WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Drumroll, please.

The District’s cherry blossom trees on the Tidal Basin will likely be in full bloom between March 26 and March 30, National Park Service cherry tree expert James Perry announced Monday.

This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival is already planned for March 20 through April 14. The average peak bloom date is April 4, but last year’s peak bloom date came earlier on March 20, due to the warm weather.

Perry said Monday that the trees are blooming a little bit earlier than 50 or 75 years ago. But, “ultimately, it’s up to Mother Nature,” when the trees bloom and how long the pink and white flowers last, he said.

Perry said the “peak bloom date,” defined as 70 percent of the blossoms open on a cherry tree, is expected to be at the end of March. That puts the trees in bloom just before Easter. At this point, cold weather could delay the blooms’ opening.

Once the trees flower, weather will also determine how long the fragile blossoms last, Perry said.

“It really depends on the wind and the rain,” Perry said, adding that the blossoms have lasted for as short as five days and as long as 18 days.

The cherry blossoms draw about 1 million visitors each spring. This year marks the 101st anniversary of the gift of trees from Japan.

The last week of March will be a busy stretch in the District. In addition to it being the prime time to check out the cherry blossoms, the city also will be hosting men’s college basketball NCAA Tournament games at the Verizon Center on March 28 and 30.

In what probably comes as a relief to commuters concerned about tourists during that week, Metro announced Monday that it will take a break from its aggressive rebuilding efforts to accommodate customers beginning March 23 and continuing through April 14.

The only planned weekend work during that time will take place late Sunday evenings.

“While the work we do almost every weekend is necessary to get the system back to a steady state of safety and reliability, we are in a position where we can take a short break to let everyone enjoy the season,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles. “The spring break will give people an opportunity to experience the type of system we are working toward.”

On average, Metro ridership increases by more than 15 percent during Cherry Blossom season, and weekend ridership can double to near-weekday levels if the weather is nice.

Metro’s customer travel tips include:

  • Expect more crowded trains and stations during Cherry Blossom season.
  • To avoid crowds,  avoid traveling at the height of the afternoon peak period, from 4-6 p.m.
  • Customers who regularly use Smithsonian Station, the most frequently used station for tourists arriving at the National Mall, are urged to stagger their arrival and departure times for work or use L’Enfant Plaza, Archives, Federal Triangle or Union Station as alternate stations during Cherry Blossom season.
  • Visitors can purchase a $14 Metrorail One-Day Pass for multiple trips. The One-Day Pass can be used for unlimited travel on the day it is first used.

WNEW’s John Domen contributed to this report. Follow him on Twitter.

Follow WNEW on Twitter.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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