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12 Places to See Cherry Blossoms in the United States

By Alina Polishuk

Mar 16, 2020

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Every spring, students at the University of Washington in Seattle get to stroll through their quad under a canopy of cherry blossoms.

Photo by Shutterstock

Every spring, students at the University of Washington in Seattle get to stroll through their quad under a canopy of cherry blossoms.

Japan might get all the glory when it comes to cherry blossoms, but there are scenic displays of these pale pink flowers all over the United States.

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It’s difficult to anticipate exactly when cherry blossoms will make their annual appearance in the United States—and when they do, they don’t stick around for long. But historically, that’s part of their allure. In Japan, where the world’s infatuation with these ephemeral blooms originates, the cherry blossom (called sakura in Japanese) symbolizes the fleeting nature of life. Sure, it’s a little morose, but the Japanese counteract this notion of imminent decay with hanami, a long-standing tradition of gathering beneath the blossoms with food, music, and friends to celebrate rather than mourn.

If you dream of witnessing a bloom but a flight to Nagano is not posssible for you this spring, several places throughout the United States offer equally beautiful views of these flowers. But remember: An ideal visit is about more than just that perfect Instagram backdrop, so grab some pals and soak in the moment under the sakura.

Built to honor those who were deported to Japanese internment camps during World War II, the Tom McCall Waterfront Park is the best place in Portland to see cherry blossoms.

Portland: Tom McCall Waterfront Park

In Portland, Oregon, the best place to see blossoms is Tom McCall Waterfront Park, situated on the edge of the Japanese American Historical Plaza. The Plaza was built in 1990 to honor those forced to endure Japanese internment camps during World War II. The cherry trees are a stunning spring attraction, of course, but visitors are also encouraged to explore the rest of the Plaza, which is dotted with poems about the Japanese American experience.

Dallas: The Arboretum

Come springtime in Dallas, horticulture enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the bloom festivities at the Dallas Arboretum. Once the flowers in these botanical gardens have fully blossomed, visitors are invited to learn about Japanese culture—or to simply pack a picnic and celebrate the blossoms—during the Arboretum’s annual hanami event.

Stay for tea in San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden and you'll enjoy a lovely view of the spot’s cherry blossoms.

San Francisco: Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Garden

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In the zen enclave known as the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, there are only a handful of cherry trees. But what the Tea Garden lacks in pink-hued grandeur, it makes up for in its nod to Japanese culture. Visitors can wander around the historic garden’s bridges, pagodas, and ponds or simply soak in the colorful view from the iconic teahouse.

Seattle: University of Washington Quad

Since 1962, Seattle locals know that springtime at University of Washington is synonymous with one thing: cherry blossoms. The dozens of trees that line UW’s central quad (pictured at top) look so ethereal that stressed-out students, harried professors, and those simply passing by can’t help but stop and stare when the flowers are in bloom. In fact, the cherry blossoms are so highly anticipated each year that they even have their own Twitter account.

Washington, D.C. is one of the most famous places in the country to view cherry blossoms.

Washington, D.C.: The National Mall

No list about cherry blossoms would be complete without a mention of Washington, D.C. In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo gifted 3,000 trees to the District as a symbol of Japanese American friendship. Visiting the National Mall while the flowers are in bloom has become an attraction for millions. Locals who think the Mall is old hat might visit in the evening after the crowds have gone or stroll through Georgetown’s Dumbarton Oaks, a beautiful (and relatively tourist-free) sight to be seen. The blossoms should hit their peak this year during the last few days of March.

Philadelphia: Fairmount Park

Philly turns into a magnificently pink city come springtime, when the thousands upon thousands of cherry trees throughout town come into full bloom. The beautiful Shofusu Japanese House and Garden in Fairmount Park is the pinnacle of the sakura display, but many other viewing spots in the city don’t require an entrance fee. We love the rows of pink trees behind the Please Touch Museum in West Fairmount Park and the stretch of Kelly Drive behind Boathouse Row.

Brookyln’s Botanic Gardens, with its many blooming cherry trees, is a perfect place for a springtime stroll.

Brooklyn: Brooklyn Botanic Garden

No springtime in Brooklyn is properly spent without a visit to the Botanic Gardens. Visitors can stroll among rows of over 200 blossoming trees on a free tour or join Sakura Matsuri, an annual celebration of Japanese tea, music, and contemporary culture.

Boston: Charles River Esplanade

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There aren’t many places in Boston to see cherry blossoms, but bloom season along the Charles River Esplanade in Back Bay is truly spectacular. If the weather is warm enough, onlookers can float down the river in a kayak or paddle up close for a view from the water.

There are actually more cherry trees in New Jersey’s Branch Brook Park than there are in Washington, D.C., which is famous for its blooms.

New Jersey: Branch Brook Park

There are approximately 4,000 cherry trees in Branch Brook Park—that’s 1,000 more than the country’s most famous springtime display in Washington, D.C. Since 1927, the remarkable number of blooms at this Essex County park has been a primary draw for visitors. Nowadays, the park hosts a three-week-long Cherry Blossom Festival in April that culminates in Bloomfest!, a celebration of Japanese culture. The exact time of bloom is tricky to predict, but you can track the trees’ progress on this live feed.

Athens, Ohio: Ohio University

The 200 cherry trees that line Ohio University’s campus were a gift from the school’s Japanese sister campus, Chubu University, in 1972. In the nearly 50 years since the trees were initially planted, the ethereal pink blossoms that decorate Athens’s Hocking River have become a symbol of spring for students and faculty, as well as a commemoration of the long-standing friendship between the two institutions.

You can’t actually stroll the cherry orchards of Traverse City, but when the trees are in bloom, you can view them from hikes and along drives through the area.

Traverse City, Michigan: Highway M-37

Because Michigan is the capital of all things “cherry,” it’s only natural that the fruit-bearing trees put on a spectacular spring show throughout the state. There are some scenic hikes and drives, like highway M-37 by Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City, that showcase the region’s heavenly clouds of pale pink, although visitors can’t walk among the area’s orchards, which boast roughly 2 million cherry trees.

Los Angeles: Descanso Gardens

About 20 minutes outside of downtown Los Angeles, Descanso Gardens is considered a museum of living collections and is known for its seasonal horticultural displays. There is even a Blooming Tree Tracker, which allows you to see which flowers are budding, blooming, or past their peak. In springtime, the cherry trees here are a burst of color and the Gardens often hold cherry blossom–themed programming, such as guided walks, origami demonstrations, and flower-arranging workshops. But you might simply want to pack a picnic and enjoy the array of flowers—you’ll also get to see the one of the largest collections camellias in the Western Hemisphere blooming too. 

This article originally appeared online in March 2017; it was updated on March 16, 2020, to include current information.

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