Coronavirus: Should You Go See The Cherry Blossoms In DC This Weekend?

The Yoshino cherry blossoms are heading towards full bloom. In a normal year about 1.5 million visitors will congregate around the Tidal Basin area to witness this event. However, this year due to the coronavirus crisis, local agencies and health officials are discouraging crowds and recommending that any visitors maintain a safe distance. This can be disheartening for a lot of people, especially if you have been planning this for a long time or traveling from afar. So, this leads to the million dollar question:

Is it safe to visit the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms ?

Tidal Basin is open and accessible for strolling and walking. However, the National Park Service has placed placards around the Tidal Basin warning visitors about the dangers of coronavirus during peak bloom this Saturday (03.21.2020)

“Although the park is not closed, we encourage all visitors, particularly the most vulnerable, including the elderly and people with underlying conditions, to make smart decisions and to follow CDC guidelines to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. These measures include practicing social distancing; following routine precautions like washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; and most importantly, please stay home if you feel sick,” the NPS said in a statement.

I recommend that you do not hand over your phone/camera to someone for taking photos. Get a selfie-stick instead. Also, politely refuse if someone wants to hand you their camera for taking a pic. If this makes you feel bad then wear gloves.

Logistics information for those who plan to visit Tidal Basin this weekend.

I am planning a drive-tour since I do not want the fuss of parking and walking in the crowd. However, I think that a lot of people may be planning to do the same. There is no travel restriction as such but whether to go or not is another matter. I haven't decided anything yet. Note that WMATA is actively discouraging people from taking the Metro to see the blossoms. "Let's keep the trains available for the hospital staff, first responders and other heroes who need to travel right now. The trees will be there next year. ", they tweeted. The transit agency said that it may close stations near the Tidal basin to prevent tourists from filling cars. Try to go early in the morning or just after sunset to avoid crowds. 

Still want to see cherry blossoms? Here are other places in DC where you could see them.

Another great place is East Potomac Park (around Hains Point). There are hundreds of cherry trees in long stretches with hardly any people around there. Likewise, the National Arboretum remains open and is a very large outdoor space. Oxon Run Park, Anacostia Park and Stanton Park all have gorgeous copses, and they’re usually a lot less crowded than the Tidal Basin. Here's a link to the map of all the cherry trees in D.C. that aren't in major hotspots like the tidal basin and the National Mall.

Updated on 20 March 2020: The cherry blossoms reached at the peak bloom stage today. I  ended up going to the Tidal Basin. My plan came together all of a sudden and at that time, I had no idea about the peak bloom. There weren't any travel restrictions imposed by the National Park Service- only safety recommendations were issued. In order to comply with their guidances, i.e. to minimize my time at the Tidal Basin and maximize distance from other people, my husband and I did a drive around the area- we did not get out of the care nor did we open the windows for clicking photos. We also went early in the morning to avoid any crowds and traffic. Unfortunately, as lot of people had the same idea and there was heavy traffic in the Tidal Basin area. We did two rounds around the Tidal Basin since my husband had missed an exit. Also, at that time, the Tidal Basin was accessible, roads were open and so were the metro stations. Whether it’s a good idea to go is another matter. We had referred to the NPS statement before going. 

Here's a video on our drive around the Tidal Basil. 

Updated 23 March 2020: In the past few days, the local officials have upgraded their warnings from "Be careful" to "Please do not come". They are strongly urging people to avoid the Tidal Basin area. To discourage visitors from coming they have closed nearby roads and WMATA has closed some nearby stations to avoid having people standing around in close quarters on the platforms.

Disclaimer: This post is not to encourage people to visit but rather for the viewing pleasure of the many readers who will choose to follow from afar this year.