The groundhog may have told us there will be six more weeks of winter last month, but the Cherry Blossoms don’t want to wait for quite that long.

The blossoms will be at peak bloom by March 17, according to Cherry Blossom Festival organizers. That means we should see a lot of foot traffic near the Tidal Basin as soon as next week. The peak bloom is about a week earlier than last year, and more than two weeks earlier than the average peak bloom date, which is April 4.

If you are traveling in the District, be aware that the Cherry Blossoms are a huge attraction and will likely cause traffic delays. Perhaps more importantly, motorists will want to drive very carefully in the Tidal Basin area, due to the likely presence of small children and families with strollers.

Congestion will be heaviest on the weekends, but don’t be surprised if you see people flocking to the Tidal Basin on weekdays. The actual Cherry Blossom Festival runs from March 17 to April 15.

Here are some areas that may see increased foot traffic and other congestion beginning next week:

  • Independence Avenue - This is the main road that runs along the north of the tidal basin. Many walkers will come from the east from the Smithsonian Metro station and will walk down past the Holocaust Museum. Don’t be surprised if you see tourists take their lives in their hands by crossing Independence or Maine Avenues. There will be a performance stage in this area at 1501 Maine Ave. SW.

  • WWII Memorial and Washington Monument - These two big attractions flank 17th street just to the north of the tidal basin. Rest assured there will be an increase in tourists who will want to see these sites when visiting the blossoms. Look for more congestion along 15th and 16th Streets as well.

  • Ohio Drive - Visitors who want to see the Jefferson Memorial will often cross the bridge on Ohio Drive SW, which does not offer a lot of space for pedestrians. Be alert!

  • Smithsonian Metro Station - This is the closest station to the Cherry Blossoms and is also near many other top tourist attractions. If you normally get on and off at Smithsonian, consider using L’Enfant Plaza to avoid the biggest crowds.

Stay tuned for later this week when we offer some tips on the best ways to get to the Cherry Blossom Festival and enjoy all of the events happening over the next few weeks.