What better harbinger of spring than an explosion of cherry blossoms? After several years of canceled or reduced events, cherry blossom festivals are once again in full swing. Strolling under boughs full of pink blossoms sounds like a perfect way for women over 60 to get some low-key exercise and breathe fresh air.
Cherry blossom festivals began in Japan during the Nara period, about 1,300 years ago, and with them the tradition of hanami–enjoying the beauty of blooming sakura (cherry) or ume (plum) trees. The prize of the cherry blossom show, though, is the beautiful Yoshino cherry (Prunus × yedoensis), which is mass planted throughout Japan.
Whether they are Yoshino or fruit-bearing trees, there are plenty of places to walk through avenues of pink and white blossoms. We found some of the best–make that showiest–places to see cherry blossoms this year and we also share dates when you can expect the best blooms.
Ueno Park, March 15 – April 5
There are more than 1,000 places in Japan where one can witness a spectacular show of cherry blossoms with a season that extends from mid-March to late April. With around 1,200 cherry trees, Ueno Park is one of the most famous. The first cherry trees in today’s Ueno Park were planted by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the 3rd shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868). Today nearly 2 million visitors come to the park for hanami when the cherry blossoms bloom. For more info: japan.travel, youcouldtravel.com
Washington, D. C.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival, March 18 – April 16
The image of pink blossoms encircling the Tidal Basin, framing the Jefferson Monument, is almost as American as apple pie.
The festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC, and celebrates the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan. This year’s festival spans four weeks and expects to welcome more than 1.5 million visitors. Blossoms are predicted to hit peak bloom between March 22 and 25. For more info: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Bloesempark, Amsterdamse Bos, March 20 – April 15
It may come as a surprise but there are more spring blooms to see than tulips in the Netherlands. Cherry blossoms make their appearance in mid-to-late March and last until early April. Just on the periphery of Amsterdam, the Cherry Blossom Festival (Kersenbloesem festival) takes place in Amstelveen every year when the trees are blossoming. Amstelveen’s 400 cherry trees were donated in 2000 by the Japan Women’s Club (JWC). For more info: dutchreview.com
Province of Cáceres, March 17 – May 3
Spain is the second largest producer of cherries in Europe and the seventh largest producer in the world, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of opportunities to see groves of blossoms. The Jerte Valley, in Extremadura, celebrates the flowering of the cherry trees every year, usually at the end of March and beginning of April, depending on the weather. The hills in the valley turn completely white with cherry blossoms. Exhibitions, medieval markets, open-air celebrations, routes or tasting sessions, amongst other activities, take place in the towns in the valley. There are about 1.5 million cherry trees and more than 50 different varieties in the province of Cáceres. For more info: spain.info
Jinhae, South Korea
Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival, March 26 – April 2
In the spring, cherry blossoms (beot-kkeot in Korea) start to make an appearance in most cities and towns. The most spectacular show is in and around Jinhae, where some 340,000 cherry trees bloom alongside streams, railroad tracks, and on mountainsides. The Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival in Jinhae is largest cherry blossom festival in South Korea.
A four-hour drive from Seoul, Jinhae offers multiple locations to enjoy views of the cherry blossoms. Go to the Romance Bridge at the Yeojwacheon Stream and see the illuminated sakura trees at night or visit Gyeonghwa Station. The line of cherry trees surrounding the train is the perfect place to take some souvenir photos. Bus tours from Seoul and Busan are available from several companies. For more info: kkday.com
Brooklyn Botanical Garden, late March–early May
Flowering cherries bloom at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden from late March or early April through mid-May. Cherry trees usually first blossom at the same time that the daffodils bloom. No one tree remains in flower for more than a week, and there is no moment when all are blooming at once. Instead, different species and cultivars blossom in succession, allowing many opportunities to savor the season.
More than 40 species and cultivars are represented in Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Flowering Cherry Collection. Cherry Walk was planted in 1921 and quickly became known as one of the best sites to view cherry blossoms in North America. The installation of the Cherry Esplanade in 1941 increased the Garden’s reputation for spectacular spring displays. Sakura Matsuri, the Garden’s annual cherry blossom festival, held this year April 27–April 28, celebrates Japanese culture with a rich program of events. More info: bbg.org
Branch Brook Park, April 1-16
At 360 acres, Branch Brook Park, which was designed by the Olmstead Brothers of Central Park fame, is the largest public park in the city of Newark. The park is noted for having the largest collection of cherry blossom trees in the United States, having over 5,125 in more than 18 varieties. Walkways wind through groves of trees in shades of white, pink, and rose.
The park’s Cherry Blossom Festival is held each April, with Bloomfest held during peak bloom. (Check out a live feed from the county’s “Cherry Blossom Web Cam” here.) Transportation to the Cherry Blossom Festival is available by NJ Transit public bus and rail systems. For more info: branchbrookpark.org; essexcountyparks.org
West Fairmont Park, April 4-16
Celebrating Japanese culture throughout the region, the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival in Philadelphia is a collection of more than a dozen events that run April 15-16. There will be performances and activities ranging from origami to tea demonstrations.
The Cherry Blossom Festival takes its name and inspiration from the fleeting beauty of the sakura, the Japanese word for cherry blossoms. The first blossoming cherry trees were planted in Fairmount Park in 1926, a gift to the City of Philadelphia by the people of Japan. ow there are hundreds. For more info: japanphilly.org; visitphilly.com
London, U. K.
Greenwich Park, April 2023
Generally, April is cherry blossom (or sakura) month in London. But the blooms can appear as early as March and last until as late as May, depending on whether it’s been a mild or cold spring. This year expect a spring of beautiful blossoms: a cold February provided the required “chill time” to ‘release’ the trees to flower once spring warms up. The RHS expects the flowering cherry season in April to be especially luxuriant this year.
There are several superb spots to immerse yourself in the cherry blossom experience, from outside St. Paul’s Cathedral (pictured above) to the RHS Wisley Garden in suburban Surrey. The favorite among Londoners to pass a quiet morning or afternoon among the blooms might just be Greenwich Park.
Greenwich Park–a favorite hunting ground of Henry VIII back in the day–may be one of the prettiest places to enjoy cherry blossoms in London. The road beyond the Royal Observatory and Planetarium is lined with beautiful trees, creating a stunning Japanese-style cherry blossom tunnel. It’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into the countryside, a far cry from the dust and noise of the city. For more info: londonist.com
Parc de Sceaux, April 1 – May 8
Cherry blossoms grace avenues and courtyards all over Paris in spring. You’ll find sprays of blooms in the Trocadero, by the Eiffel Tower, in the Jardins de Plantes, and the Luxembourg Garden. The most impressive grouping of cherry trees in the greater Paris area isn’t in the city, however, but south on the RER B in the Domaine de Sceaux (pronounced “sew”). The chateau and its gardens are picture-perfect, with blossoms as far as the eye can see. On warm sunny days they make an ideal canopy for a picnic on the grass.
Hanami, the famous spring cherry blossom festival, is celebrated at the Parc de Sceaux from April 1 to May 8. Peak bloom is expected the weekend of April 15 and 16, when the Domaine départemental de Sceaux holds a variety of Japanese culture workshops including Manga drawing, Ikebana (Japanese floral art), origami, and furoshiki (fabric folding). For more info: parisdiscoveryguide.com; sortiraparis.com
Boston Esplanade, April
Cherry trees planted along Boston’s Esplanade burst into bloom in April. You’ll find the highest concentration of cherry trees in the section of the Esplanade bordering Back Bay. Mid-to-late April is usually a good bet. Running alongside cherry tree season, the city hosts its annual Japan Festival, a celebration of Japanese food and culture. Held on April 27-28, the festival features a variety of Japanese performances. More info: rove.me
High Park Hillside Gardens, late April-Early May
The history of sakura trees in High Park started in April 1959, when the Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara, presented 2,000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura trees to the citizens of Toronto on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo.
Most of the sakura trees are concentrated in Hillside Gardens of the High Park. They are especially picturesque by the Duck Pond, one of the most photographed places in the park. Cherry trees blossom for about a week and a half here if the weather is not rainy. For more info: highparknaturecentre.com
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