Washington, D.C. is already a gorgeous place with striking architecture like the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, as well as the museums and surrounding landscapes.
But in spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom around the Tidal Basin, brilliant mounds of white and soft pink completely surround the space like scented clouds. And, like magic, they are instantly multiplied as they are reflected in the pool. Some describe it as "breathtaking" or "a feast for the eyes." Others call it "one of nature's best shows."
And, this year, a mild winter means the show might go on a bit early, according to the National Park Service.
If you want to see the cherry blossoms during peak bloom, the Park Service suggests planning your visit between March 24th and March 28th this year. National Park Service horticulturists monitor five distinct stages of bud development to determine peak bloom, which they define as the point when 70 percent of the blossoms are open.
Flowers will still be on the trees for several days on either side of peak bloom. If you prefer to see the puffy white blossoms, arrive four to six days before peak bloom, the National Park Service suggests. The floral fireworks will continue after the peak dates as well. But within one to two weeks of peak bloom, the trees will have shed their blossoms and transition to a fresh green color as the leaves come through.
Typically, average peak bloom for D.C.'s cherry trees is April 4, but the mild winter means an earlier bloom this year. Last year's peak bloom happened March 29. Peak bloom in 2010 was March 30.
Usually, cherry blossom trees survive for approximately 50 years. But the city still has just more than 100 of the original 3,000 trees given to the city by Japan in 1912. Those original trees are near the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. Thousands of other trees have been replaced or grown from the original trees' genetic line.
This year also marks a special occasion for these celebrity cherry blossoms - 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the gift of this special tree as a token of friendship to the U.S. from the people of Japan.
While you're witnessing some amazing trees in bloom, take a moment to check out the events happening at the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a five-week celebration happening March 20 until April 27. Some highlights include the opening ceremony on March 25 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center; Family Days on March 24 and 25 at the National Building Museum; the Blossom Kite Festival on March 31 on the Washington Monument grounds at Constitution Avenue and 17th Street, NW; and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 14 from 10 a.m. to noon that runs along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Streets, NW.
As you enjoy the cherry blossoms in the coming weeks, remember that in addition to gorgeous scenery and a love of trees, these amazing blooms tell us one other thing: Spring is here!