In 1910, the first batch of cherry trees arrived in Washington, D.C. from Japan. And over a century later, the trees drooping with pink blooms cover the country—from upstate New York to Northern California. Locals and tourists alike flock to the country’s capitol to see the annual bloom, but why not mix it up? Visit these six states that celebrate the same tree, but with different traditions.
Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival in Buffalo, NY (April 30-May 7)
Known for its cold climate, Buffalo isn’t the first destination that comes to mind when thinking of springy cherry blossoms. But come April, the weather gets warm enough for these flowers to thrive in the Japanese Garden of Delaware Park. The festival first began to drive attention toward the Cherry Tree Grove in the garden, and now in its third year, brings what the city calls a “blizzard of blossoms” after the cold winter weather. From Japanese film festivals to cocktail parties and lectures, attendees have plenty to look forward to during the weeklong celebration.
Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco, CA (April 9-10, April 16-17)
This year’s festival marks the city’s 49th anniversary of celebrating cherry blossoms, and all three days are jam-packed with a series of events. NCCBF is partnering with the Asian Art Museum for the second year in a row, which brought Asian art into the city in the 1960s. The festival takes place in San Fran’s Japantown, filled with cultural events that range from traditional tea ceremonies to Japanese doll making and origami folding lessons.
The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival in Philadelphia, PA (April 11 –17)
Now running on its 18th year, Philly’s festival is around the corner yet again, celebrating its sakura (cherry blossom in Japanese) trees first planted in 1926—a gift given by the Japanese government to celebrate 150 years of American Independence. And since the start of the festival, the Japan American Society of Greater Philadelphia has continued to add more of these trees blossoming pink. The celebration is filled with sushi making, sake dinners, and cultural film screenings, building up to the main event of Sakura Sunday—a daylong event under the cherry blossoms, acknowledging everything Japanese.
Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival in Nashville, TN (April 9)
Nashville’s festival may only last one day, but there is no shortage of partying. Starting at 9 a.m., Japanese pop music will fill the area of J-Funland (the festival’s shopping area) as vendors set up their shops selling modern Japanese-inspired goods. Locals dress up as their favorite anime, manga (comic books), and video game characters and participate in the “Cosplay” Contest, where the winning costumer takes home a round-trip ticket to Tokyo. And for those who can’t wait until April 9, organizers post a picture of a pink Japanese wishing doll called a “Daruma” somewhere in Nashville every Tuesday and Friday leading up to the festival, and whoever guesses the location first wins a special prize.
Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival in Newark, NJ (April 9 – 24)
With more cherry blossoms than Washington, D.C., the city of Newark doesn’t limit itself to celebrating cherry blossoms for one day, or even seven days. The festival is spaced out throughout three weeks in April, starting with cyclists participating in the Cherry Blossom Challenge Bike Race and ending with Bloomfest—the most popular event celebrating Japanese culture through live music, marketplace shopping, and traditional food fare.
Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival in St. Louis, MO (April 28 – 30)
Rather than focusing on Japan, Missouri’s festival highlights American culture through historic panels, honorary dinners, and special appearances—ranging from former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and actress Karolyn Grimes from It’s a Wonderful Life. Throughout the three-day event, attendees can purchase their own cherry blossom tree, participate in the cherry pie content, and even have little ones compete for Little Miss & Mr. Cherry Blossom.