Every year, thousands of people flock to Washington’s cherry blossoms. These visitors told us why they came and how they found the experience.
They’re plastered on our Metros, scattered across our storefronts, sprinkled atop our cocktails and tattooed on the inner arms of our college kids. Cherry blossoms are ingrained in Washington’s national image and infused in the psyche of Washingtonians. The pale pink buds ring the Tidal Basin like a floral finish line, proclaiming that we survived the final leg of winter, that spring has come again.
The Yoshino cherry trees draw more than 1.5 million visitors every year. They come via scooters and Segways and transatlantic flights. They come for engagement portraits and selfies and for a chance to show off their very pink outfits. Here’s a snapshot of some visitors’ cherry blossom stories and their appraisal of the experience: based, naturally, on a five-cherry-blossom rating system (🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸).
‘To be perceived as a flower’
Kristel Bugayong, left, and Tori Carr
Tori Carr, 26, and her pandemic pal Kristel Bugayong, 27, came from Baltimore to see the blossoms. Both women got dolled up, Carr in a flowing pink dress. Her intention, she said, was to find out what it would feel like to be a blossom — “to be perceived as a flower.”
The spontaneous traveler
Don Vo took a cross-country day trip to see the cherry blossoms. The 39-year-old boarded an early-morning flight from Houston, landed at Reagan National Airport at 2 p.m., took a subway for the first time in his life and headed straight for the Tidal Basin. His return flight took off around 8 p.m. The spontaneous trip was planned just a day in advance, but Vo said it was worth the effort.
Bundled for the blooms
Avid skier Jenny Comer, who described her age as “60-something,” donned her purple ski get-up (minus her matching purple skis, boots and poles) and traveled with friends from the Richmond Ski Club. She seemed less bothered than most to be visiting during a cold snap.
Dawn Ullmann, left, and Katie Ullmann
Kora, an 8-month-old miniature Bernedoodle, enjoyed her first cherry blossom bloom. Her owner, Katie Ullmann, 23, came to visit with her sister-in-law Dawn Ullmann, 27. They walked through the empty reflecting pool while Kora made plenty of new dog friends.
‘As good as it gets’
“We have traveled the world, I mean extensively, and this is where we choose to live,” said Loudoun County resident Sid Harvey, 67, who went to check out the status of the blossoms with his wife. The pair usually do a drive-by perusal of the blossoms but decided to make a day of it this year. “This is as good as it gets,” he said.
‘The Garden of Eden for musicians’
Darin Smith Jr. (DeJay Sax)
Darin Smith Jr., or DeJay Sax, as he is called in the music world, made a vow to himself to add a soundtrack of soft jazz to the Tidal Basin each year. “It’s like the Garden of Eden for musicians,” said the 33-year-old. “I come and appreciate the beauty, and I add as much as I can.”
Beauty in bloom
Onlookers could not help but compliment Dayanara Manco’s outfit. The 14-year-old wore her cherry-blossom-inspired quinceañera dress. Manco’s big day is not until October, but the photo shoot couldn’t wait.
The first date
Serena Pauo, left, and Bibby Ngyuen
Bibby Ngyuen, 22, and Serena Pauo, 22, decided to have their first date at the Tidal Basin. The pair, through laughs, explained that they met on the online dating app Hinge. Bibby gave the experience 3½ blossoms; Serena rated it a 3. (Note that they were rating the visit to the blossoms, not the date.)
Sinethu Bezalarda, 28, did it for the ’gram. Bezalarda traveled from North Carolina with family friends. It was 30 degrees when she visited, but she still took off her coat in the attempt to snap a perfect picture.
‘The pinkest thing here’
Marsena Farris, 67, wore an all-pink outfit to match the cherry blossoms but was disappointed to find that the early petals were mostly white. “I’m the pinkest thing here,” she said. “I’ve already peaked, and they haven’t.”
Lula, left, and Daisy
It’s Lula and Daisy’s first time seeing the cherry blossoms. Their owners, Sujeong and Siemon Briosos, bought them outfits for the occasion.
Boon Chai, an artist from Thailand, is visiting the United States for a month. He spent one day painting by the Tidal Basin. “Very beautiful for cherry blossoms,” he said. “But in Thailand, we know them as sakura.” Chai didn’t think five blossoms were enough to capture the beauty of D.C.’s trees; he insisted they deserve a nine-blossom rating.
Yena Lim, left, and Hyojin Eom
Last year at this time, Yena Lim wasn’t quite walking on her own. Now the 2-year-old can toddle around by herself, so her mom, Hyojin Eom, 40, decided it was the perfect time to dress up and see the blossoms. Yena’s father is a Korean diplomat, so the pair are making the most of their three years in D.C.