NPS Issues Initial Cherry Blossom Peak Bloom Prediction for 2021

Posted on: February 28, 2021

Current Peak Bloom Predictions

National Park Service: April 2 - 5
Washington Post: March 30 - April 3
NBC4: April 4 - 9
The National Park Service will limit vehicular and pedestrian access to the area during the bloom and are prepared to close the area if crowds become too large.
The National Park Service has announced their initial peak bloom prediction for 2021. They predict that the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin will reach peak bloom between April 2 and 5.
By way of comparison, last year’s bloom was very early, reaching peak on March 20, fueled by much warmer-than-normal temperatures in the weeks leading up to it. This year’s temperatures have, overall, been much closer to normal.
The Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang have said they’ll put out their prediction later this week.
You can see some photos from this morning at the Tidal Basin in today’s update posted earlier (you can find it here).

Will It Be Possible to See the Cherry Blossoms In Person This Year?

If you’re considering planning a visit, there are some things to know.
Washington DC is still under COVID-19 restrictions, and the DC area is currently assessed at a very high risk level.
The Smithsonian museums and Washington Monument are all closed indefinitely. There are strict occupancy limits on restaurants and businesses. In-person events for the National Cherry Blossom Festival have been canceled (that includes the Parade).
While the National Park Service has not yet come out and said yet what their plans are (but have promised to clarify soon), they have strongly suggested that in-person access to the cherry blossoms during the full bloom period will be restricted. That might include a complete closing of the area, as they did last year, or more granular restrictions that allow limited in-person access. In short, don’t count on being able to access the Tidal Basin during the bloom.
All in all, it’s a good year to follow along from afar from the safety and comfort of your home.

Is the Tidal Basin open?

For now, yes. But it’s worth noting that NPS and DC officials did seal off the area last year to prevent crowds gathering, and it’s quite possible they might do so again this year in the interests of public health and safety. From their public statements lately, it seems increasingly likely that access to the Tidal Basin will be closed or tightly restricted. (Which is another good reason to plan to follow along from home rather than visiting in person.)
A NPS spokesperson told the Washingtonian magazine this, which was repeated pretty much verbatim at the March 1 press conference:
Working with our cherry blossom partners and in consultation with the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and local health guidelines, the National Park Service continues to evaluate what, if any, opportunities will be available to view the blossoms in person at the Tidal Basin,” Park Service spokesperson Mike Litterst tells Washingtonian in an email. “We expect to make an announcement in the coming weeks.

Do I need a permit to take engagement photos at the cherry blossoms?

I mention this here because it is an issue that the NPS has addressed more explicitly recently. And they’ve done so in such a way that clears up any lingering confusion that the previous policy caused.
The short answer is that most engagement photo sessions do not require a permit. The key factor now isn’t whether it’s a commercial or non-commercial shoot but whether it’s “low-impact.” And nearly all engagement photo sessions fall within that category (i.e., fewer than five people, limited equipment, limited impact on the area or people around them, etc.). I have more details here.

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