When is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC to See the Cherry Blossoms?

The when, what, and how of visiting DC for the cherry blossoms.


Current 2014 Peak Bloom Predictions

It’s important to note that these predictions might well change as we get closer to the date.

For more on what “peak bloom” means, take a look at the post “What Peak Bloom Means and Why It (sort of) Matters.”

On average, the blooms come out around the last week of March through the first week of April, and that’s typically a good time to aim for if you’re planning on visiting. But precisely when peak bloom occurs depends on the weather in the weeks and months leading up to it. And there’s no guarantee it will even fall within that period.

That’s because the date of the peak is heavily dependent on local weather conditions in the months leading up to it. Warmer, sunnier conditions through the winter and early spring tend to bring an earlier bloom. Sustained cold, wintry weather delays it. Unseasonably warm and sunny conditions in 1990 helped bring an early peak on March 15, and very cold conditions in 1958 delayed the peak bloom until April 18.

The average peak bloom since 1921 is April 3, but in the past few years the peak bloom has come a few days earlier than that overall average. But to give an idea of how variable it can be, the peak bloom date for 2012 was March 20. The following year it was April 9.[foot]The National Park Service uses the date April 4 as the average peak bloom date.[/foot]

Here are the official peak bloom dates for the past nine years:

2014: April 10
2013: April 9
2012: March 20
2011: March 29
2010: March 31
2009: April 1
2008: March 26
2007: April 1
2006: March 31
2005: April 9

2014 National Cherry Blossom Festival

The 2014 National Cherry Blossom Festival® will kick off on Thursday, March 20, and run through Sunday, April 13. It incorporates a number of events and activities, such as a parade, fireworks, concerts, and special exhibits that take their theme from the cherry blossoms. You can find more information at the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s official website.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is typically scheduled over a couple of weeks (sometimes longer, such as in 2012) around the average peak bloom date. The hope is that the blossoms will come out at some point during that period, but it’s unlikely they’ll be out for the duration.

How Do I Get Tickets to See the Cherry Blossoms Blooming?

Tickets are NOT required to see the cherry blossoms. The trees are on public land cared for by the National Parks Service. There are no fences or gates restricting access and no fees or reservations are required to visit. You are free to wander around as much as you like any time of the day or night.

Camping is not allowed, and there are no designated picnic areas. Parking restrictions are clearly signed. Parking is free, but at the height of the bloom parking spaces are in high demand.

Large, organized public gatherings, protests, or other special uses might require a permit. Commercial photography/videography shoots might also require a permit. You can find details and application forms on the NPS website.

Events or exhibits that form part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival program may require tickets. Check their website for details.

When is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC to See the Cherry Blossoms? wpid3675 Closeup of Pink Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC 01 COPYRIGHT

Visitor Guides for Washington DC

Here are some good resources to help plan your visit to Washington DC:

Destination DC
Washington Post Going Out Guide

Frequency of Specific Peak Bloom Dates Since 1921

This chart shows how many times peak bloom has fallen on a particular day since records started being kept in 1921. The earliest recorded peak bloom was March 18 (2000). The latest was April 18 (1958). The most common dates for peak bloom are April 2, 6, 7, and 9. Since 1921, the overall average peak bloom date has been April 3.[foot]Data source: National Park Service Historic Peak Bloom Dates.[/foot]

When is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC to See the Cherry Blossoms?

Frequency of Specific Peak Bloom Dates Since 1993

And here’s the same thing but looking only at the past two decades. As you can see, the dates are weighted a little earlier in recent years. Since 1993, the average peak bloom date has been March 31.[foot]Data source: National Park Service Historic Peak Bloom Dates.[/foot]

When is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC to See the Cherry Blossoms?

Average Peak Bloom Dates by Decade

1921-1930: April 2
1931-1940: April 7
1941-1950: April 2
1951-1960: April 7
1961-1970: April 7
1971-1980: April 4
1981-1990: March 31
1991-2000: March 31
2001-2010: April 1

Peak Bloom Dates

Here are the official peak bloom dates since 1921.[foot]Data source: National Park Service Historic Peak Bloom Dates.[/foot]

1921 March 20
1922 April 7
1923 April 9
1924 April 13
1925 March 27
1926 April 11
1927 March 20
1928 April 8
1929 March 31
1930 April 1
1931 April 11
1932 April 15
1933 April 9
1934 April 15
1935 April 1
1936 April 7
1937 April 14
1938 March 25
1939 March 30
1940 April 13
1941 April 12
1942 April 5
1943 April 4
1944 April 9
1945 March 20
1946 March 23
1947 April 12
1948 March 28
1949 March 29
1950 April 9
1951 April 6
1952 April 9
1953 March 27
1954 April 6
1955 April 2
1956 April 6
1957 April 8
1958 April 18
1959 April 6
1960 April 14
1961 April 2
1962 April 7
1963 April 3
1964 April 11
1965 April 15
1966 April 5
1967 April 6
1968 March 30
1969 April 9
1970 April 16
1971 April 8
1972 April 11
1973 April 11
1974 April 3
1975 April 3
1976 March 23
1977 March 26
1978 April 12
1979 April 2
1980 April 6
1981 April 3
1982 April 7
1983 April 7
1984 April 3
1985 April 7
1986 April 2
1987 March 28
1988 March 31
1989 March 29
1990 March 15
1991 March 29
1992 April 7
1993 April 11
1994 April 5
1995 April 2
1996 April 4
1997 March 26
1998 March 27
1999 April 5
2000 March 17
2001 April 6
2002 April 2
2003 April 2
2004 March 31
2005 April 9
2006 March 30
2007 April 1
2008 March 29
2009 April 1
2010 March 31
2011 March 29
2012 March 20
2013 April 9
2014 April 10

Comments

      • tanya kozlowski says

        Your information and insight was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you for your time and wisdom. Cheers!

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