring a freak cold snap, the middle of next week is a pretty solid bet to visit if you want to catch any part of the blooming period.
But—if you can’t make it down to DC next week, it’s still worth planning a trip. The National Cherry Blossom Festival itself will run from March 20 to April 17 with signature events scattered throughout those four weeks—including an opening ceremony on March 26, a kite festival on April 2, a waterfront fireworks bonanza on April 9, and a massive parade and Japanese street festival on April 16. Meanwhile, the National Park Service runs special cherry blossom tours and programs on the National Mall, and local restaurants and hotels offer deals. Peak bloom date or not, the cherry blossom season is always lively in America’s capital city.
Can't wait to see it, or missing it this year? Don't fret! Check out the lineup of amazing photos from previous years, above.