One of the prettiest indicators that spring has sprung is when the blooms of sakura (cherry blossoms) burst into color. And luckily, you don’t have to fly all the way to Japan to enjoy what this cherry blossom festival season has to offer. From coast to coast, cities across America have planted the ornamental trees in gardens and parks and celebrate this rite of spring with colorful festivals.
The national flower of Japan, sakura are revered for their beauty. In Japanese, there are 70-plus words to describe cherry blossoms. The beauty of these flowering trees, instantly recognizable for their wispy white blooms tinged with pale pink, is fleeting. Depending on weather conditions, the flowers stay in bloom for just a few weeks.
Based on the temperature of the ground and the amount of sun, the flowering of cherry blossoms usually begins in March if the weather is mild. The trees reach peak bloom when at least 70% of their blossoms have bloomed, which is usually late March. It’s during this time that cherry blossom viewing parties in Japan and around the world are held.
Hanami (花見), the centuries-old practice of flower viewing and picnicking under a blooming cherry blossom tree, was once a pastime reserved for the elite in Japan’s imperial court. Now any admirers of sakura can partake in the tradition. Get ready to petal-peep and picnic at these 10 cities that offer picture-perfect spots to view cherry blossoms — the cherry on top to your perfect spring travels.
National Cherry Blossom Festival in Traverse, Michigan
It’s fitting that the “cherry capital of the world” would also be a hotspot for cherry blossom viewing (check out the self-guided Blossom Tour Guide). For cherry blossom peeping, it’s best to drive along Old Mission peninsula to see the trees intertwined with vineyards along a route that also affords views of West and East Grand Traverse Bay. May is the best time to visit Traverse City, Michigan to see cherry blossoms in bloom in Northern Michigan, but July is also a popular time because of the National Cherry Festival.
Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco, California
Enjoying the springtime sakura is a beloved pastime in Japan and San Francisco, California. San Fran boasts one of the three remaining Japantowns in the U.S. and the neighborhood hosts the largest cherry blossom festival on the West Coast. For two weekends in April (April 8-9) and (April 15-16), cherry blossoms are in bloom at the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. Cherry blossoms can also be admired at the five-acre Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, the US’ oldest public Japanese tea garden.
San Diego Cherry Blossom Festival
Each spring, sunny San Diego, California is awash with the beauty of blooming blossoms. Cherry blossoms can be seen at Balboa Park’s Japanese Friendship Garden, which hosts the annual San Diego Cherry Blossom Festival. During the festival, March 10-12, visitors can partake in hanami, the Japanese custom of appreciating the beauty of seasonal flowers like cherry blossoms.
Cherry Blossom Festival in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles’ many gardens are in bloom with cherry blossoms each spring. Some of the best sakura sightseeing spots include the 1.3-mile footpath around Lake Balboa in the San Fernando Valley, the one-acre Japanese garden at Descanso Gardens nestled in the La Cañada Flintridge area that contains flowering cherry trees, karesansui (raked Japanese dry gravel garden), teahouse, and minka (Japanese farmhouse), and the Japanese garden at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, which is pretty in pink with ornamental cherry trees. Cherry Blossom festivals in the area include the annual Los Angeles Cherry Blossom Festival at Columbia Park in nearby Torrance, California on March 26, the Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival on April 14-16, the Monterey Park Cherry Blossom Festival on April 15-16, and the Plaza West Covina Cherry Blossom Festival on April 22.
Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival
Nashville has 1,000 cherry blossom trees planted throughout the city, making for a pastel pink paradise. The annual Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival is a Japanese cultural festival that includes performances, sumo suit wrestling, cosplay, and a 2.5-mile Cherry Blossom Walk led by Consul-General of Japan Yoichi Matsumoto. The Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival is April 15.
Dallas Blooms Cherry Blossom Festival
Every year the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden welcomes spring with Dallas Blooms, the largest annual floral festival in the Southwest. Visitors can walk among or sit beneath more than 125 Japanese pink and white cherry blossom trees. Many of the trees have been given as gifts by locals to the Arboretum. Dallas Blooms also boasts 500,000 tulips and Gary Lee Price’s “Great Contributors” sculptures of historical figures. This year’s Dallas Blooms festival runs February 25-April 16.
National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.
For more than a century, Washington, D.C. has enjoyed the spring beauty of cherry blossom trees, which now number 2,500. The iconic Japanese trees were first planted in 1912 by First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Ambassador of Japan. Take a walk around the 2.1-mile Tidal Basin Loop Trail, which has hundreds of Somei-Yoshino cherry trees studded with puffy, single white blossoms that look like clouds. The trail also includes objects of interest like a 350-year-old granite lantern gifted from the Governor of Tokyo in 1954 and a granite Japanese Pagoda that was gifted from the Mayor of Yokohama, Japan in 1957. The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival is March 20 to April 16.
University of Washington Cherry Blossoms in Seattle, Washington
During the month of March, the University of Washington quad turns pink from the 29 cherry blossom trees that populate the quad. Since the 1960s, the pretty-in-pink petals have signaled the start of spring to students and locals. The cherry blossoms usually hit their peak by the third week of March. Progress is documented in real time on the @uwcherryblossom Twitter account.
International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia
This small, southern town in Central Georgia transforms into a pink paradise each March when its 350,000 Yoshino cherry blossom trees bloom. Take a drive along the Cherry Blossom Trail that passes through Macon, Georgia‘s 12 historic districts, which contain 6,500-plus structures that are designated on the National Register of Historic Places. Each year, the town hosts what it calls the “Pinkest Party on Earth”: the International Cherry Blossom Festival. This year’s festival is March 17-26.