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Cherry Blossom Confidential: What You Need to Know

Scott Vogel

What's a team of inveterate Travel types to do when the best option in town is a staycation? That's the dilemma we're facing this weekend, now that Washington's Japanese cherry trees have reached their peak blooming phase and suddenly there's no place we'd rather be than the Tidal Basin. Besides, why leave home when the world's coming to you?

Oh wait: the world is coming here, which means crowds, chaos and a Washington that's as foreign to you as Paris or Rome. And it's in that spirit that we present the following guide, for locals and beyond, to enjoying the festival.

1. DON'T THINK THIS YEAR WILL BE LIKE ANY OTHER. Maybe you think it's harmonic convergence, or perhaps a perfect storm. But whatever your metaphor of choice, getting to this year's festival will be a logistical nightmare. You may have heard that the Nationals have a new baseball park opening this weekend. Oh, and then there's the National Marathon on Sunday [correction: reader just correctly alerted us that Marathon is actually on Saturday], which invariably means traffic tie-ups. Sunday also brings the glorious Smithsonian Kite Festival and its glorious crowds, and ... you get the point. So:

2. DO TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. Take a bus, take a train, take a bike, anything -- just don't take your car. There are simply not enough parking spaces convenient to the Tidal Basin, and the competition for the ones that are convenient is going to be fierce. Your best bet is to head straight for the hundreds of spaces at Hains Point and take a free shuttle bus to the Tidal Basin. For directions, see here [PDF].

3. DON'T CLIMB THE TREES. Do we really need to elaborate on this one? Apparently we do, as every year, we see published photos of some clown who thinks that 90-something-year-old cherry trees aren't too fragile to handle his ample girth. Well, they ARE, pal. And while we're on the subject, make your dog keep his distance as well.

4. DO GO IN THE MORNING. If you really want to enjoy the trees, set your alarm and make the pilgrimage in the early morning. There's nothing like watching a quiet sunrise at the Tidal Basin on a crisp March morning to instantly remind you that you live in the greatest city on earth. And if you can't make it in the morning:

5. DON'T FORGET YOUR LUNCH. Visitors to our fair city often forget that the cherry trees are on hallowed ground of sorts, which means that you'll find plenty of monuments and stellar vistas, but not a McDonald's or Burger King for miles -- thankfully. Do yourself a favor: Pack a lunch and enjoy your vacation from fast-food America. And lastly, if you're one of those unfortunately souls who won't be able to make it to this year's festival:

6. DO PLANT YOUR OWN CHERRY TREE. There's nothing like the sheer number of trees that Washington boasts in such a dramatic setting, but don't think these trees need the cacophony and grit of urban life to thrive. Consider planting your own cherry tree (here's information) and you'll have access to your own mini Cherry Blossom Festival for years to come.

And for lots more tips and info, check out the Washington Post City Guide to the Cherry Blossom Festival.

What other insider information should we impart to cherry blossom newbies?

By Scott Vogel |  March 28, 2008; 12:47 PM ET  | Category:  Scott Vogel
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National Marathon is actually on Saturday, not Sunday.

Posted by: Julia | March 28, 2008 4:03 PM

You are correct. Sorry about that, and thanks so much for alerting us. Have adjusted the above.

Posted by: scott vogel | March 28, 2008 4:08 PM

Parking is available about 2 blocks away at lafonte plaza (follow the Public Parking signs) I went on Saturday & it cost me $10 for the entire day. Since all the streets are one way, driving is pretty easy. just be patient. If you go to union station, there is the biggest food court you will ever see in the lower level. There's something for every taste there...plus big, clean restrooms. If you cross the street from Union Station, you can go to the National Postal Museum. It's free & you get free postcards to mail right from the museum (just deposit 26 cents for postage) If you go through the smithsonian "castle" into the back garden, you will see glorius flower displays.

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