The arrival of March means the blooming of the cherry blossoms, a time known as sakura season here in Japan. Fresh beginnings, longer days and optimism and sweetness in the air: it’s an inspiring moment. Luckily it’s not just Japan who gets to enjoy sakura season.
The US is also rolling into spring too and with it also comes countless cherry blossom and Japan-centric celebrations across the nation. If you find yourself in the States between now and late May here are the events and places you can’t miss for cherry blossom viewing!
So where are the best places to see the cherry blossoms in the USA? Read on to find 13 beautiful locations across America that you can enjoy this spring!
1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Mid-March until late April
Looking closer to the city, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York is home to some of the most famous cherry trees in the country. Running from mid-March until late April, each of the different cherry tree species in the park take their turn to bloom and then fall in an almost choreographed display of beauty.
Sakura Matsuri, the park’s main cherry blossom festival will run this year over the weekend of Saturday April 28 and Sunday April 29. The festival will feature 60 events in total, covering classic Japanese performances and more contemporary Japanese events like cosplay displays. Don’t miss the chance to also wander through the Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Cherry Walk, which was established in 1921.
You can read more on this festival at Japanese Festivals in America 2018.
2. Cherry Blossom Day at the Capitol, Salem, Oregon
Sponsored by the Oregon State Capitol Foundation, Cherry Blossom Day at the Capitol is a celebration of not just American cherry blossoms, but also the rich impact Japanese culture has had on the local community. The main festival is held on March 17. To see the best trees in the area, head to The Capitol Mall, Salem, the grounds of which are covered in lines of cherry trees that blossom between late February to early March.
Also running alongside this event is the Cherry Blossom Theatre Festival hosted by the The Salem Theatre Network. Kicking off on March 9th and running for three days, the festival hosts a series for performances and workshops bringing together actors, theatre lovers and community members alike.
3. Macon Georgia International Cherry Blossom Festival
Running for over 35 years now, the Macon Georgia International Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the biggest (and they claim the pinkest) in the country. Although many assume that DC is America’s home of the cherry blossom, it turns out that Macon, Georgia, actually has an astonishing 300,000 blooming Yoshino cherry trees, most of which you can find at Central City Park.
Throughout the week the city hosts a variety of events, some a lot more traditional than others, but all a whole lot of fun. Starting with an opening ceremony on the 16th, some of the event highlights include the annual parade on the 18th and the street party on the 24th. For a full rundown on the events, be sure to check out the website: cherryblossom.com.
4. The Washington DC Sakura Matsuri Festival
Blossoms March 20-April 15; main festival on April 14
The DC Sakura Matsuri Festival is perhaps the biggest cherry blossom festival in America. Taking over the Capitol Riverfront neighbourhood, covering around six blocks in total, the event is located between Pennsylvania Avenue, between 3rd and 7th St. If you visit the official website you can get a better idea of where the heart of the festival lies. This year marks the 58th anniversary of the event, and it’s set to be massive. There will be performances, food stands, and arts and culture hub right in the middle of the festivities.
To get a good view of the trees, ride the DC Circulator’s National Mall Route. Starting at Union Station, this bus route takes guests around the Tidal Basin and cuts through many of the city’s major tourist locations, which you’ll find are populated by a majority of the city’s blossoms. You can get route info and check out the map on the National Mall Route website.
5. Dallas Arboretum
If you’re in Dallas during spring, head on over to the Dallas Arboretum to get in on the cherry blossom action. The area is home to about 150 cherry trees in total that, have already begun to bloom for the 2018 season. To celebrate the event, The Dallas Arboretum has partnered with the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth to put on a special event on March 23. Running from 12:30pm until 2:30pm, the event features live performances of the koto (floor harp) and shakuhachi (Japanese flute) as well as other cultural activities like calligraphy and origami workshops. Pack a little lunch, sit under the trees and enjoy the festivities just as if you were in Japan.
6. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
For cherry trees in Ohio, make your way to Ohio University. Home to around 200 trees, the grounds of the university are stunning, covered in soft pink blossoms throughout spring. For over 30 years now the trees have influenced the landscape of the university and even inspired a website called Sakura Watch. Though there’s no specific event held on the grounds for the cherry blossom season, but it’s worth visiting in the afternoon and spend some time there as the day rolls on into the evening to see the trees illuminated, just like they are in Japan.
7. The Irmo Cherry Blossom Festival
March 25-April 8
Held in the Irmo Town Park, located at 7330 Carlisle Street in Irmo South Carolina, the Irmo Cherry Blossom Festival is a very local celebration. In previous years the festival has been held in the very early days of April. Expect live music performances in the park, art displays, food stands, hands-on community events and plenty of blossoms.
In terms of cherry blossom trees, the beast place to see them is around the Irmo park. If you can’t make it to the festival but find yourself in the area in spring, head that way anyway! The town is rather small, with a population of only 1,200, however it’s an easy 10 mile journey from Columbia, the capital of South Carolina.
8. Branch Brook Park
Sitting on the northern end of Newark, between the neighborhoods of Forest Hill and Roseville, the Branch Brook Park claims to have the largest collection of cherry trees in the US. Kicking off on April 7, the park hosts a number of cherry blossom celebrations including bike rides and a 10 kilometre run, both on the 7th; a family day and one mile walk on the 14th; and their Bloomfest on the 15th. If you want to get a more comprehensive view of the blossoms, consider joining a Cherry Blossom Bus Tour. Tours run from April 18-22.
9. Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia
A creation of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia, the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival is a week-long event celebration of everything Japan. On Sunday (known as Sakura Sunday) the main event is held at the Horticulture Centre in Fairmount Park, held over two stages and surrounded by the soft pink sakura blossoms. There are live performances, arts and craft displays and a nearby a tours of Shofuso, a local Japanese House and Garden. If you can’t make it to the event it’s still worth visiting Fairmount Park, as it’s home to hundred of blossoming trees, two of which were planted here back in 1926.
To learn more about Shofuso Japanese House and Garden take a look at 12 Stunning Japanese Gardens in America.
10. Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival
Held in Nashville Public Square, the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival is a free, family-friendly celebration. The day will be filled with classic Japanese performances, like taiko drumming and martial arts shows, as well as incredible Japanese festival food, like yakisoba as well as other cultural attractions. To see all the blossoms in the area, join in on the cherry blossom walk in the morning of the festival. Kicking off at 9:45am, the walk will take you through some of the best local sites.
If you miss the walk, don’t worry, Nashville is home to thousands cherry trees, most of which are clustered in the downtown area. For more info you can check out their detailed cherry tree map.
11. San Francisco Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
One of California’s biggest celebrations of Asian culture, the San Francisco Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival draws an audience of around 200,000 annually. Kicking off at 1pm on April 22, the Grand Parade is the centrepiece of the event. Starting at the Civic Center before heading up Polk to Post Street, and finishing in Japantown near Post and Fillmore streets, it’s here you can witness just what it’s like to be a part of a Japanese matsuri (traditional street festival).
Throughout the week the city celebrates a number of different cultural events including music programs, a taiko festival, bonsai and ikebana workshops and kendama championships just to name a few. They’re all run somewhat separately but still come together under the festival banner, so to get a better idea of what’s happening and when, visit the website.
12. Charles River Esplanade in Boston
Mid-April until early June
In Spring Boston’s Charles River Esplanade looks like something ripped straight out of a fairy-tale. The flowing river is flanked by walls of soft pink flowers, making it one of the best times of the year for visiting. Flowering from mid-April until early May, the city’s cherry trees are accompanied by magnolias, tulips, late daffodils and azaleas leaving the city awash with colour.
Running alongside cherry tree season, the city hosts their annual Japan Festival, a celebration of Japanese food and culture. Held on the Sunday April 29, the festival features a variety of Japanese performances, but arguably the biggest highlight of the event is the Cosplay Deathmatch where contestants compete for the best costume award. The winner is judged by whoever gets the loudest cheer, so expect the event to get a little rowdy.
13. Traverse City, Michigan
Mid-May until June
With its tall, rolling hills carpeted in soft pink blossoms, there’s really no better place to witness the majesty of sakura season than Traverse City, Michigan. One of the best ways to see the blossoms is by getting in a car and heading out via Old Mission Peninsula way on the M-37 state highway. This highway cuts right through the peninsula offering plenty of opportunities to see vineyards and cherry trees. Another suggestion is to head to Leelanau County, along County Road 633, which takes your straight through the centre of the county. For all the up-to-date tips and suggestions, keep an eye on the Traverse City Facebook page.
Where do you think is the best place to see cherry blossoms in the US? Let us know in the comments below!