Photo by Wasim Muklashy/Shutterstock
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 be the best known destination for cherry blossoms, but there are parks, gardens, and scenic drives where you can see these pale pink flowers all over the United States.
It’s difficult to anticipate exactly when cherry blossoms will make their annual appearance in the United States each spring. Although much of the U.S. will see peak blooms in March or April, cherry blossoms can appear as early as February in some cities, like San Francisco, or as late as May, in Traverse City, Michigan, depending on the weather that year.
Once in bloom, these iconic flowers don’t stick around for long. But historically, that’s part of their allure. In Japan, where the world’s infatuation with these flowers originates, the cherry blossom (called sakura in Japanese) symbolizes the fleeting nature of life. 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 possible this spring, there might be some equally stunning cherry blossoms near you. But remember: An ideal visit is about more than just that perfect Instagram backdrop, so grab some pals and soak in the moment at these 12 places throughout the United States to see cherry blossoms.
In Portland, Oregon, the best place to see cherry 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 100 cherry trees planted in the park are a striking 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.
Come springtime in Dallas, horticulture enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the bloom festivities at the Dallas Arboretum. (Note that the Arboretum is subject to closure in inclement weather.) When the trees are in full bloom, visitors can enjoy them by walking or sitting among the flowers. The Arboretum’s “Dallas Blooms” festival, running from February 20 to April 11, 2021, also coincides with the cherry blossoms. With a roster of activities and events that changes each day, visitors can also enjoy live concerts, local chef demonstrations, or winetastings at the same time.
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Although you can find cherry trees throughout San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it’s worth the detour to the park’s Japanese Tea Garden where there are a handful of trees scattered among the historic garden’s bridges, pagodas, and iconic teahouse. Peak season for San Francisco’s cherry blossoms is typically around mid-March to mid-April, culminating with the city’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown (which will be held virtually in April 2021).
Since 1962, Seattle locals have known that spring at the 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 that they even have their own Twitter account.
No list about cherry blossoms in the U.S. 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.
A visit to the National Mall while the flowers are in bloom is the most popular way to experience them. However, locals who think the Mall is old hat will visit in the evening after the crowds have gone, or stroll through Dumbarton Oaks, a beautiful (and relatively tourist-free) historic estate in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. While it’s still too early to predict when exactly the flowers will be in peak bloom, forecasts for D.C.’s cherry blossoms will begin in early March.
Philly turns into a magnificently pink city come springtime, when its thousands upon thousands of cherry trees 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.
No spring in Brooklyn is properly spent without a visit to the Botanic Garden (advance tickets and masks currently required). Once inside, visitors can stroll among rows of over 200 blossoming trees. Although Sakura Matsuri, an annual celebration of Japanese tea, music, and contemporary culture won't happen in 2021, the garden plans to have extended hours during peak bloom in April and May so more people can enjoy the flowers safely.
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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 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. Although canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, whether or not the festival will go on in April 2021 has yet to be announced.
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 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.
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, generally around May each year. There are some scenic drives, like highway M-37 by Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City, which takes visitors through roughly 2 million cherry trees. Although you can’t walk through the orchards, the bikeable, 17-mile Leelanau Trail, which includes several sections that go by cherry trees, is perfect for those who prefer to view the blooms at a slower pace.
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 (psst, blooms have already started to appear).
Around March and April, 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 one of the largest collections of camellias in the Western Hemisphere blooming.
This article originally appeared online in March 2017; it was updated on February 16, 2021, to include current information.
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