America Is Bursting with Cherry Blossoms Right Now
Around the country, cherry blossoms festivals are finally back in full swing.
It’s that time again: Spring is on its way, and with it comes cherry blossom season, when trees around the world pop off in a fireworks display of pink-hued beauty. Although sakura season is notoriously short, this year’s display will be especially exciting: after several years of cancellations and scale-backs due to COVID-19, a number of annual cherry blossom festivals will return to full capacity this year, giving the blooms the enthusiastic audience they deserve.
Some blossoms can be observed while out on a stroll. Others are the backdrop of scenic drives. And while you may be interested in returning to recently-reopened botanical gardens, you can still ogle at them via virtual tours and photo galleries to get a little extra color in your life. The season lasts roughly from mid-March through the end of April, with trees in the southern states blooming earlier than those farther north. Here are 12 of the best places around the country to catch them, whether digitally or in person.
San Francisco, California
One of the more beloved jewels housed within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is the Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest of its kind in the US. Leisurely trails wind through zen gardens, tea houses, and sculptural pagodas. Outside the garden, San Francisco's loaded with cherry blossoms: Many are Yoshino cherry, but you’ll find all manner of fragrant pink and white varietals sprinkled around the city each spring.
Let’s turn our eyes, for a moment, to the nation’s capital—this time, not for an unprecedented political event, but for a very soothing, very precedented display of nature’s splendor! With trees that frame the landmark Tidal Basin in pink, Washington D.C.’s annual bloom is among the most famous in the US—and this year, it’s expected to arrive sometime around March 23-25. After two years away, the city’s famous cherry blossom festival—which will celebrate the 110th anniversary of the gift of sakura trees from the mayor of Tokyo to D.C.—will run this year from March 20 through April 17.
The Japanese American Historical Plaza alone contains 100 Akebono cherry trees along Portland's iconic downtown riverfront, which can be viewed via a stroll down the esplanade or from your car as you drive across the city's river-spanning bridges. You’ll find dozens more at the Hoyt Arboretum, Laurelhurst Park, and the Portland Japanese Garden, the lattermost of which claims the title of being the most authentic Japanese garden experience that is not actually in Japan. (Note that you’ll need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the Japanese Garden’s Umami Cafe.) There are a number of different varietals throughout these sites, including the double-flowered Shirofugen. Bloomtime here can last well into May, too.
Branch Brook Park, New Jersey
The state of New Jersey actually contains more cherry trees than Washington, D.C. Branch Brook Park, though, has the distinction of containing the highest concentration of cherry trees anywhere in the country—more than 5,200 of them. Essex County’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival is back for 2022, running from April 2 through April 10, when blooms will be out in full swing. The season generally peaks in the first half of April, but the park is open 365 days a year. There’s also a roller rink and an arcade on the south side, because New Jersey.
Springtime visitors to Philly’s Fairmount Park have been mesmerized by the annual cherry blossom bloom since the trees were first planted in 1926—and this year will be no exception. One of the most popular viewing spots, the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, will reopen to the public on March 23 after a long winter’s nap. If you need somewhere to clear your mind (and after the past two years, don’t we all?), their weeping cherry blossom tree, waterfall, and koi fish pond have your back. Plus, the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival is back this year from April 8-10, bringing music performances, workshops, lectures on Japanese culture, and more to the garden.
St. Louis, Missouri
Imagine spending a spring day packing a picnic, walking with a friend or two beneath the cherry trees around Gateway Arch, sprawling out in the grass for a spell, and giving your brain a break from doomscrolling, at long last. Heaven! Also in St. Louis, the Missouri Botanical Garden is another particularly lovely spot to go relax in the shade of a few dozen Yoshino cherry trees; their collection includes not just flowering trees, but fruit-bearing trees that produce everything from peaches and nectarines to apricots and (of course) cherries. Note that a few areas of the garden, including Shoenberg Temperate House, Tower Grove House, and the observatory and maze, are still closed for the time being.
The University of Washington quad is fairly famous for its luscious displays of cherry blossoms. There are well over 100 cherry trees on campus, and because they’re all different varietals some of them will be blooming even after the initial rounds have already peaked. This year, the blooms are expected to reach full bloom around the third week of March. And if you can’t make it out in person this year, you can check out the blooms online à la UW’s live cam.
Brooklyn, New York
In the gorgeous Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the cherry trees in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and the Cherry Esplanade will bloom as late as mid-May, so folks in the tri-state area should be able to catch them in real life this season (keep checking their website for updates on the bloom!). And even if after the past two years, you still haven’t quite gotten your fill of online viewings, you can watch these blossoms come to life via a virtual tour of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden.
With more than 150 of those classic Yoshino cherry trees, the Dallas Arboretum is a beloved destination for visitors and locals alike each spring. Aim for the Pecan Grove and enjoy the contrast of all the pink and white blossoms against the bright colors of half a million other blooms like daffodils and ranunculus.
The cherry trees lining Boston’s Charles River Esplanade make for an especially lovely walk (or bike ride!) each spring. Enjoying the view and the breeze along the river while you slowly work your way toward the Hatch Shell amphitheater is a springtime rite, and conceivably something at least a few of you can do this year when you’re thawing out your hibernation brain with some quick Vitamin D.
Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City, for those of you not in the know, is the Cherry Capital of the US (and possibly the world, depending on whom you ask). The flowers generally start opening up in May, beginning further inland where the weather is warmer before spreading throughout Leelanau County as the season progresses. To take in the best views, head to Old Mission Peninsula or drive along County Road 633, but know that—with the right timing—you’re likely to run into some blooms wherever you are. Bonus: Cherry-picking is a beloved local pastime here, too.
Macon calls itself the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World; unclear if this is in competition with Traverse City or if the addition of the word “Blossom” makes for a sufficient distinction. No matter! Macon contains more than 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees, which earns it the distinction of having the most cherry blossoms of any city in the world, so it gets to call itself whatever it wants. Their annual International Cherry Blossom Festival is on for 2022, celebrating its 40th anniversary from March 18-27 with parties, performers, pancake breakfasts, and—oh yes—a wiener dog race! Are you somewhere that is not Georgia? Then perk yourself up with a visit to Macon’s cherry blossom bloom cam.