Your Guide to Taking Photos with the UW Cherry Blossoms

It’s that time of year again - the cherry blossoms are blooming on the University of Washington campus! It’s a special time that only happens once a year, and it’s spectacularly gorgeous. There’s no wonder people come from far and wide to catch a glimpse of these trees (not kidding, people travel from all over the world to see them in bloom). Over the years, it’s also become a popular location for wedding and engagement photos. But it takes a little more planning to get these gorgeous shots than just showing up to campus on a whim. Did we mention people travel from all over the world to see these trees? Here’s what you need to know:

Photo taken on 3/23/17, one of the last few days of spring break ... The trees are about 10% bloomed! 

Photo taken on 3/23/17, one of the last few days of spring break ... The trees are about 10% bloomed! 


I'm on campus, where do I go?

While there are actually quite a few cherry blossom trees on campus, the cherry blossoms that are famous and most often referenced are located in The Quad on the University of Washington’s campus in Seattle.

How do I know if they are in bloom?

The UW hosts a live stream of the trees so you’ll know exactly when they are in full bloom. The UW also hosts a Cherry Blossom twitter account (@uwcherryblossom) from the perspective of the trees, which is actually quite entertaining to follow.

Ok, but can't you just tell me now when they'll be blooming? 

This year, because of the colder winter we’ve had, the trees are blooming a bit later than expected and are slated to be in full bloom on April 1st (no April Fool’s joke here).

How busy does it get?

In past year’s, the trees have bloomed in late March, which was perfectly timed with spring break (great for visitors, not so great for students). Spring break meant the campus was empty of students, or at least emptier than usual. But not this year. For those of you planning to take photos, you’ll not only be fighting the crowds of visitors on campus, but also all 43,000 or so students coming back to campus for their first week of classes for spring quarter. On top of that, the Undergraduate Admissions Office just released decisions for their freshman class and will be hosting large preview events for incoming students, so add a few extra thousand students and parents to the mix. Long story short, the campus will be busy.

So, I can't have a super small, private wedding or photo shoot? 

Not so much. There will be crowds and lots and lots of people. Maybe if you plan a 6:00am shoot, (you know, that time of day that college students don't even know exists yet), maybe then you could get some solo photos. Otherwise, there will be people everywhere, and probably some accidental (and maybe some purposeful) photobombs. Be prepared for strangers in the background of your photos.

No amount of people will keep me from getting these photos! How do I get to campus?

Parking on campus is $15 for the day, but with the increase in visitors, there may not be space. There is some street parking and private pay-to-park lots in the surrounding U-District neighborhood, but with classes in session, it will be extremely limited and parking enforcement will be out in full force. I would highly recommend using public transportation, if possible. There are many buses that drop off within walking distance of the campus, and the new light rail station is open on the south end of campus near Husky Stadium.

Is it free? 

Yes! The UW is a public university, so anyone can visit campus to check out the cherry blossoms. No entrance fees, tickets, or payments required. (Unless, of course, you park on campus. See above note.) 

Wouldn't it be so beautiful to take a picture in the trees?

Do not climb the trees! You're not the first person to think of this idea, and you won't be the last. No matter how tempting it seems, or how gorgeous the photo may turn out, it's imperative that you do not climb the trees. These famous trees are over 80 years old, and while they are healthy for their age, climbing the branches, shaking the limbs, and picking the blossoms, does cause damage (see more ways to protect them). We need to take care of the trees now so students and visitors can enjoy them for years to come. Besides, any photos you take in the trees would just be proof that you either can't read the signs posted everywhere telling you not to climb them, or you read them and chose to do it anyway, which is way worse. Don't be that person! 

How long will they last? 

The blossoms are pretty finicky. They may be in full bloom for a week, or just a few days, it’s all dependent on the weather. Cold temperatures and rain will impact how long they last, so make sure you check the live stream for updates.  

Photo taken on 3/23/17 ... Just a glimpse of the beauty to come :) Full bloom is expected on April 1st! 

Photo taken on 3/23/17 ... Just a glimpse of the beauty to come :) Full bloom is expected on April 1st! 

Thrifty Events offers wedding planning, event design, and day of coordination services.

Candi Block, Founder & Event Planner

Midwest native with big-family roots, now newlywed, entrepreneur, and new home owner in the PNW. Love being involved in the community, crafting, creating, and Netflix binging.