"Spring starts here" is the theme of the National Cherry Blossom Festival this year. Even though spring has officially sprung, neither the weather nor the cherry blossoms themselves seem to be cooperating.
The "Snowquester" largely fizzled out in the D.C. area, but the cold snap it brought with it was enough to delay the peak bloom time for the District's famous cherry blossoms.
"What we see from the colder weather is that it really slows down the development of the budding," says James Perry, chief of resource management at the National Park Service. "So we moved back our forecast for the peak blooming period about a week. We think it will fall between the 3rd and the 6th of April now."
The average peak bloom date is April 4, but as the region saw with last year's warm weather, it can come earlier or later depending on the prevailing weather conditions.
Bloom season can last a couple days or as long as 14 days, which officials hope will come during much of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which also officially begins today.
Perry says the key to enjoying the festival is less about timing and more about avoiding the crowds if you can.
"Really, the best way to enjoy the cherry blossoms is to arrange to come at an off-peak time, whether it's early in the morning or later in the evening — it tends to be a little less crowded," Perry says. "Also, to remember that there are cherry trees in more than just the Tidal Basin. Also along Hains Point, along the Washington Monument grounds, and East and West Potomac Parks are just as lovely."
While the Yoshino cherry trees are the most famous, there are actually a dozen varieties. Some of those varieties bloom a little bit earlier and a little bit later, so Perry says visitors don't have to come betwen the 3rd and the 6th to have a good time.
The cherry blossoms draw about 1 million visitors to the nation's capital each spring. This year marks the 101st anniversary of the gift of trees from Japan.