Best Places to Enjoy Cherry Blossom 2021
Cherry blossoms are a symbolic flower of the spring, a time of renewal, and the fleeting nature of life. After their beauty peaks around two weeks, the blossoms start to fall. Millions have traveled to Japan to enjoy this experience first hand. For students and parents, April marks the beginning of the school year. For the working class, it is the beginning of the fiscal year. It’s a time for new beginnings, to reflect, ponder, and celebrate the new start of the year. Hanami literally means, “flower viewing”. People of every age throughout generations have gathered around the cherry blossom to celebrate. In Japan, many gather underneath the beautiful flowers with their bento boxes and their favorite sake, beer, wine, or any preferred drink to kick off the beginning of spring. We compiled a list of places by region in the United States where you can enjoy the beauty without traveling to Japan. Hope you too can reflect and celebrate the new beginning.
Descanso Gardens (Los Angeles, CA)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.
Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Garden (San Francisco, CA)
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.
Portland Japanese Garden Cherry Blossom (Portland, OR)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.
University of Washington Virtual Cherry Blossom Viewing (Seattle, WA)Since 1962, Seatlle 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.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Brooklyn, NY)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.
Branch Brook Park (Newark, NJ)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.
Fairmount Park (Philadelphia, PA)Philadelphia 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.
Charles River Esplanade (Boston, MA)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.
Ohio University (Athens, OH)
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.
The National Mall (Washington D.C.)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.