Bah! Cherries! UW’s Famous Blossoms Draw the Crowds (And Annoy the Locals)


The cherry blossoms bring more than just beauty to the University of Washington campus in Seattle. They also bring undesirable disruption to the campus community. The 29 Yoshino cherry trees surrounding the University quad attract thousands of visitors each year as they reach their peak bloom. The trees, which were brought to UW in 1912, are an integral piece of the university’s campus. 

Despite the historic nature and popularity of the quad during the peak bloom of the trees, some regulars in the U District neighborhood find themselves frustrated during these weeks of the year as they battle flocks of tourists walking on the campus and creating congestion on surrounding roads and in local small businesses. 

“They are really beautiful, but during these busy weeks as they bloom I feel as though I have to account for nearly twice the amount of time to get around for class and practice,” UW student-athlete Oliver Black said. “And that may not seem like that big of a deal, but when it is finals week and you are rushing to get places on time, the extra foot traffic is a problem.” 

The cherry blossoms are deemed as being “peak bloom” when 70 percent of the buds have emerged, which typically falls in the third week of March. That week aligns perfectly with UW’s winter quarter finals week. So as students reach one of the busier times in their academic term, so does their college campus. 

But it is not just the foot traffic that disrupts U District residents. The majority of streets and highways in the surrounding area face bumper-to-bumper traffic. The University rightly encourages visitors to use public transportation to avoid extreme congestion, but many still find themselves stuck in traffic during their local commutes. 

(Photo: Kadian)

“My bus route is finally back on time,” UW student Kiana Pavlovic said. “It was a matter of weeks where it took nearly an additional 45 minutes to get home from work, and most of the traffic was just in the U District and its nearest surrounding highway exits.” 

Maybe the beauty of these trees is entirely worth the extra traffic by foot and car, but local businesses struggle with the surplus of visitors too. 

Seven Market is a local coffee shop and small grocery store located in the Ravenna neighborhood, a few blocks north of the campus. It is tailored for smaller crowds, typically having one employee working at a time. “Cherry Blossom weeks are a bit interesting, especially working alone,” Seven Market barista Brighid Donohue said. “If we have rushes it takes a lot longer since there is only one person working.” 

(Photo: Kadian)

The quaint nature of this market brings regulars back each day. When thousands of people circulate through the streets of U District during the weeks of the blossoms, they stop in for a drink and are typically upset by the slowed service. “People who are visiting or don’t live near this neighborhood don’t quite understand,” Donohue said. “They typically don’t realize the speed of only having a single employee. Many times visitors get frustrated and clearly antsy about the wait.” 

Seven Market is a place where locals choose to slow down, but the tourist attraction of the cherry blossoms takes away from the nature of a true neighborhood business. 

“It [Seven Market] is small, and everything is old,” Donohue said. “It gives an air of being slow, that’s the heart of it. If you are rushing and just looking to get a drink wherever seems to be convenient, you’re not going to appreciate it for what it is.” 

As the wind starts to blow the leaves off of the cherry trees in the quad and U District regulars begin to revert to their normal daily routines again, there is a sigh of relief. Is this selfish? Or is the hesitance of thousands of people disrupting the lifestyles of locals over multiple weeks an acceptable complaint to have and take steps to correct? 

Visitors flock to the quad on the second to last weekend in March to see the Yoshino cherry trees. The steps on the northeast side of the quad provide an elevated view of the crowded quad.

A view of the quad from the southwest as visitors walk through and pose with the trees. Visitors can expect the busiest days to view the cherry blossoms to occur when the sun is also out.

Tess Kadian
Tess Kadian
Tess Kadian is a part of the UW Journalism News Lab. 


  1. What a whine!!!!
    Suck it up!
    These are good problems amongst many bad ones

    The blossoms speak to over a hundred years of beauty and tradition They are a welcome sight after any gloomy winter.

    Be thankful for your privileges among the cherry trees. Smile and add to the cheer of the cherriees

  2. Darn. Those old cherry trees have to bloom at the most inconvenient time! Mother Nature sure has it in for us, and here’s one more outrageous example. And too many customers for local businesses. Outrageous!!

    Here’s an idea:
    How about sending all those gawkers to Washington D.C.? Or better yet, Japan. Let them complain about the crowds. Or maybe just suck it up and enjoy the show.

  3. What a lame whine. Seattle has many incredible places where “the locals” must suffer, SUFFER, I TELL YOU! when the place becomes temporarily attractive. Ever hear of Alki? Every sunny day through August. Same with Golden Gardens. Any of the neighborhoods with a beach on Lake Washington. Greenlake much of the year.

    At UW? The cherry trees are blooming for weeks, and finals are just a few days. How DO you students manage athletic events? Visits by dignitaries? Protests by malcontents and activists alike? Oh! The horror!!

    Get over yourselves and enjoy your short experience on one of the most beautiful public university campuses in the US, where, long ago, there was foresight and wisdom to plant both classic college architecture and beautiful trees.


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