Looking to celebrate cherry blossom season this spring? This guide covers all the best places to see Japanese cherry blossoms in the USA, from big cities to small towns, plus every can't-miss festival!
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I don't know what it is about cherry blossoms, but they're just so magical. There's nothing quite like being surrounded by an ethereal cloud of these pink and white flowers!
Cherry blossoms, also known as sakura (桜), are Japan's unofficial national flower. These exquisite flowering trees bloom in spring, and they symbolize hope and renewal, as well as the fleeing nature of life (due to their short life span).
The delicate, fluffy blooms are world-renowned for their beauty. Especially in Japan, where they take flower viewing to a whole other level.
You don't have to travel around the world to enjoy sakura though, because there are tons of places to view cherry blossoms in the U.S.!
History of U.S. Cherry Blossoms
The history of cherry blossoms in the United States began in 1885 with Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, who had just returned from Japan. Mrs. Scidmore petitioned the government to plant the trees along the Potomac. There was little interest however, and while she kept up her pleas for 24 years, her campaign mostly fell on deaf ears.
In 1908, Dr. David Fairchild, who had successfully planted cherry trees at his home, gave an Arbor Day lecture promoting planting the trees in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Skidmore was in attendance. She decided to raise money for the trees and sent a note to the First Lady, Helen Herron Taft, who was a fan of the idea.
Dr. Jokichi Takamine, a Japanese chemist who was visiting D.C. with the Japanese consul in New York, heard of the plan. He suggested donating 2,000 cherry trees on behalf of Japan. Tokyo's Mayor, Yukio Ozaki, supported the idea and Mrs. Taft agreed to accept the donation.
In January 1910, the trees arrived in D.C. Unfortunately, they were infested with insects and had to be destroyed. The U.S. Secretary of State expressed his deep regret to the Japanese Ambassador, and Tokyo's Mayor offered a second donation.
On March 26, 1912, a second shipment of 3,020 healthy cherry trees finally arrived in Washington, D.C. The next day, the First Lady and the wife of the Japanese Ambassador, Viscountess Chinda, planted two trees during a quiet ceremony on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin. The other trees were planted over the next several years.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington continues this tradition of cultural exchange and international friendship. The two original trees are also still standing! You can find them several hundred yards west of the John Paul Jones Memorial ... look for a bronze plaque commemorating the occasion.
Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in the U.S.
You can find these lovely trees blossoming in cities throughout the United States. Many of the trees were grafted from the original trees planted in Washington, D.C., while others were planted through cooperation with Japanese-American groups and / or through Japanese and American sister city partnerships.
Ready to see these cloud-like flowers for yourself? Then keep reading, because I've rounded up all the best cherry blossom locations in the U.S below!
1. Washington, D.C.
When most people think of sakura in the U.S., they think of our capital city, Washington, D.C.! The original trees were a 1912 gift from Yukio Ozaki, the mayor of Tokyo, and today, they're a cherished symbol of the enduring friendship between American and Japanese people.
Each year, over 1.5 million people attend the city's multi-week festival (details below), so you can expect crowds when viewing these iconic blooms along the Tidal Basin, the National Mall, and in East Potomac Park! Before your visit, check out this guide to the best spots to photograph cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.
2. Athens, Ohio
Ohio University in Athens is home to 200 Somei Yoshino trees, all of which were a 1972 gift from the college’s sister institution, Japan's Chubu University. The trees are a lovely sight when they flower along the Hocking River each spring!
3. Bethesda, Maryland
Looking for less crowded alternative to Washington, D.C.? Head to the Kenwood neighborhood in Bethesda instead! A developer planted cherry trees here in the 1930s and 1940s, hoping to attract home buyers. Today, over 1,200 trees line the streets, creating a breathtaking sight every spring.
4. Boston, Massachusetts
Head to the Charles River Esplanade for Boston's largest concentration of cherry trees! The section bordering Back Bay (between the Fiedler Footbridge and the Mass Ave. access ramp) features the most blooms. Enjoy them during a stroll along the Esplanade or, for a different perspective, from a kayak in the river.
You may also spot cherry blossoms and other spring flowers in the Public Garden, the South End, and between buildings in the North End. Don't miss the city's annual Japan Festival, too (more info below).
5. Brooklyn, New York
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is the #1 destination for sakura viewing in New York City! You’ll find over 200 stunning trees and 26 species to ogle in the Cherry Esplanade, Cherry Walk, and Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden!
Make sure to check the cherry watch tracker before your visit, and for the full experience, plan on attending during the BBG’s Sakura Matsuri festival (learn more below).
6. Chicago, Illinois
To view cherry blossoms in Chicago, head to Jackson Park! You'll find 160 trees (planted to commemorate the 1983 World's Fair) in the Japanese Garden on the Wooded Island, just south of the Museum of Science and Industry.
7. Cincinnati, Ohio
Head to lovely Ault Park to enjoy over 1,000 cherry blossom trees in Cincinnati! The trees were gifted to the city's mayor in the 1930s, and today the park features two groves of trees. You can also find trees at Sawyer Point, Bellevue Beach Park, Eden Park, and Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum.
8. Dallas, Texas
Texas might not seem like a cherry blossom mecca, but the lovely Dallas Arboretum is home to over 150 trees which line the central walkway and brighten the garden every spring. The best time to see them is during the annual Blooms Festival (details below), which also features over 500,000 tulips and other flowers!
9. Fort Worth, Texas
The Fort Worth Botanic Garden is another great spot to view these fabulous flowering trees in Dallas-Fort Worth area. Spring is the perfect time to visit the 7.5 acre Japanese Garden there, especially during the annual festival (details below).
10. Los Angelos, California
There are a number of places to view sakara in Los Angelos. For the biggest concentration of blooms, head to Lake Balboa Park in Van Nuys, which boasts over 2,000 trees! Don't stop there though ... you can also view these flowering trees at the Sun Coast Botanic Garden, Huntington Library, and the Decanso Gardens.
11. Macon, Georgia
This southern city is home to an astounding 350,000 cherry trees! It all started in 1949 when William A. Fickling, Sr. found a unique blooming tree in his yard. After learning it was a Yoshino tree, his family began distributing trees to other Macon residents.
Today, Macon considers itself the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World! You can view the trees around the city's downtown, on its college campuses, in its neighborhoods, by driving the Cherry Blossom Trail, or by attending the annual festival (more info below).
12. Nashville, Tennessee
When it comes to Nashville, you might be thinking country music, but the city is also home to over 1,000 cherry blossom trees ... many of which were planted since 2009! Enjoy these beautiful blooms for a couple weeks every spring (check out this interactive map for locations), and don't miss the city annual festival (details below).
13. Newark, New Jersey
You might be surprised to learn that Branch Brook Park (which stretches through Newark and Belleville) has more sakura than you’ll find in Washington, D.C.! Even better, it’s just a quick hop, skip, and a jump (about an hour drive) from NYC.
This pretty park has over 5,000 cherry blossom trees, including 18 varieties. Start your trip at the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center to discover where they’re all located. And for peak blossom viewing, make sure to plan your visit during the park’s cherry blossom festival … details below!
14. Newark, Ohio
Celebrate the arrival of spring at the Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio! The serene Japanese Garden here features numerous flowering cherry trees in a beautiful setting. For more places to see the trees in Ohio, check out the listing for Cincinnati and Athens above, and this article has cherry tree locations throughout the state.
15. New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven's Wooster Square neighborhood is known as one of the prettiest spots to view cherry blossoms! Over 70 Yoshino cherry trees surround a downtown park there and form a tree tunnel over a block of Hughes Place. The annual festival (details below) draws crowds, too!
16. New York, New York
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden (mentioned above) might be the most popular place to see these spring blooms in New York, but it's far from the only place! In facts, you'll find these gorgeous trees sprinkled throughout the entire city. Check out my NYC Cherry Blossom guide to learn about the best spots in every borough, from popular locations like Central Park to my favorite secret spots!
17. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Visit Philly’s Fairmount park to view over 2,000 flowering cherry trees at the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, many of which were a gift from the Japanese government in 1926. This beautiful hand-painted map will help you locate sakura in Fairmont Park and other locations around Philly. And make sure to check out the annual festival, too (details below).
18. Portland, Oregon
You'll find many cherry blossoms in Portland! For the best (and probably most crowded) viewing spot, head to the Japanese American Historical Plaza (part of the Tom McCall Waterfront Park), which features 100 Akebono cherry trees. You can also find the beautiful blooms in Washington Park, specifically in the Hoyt Arboretum and the Japanese Gardens, along with other parks and areas throughout the city.
19. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
The cherry trees in this New Hampshire city have a unique history! They were a 1985 gift from Portsmouth's sister city, Nichinan, where the lead Japanese negotiator of the 1905 Portsmouth Peace Treaty (which ended the Russo-Japanese War) was born. The trees are a living memorial to the treaty and can be seen on the bank of South Mill Pond next to City Hall, the city's schools (each one has a tree), and other sites connected with the historic treaty in Portsmouth and throughout New Hampshire.
20. Salem, Oregon
Salem's nickname is the Cherry City (due to the many orchards once found there), so it's no surprise that the city is also known for its bountiful cherry blossoms! You can enjoy 151 Akebono cherry trees on The Capitol Mall, plus additional trees throughout the city, each spring. And don't forget to check out the Salem's annual Cherry Blossom Day (more info below).
21. San Diego, California
Beautiful Balboa Park in sunny San Diego is home to over 200 Pink Cloud trees, a variety that does well in warmer climates. To see them, visit the park's Japanese Friendship Garden, which is also host to the city's annual Cherry Blossom Week (details below)!
22. San Francisco, California
Cherry Blossoms can be found throughout San Francisco, and this city is home to one of the most popular cherry blossom festivals, too (info below). You'll spot the best blooms near Japantown, as well as in Golden Gate Park at the stunning Japanese Tea Garden and the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
23. San Mateo, California
Head to San Mateo's downtown Central Park to enjoy a beautiful display of blooms in late winter / early spring. The Japanese Garden there, which includes a granite pagoda, tea house, koi pond, and bamboo grove, is especially beautiful when the cherry trees are blooming!
24. St. Louis, Missouri
You'll find over 230 trees (including weeping Higan, Yoshino, and other varieties) at the stunning Missouri Botanical Garden, many of which are clustered around its traditional Japanese garden. About 20 of the trees were grafted from the original trees given to Washington, D.C., by the Japanese in 1912!
25. Seattle, Washington
There are hundreds of cherry blossom trees in Seattle, but you'll find some of the prettiest surrounding the Quad at the University of Washington (there's even a Twitter feed that follows bloom activity)! Other pretty spots are Azalea Way and the Japanese Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum, Seward Park, and Jefferson Park. And don't forget about the annual festival (info below).
26. Traverse City, Michigan
Take a self-guided road trip to enjoy miles of rolling hills covered with blooming cherry trees in Traverse City! For maximum rubbernecking, follow Highway M-37 on the Old Mission Peninsula, County Road 633 in Leelanau County (or bike the Leelanau Trail), Joyfield Road in Benzie County, or Herring Road in Blaine Township.
27. Waimea, Hawaii (Big Island)
Cherry trees typically require cool weather to bloom, so they don't grow in many places in Hawaii ... which makes the 75 trees lining Church Row Park (on the Mamalahoa Highway-side) an extra special site to behold! Waimea also plays host to an annual festival (more details below).
28. Wahiawa, Hawaii (Oahu)
To see the largest collection of sakura in Hawaii, visit Wahiawa in central Oahu! You'll find over 500 cherry blossom trees in this valley, many of which were a gift from Okinawa (although residents continue to propagate them today). A fun way to view them is aboard the Sakura Safari, a 90-minute trolley ride, during the annual Sakura Matsuri event (details below).
Have you ever been to any of these cities during spring? Let me know which one is your favorite in the comments!
How to Hanami
As you can see, there are many places to see cherry blossoms in the U.S. these days. And to enjoy these delicate blooms to the fullest, you need to experience hanami!
Hanami (花見) means flower viewing in Japanese. It usually refers to cherry blossom viewing, and hanami often involves picnicking under the blossoming trees, during the day or at night (yozakura or 夜桜), a walk in a park, or gathering for large events and festivals.
This tradition goes back centuries in Japan, where huge crowds gather during cherry blossom season, but hanami is catching on here in the U.S., too. Check out this guide to hanami for more tips!
Tip: The most important thing when planning a cherry blossom viewing trip is timing! Once the trees bloom, the flowers usually only last a week or two ... sometimes less, if a storm passes through! So give yourself some wiggle room, and make sure to check bloom trackers and seasonal predictions.
Cherry Blossom Festivals
Another way to celebrate cherry blossom season is by attending a local festival! You'll find these special events held throughout the USA:
- Dallas Blooms (February 19 to April 10, 2022) - Considered the largest floral festival in the southwest, this six-week celebration is the best place to see cherry blossom trees in Dallas, plus thousands of other spring flowers ... including 500,000 tulips!
- San Diego Cherry Blossom Week (March 11 - 13, 2022) - This multi-day event features a children's area, performances, a beer and sake garden, tea garden, and more!
- Macon International Cherry Blossom Festival (March 18 to 27, 2022) - Celebrate love, beauty, and international friendship at The Pinkest Party on Earth in Macon, Georgia, home to over 300,000 cherry blossom trees!
- Salem Cherry Blossom Day at the Capitol (Third Saturaday of March) - This annual event, which is virtual in 2022, is held on The Capitol Mall in Salem, Oregon.
- National Cherry Blossom Festival (March 20 to April 17, 2022) - This massive, bucket list-worthy event is perhaps the most well-known of all the U.S. festivals! It commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the mayor of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C., and it celebrates the friendship of Japanese and American people.
- Tuscaloosa Sakura Festival (March 26, 2022) - The University of Alabama puts on this yearly fest! In 2022, the festival will have a combination of virtual and personal events, including art and haiku contest, plus lots more.
- Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival (March 26 to 27, 2022) - This Georgia festival encourages cultural understanding and friendship through international music, dance, games, food and crafts.
- Virginia Beach Cherry Blossom Festival (March 26 to April 3, 2022) - This annual event is modeled after the National Festival in D.C. In 2022, it features a combination of virtual and popup events promoting the rich culture and beauty of Japanese music, martial arts, creative activities, and various virtual demonstrations.
- Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival (April 2 to 10, 2022) - View the largest collection of cherry blossom trees in the east at this week-long event in New Jersey! The festival features a bike race, fun run, a Family Day with free kid-friendly activities, and Bloomfest, featuring Japanese cultural demonstrations, live music, a crafter's marketplace, food, and more.
- Santa Ana Cherry Blossom Festival (April 3, 2022) - This family-friendly event held at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California features taiko drums, Japanese jazz, traditional dance, candy sculpting, and more.
- Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival (April 8 - 10, 2022) - This annual festival features a variety of culturally educational programs, arts, technologies, and the rich heritage of Japan!
- Shofusu Cherry Blossom Festival (April 8 - 10, 2022) - This annual festival in Philadelphia typically features taiko drumming performances, martial arts demonstrations, crafts, games, and more. For 2022, expect a multi-day concert series.
- Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival (April 9, 2022) - This yearly festival features a variety of events, including Japanese music and dance, a walk, children's activities, and even a cosplay contest!
- Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival (April 9 - 17, 2022) - Head to San Francisco's Japantown for the largest cherry blossom festival on the west coast!
- Fort Worth Japanese Festival (April 23 - 24, 2022) - This annual family-friendly festival is supported by the city's Japanese Society.
- Wooster Square Cherry Blossom Festival (April 24, 2022) - This New Haven, Connecticut fest commemorates the planting of 72 Yoshino cherry trees in 1973 and features concerts and food.
- Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival (April 28 - 30, 2022) - If small town events are more your speed, don't miss this annual fest in Marshfield, Missouri!
- Randall's Island Cherry Blossom Festival (May 1, 2022) - Celebrate spring at this fun, family friendly event in NYC, featuring activities like paper flower making, face painting, kite flying, crafts, games, performances, and more!
- Fort Wayne Cherry Blossom Festival (May 15, 2022) - This cultural event in Fort Wayne, Indiana celebrates the music, art, food, and traditions of Japanese people.
- Honolulu Cherry Blossom Festival (Multiple Events in January, February, and March) - This yearly event helps perpetuate Japanese culture in Hawaii and culminates in an annual Ball!
- Brooklyn Botanical Garden Sakura Matsuri (Dates TBA) - This annual event is the most popular cherry blossom festival in NYC! While it doesn't look like this year's event is happening, you can check out the BBG's Weekends in Bloom on April 23, April 30, and May 7, 2022, which features casual pop-up music and dance performances, chances to talk with gardeners, programs for kids and families, and tours.
- Japan Festival Boston (Date TBA) - This annual event was first celebrated in 2012 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the gift of cherry blossom trees from Kyoto (the sister city of Boston) to Washington, D.C.
- Hatsume Fair at the Morikami Museum and Gardens (Cancelled for 2022) - An annual celebration of spring in Delray Beach, Florida.
- Orange County Cherry Blossom Festival (Cancelled for 2022) - This year's event might not be happening, but you can always mark your calendar for next year's fest, scheduled for March 10 - 12, 2023.
- Wahiawa Sakura Matsuri (Cancelled for 2022) - This annual event takes place in central Oahu, home to Hawaii's largest collection of cherry blossoms!
- Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival (Cancelled for 2022) - This annual festival, which is held in Kamuela on the Big Island in Hawaii, typically takes place in early February.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Yes, cherry blossoms thrive in many places throughout the United States. Washington, D.C., is the most famous location, however you can view sakura in many U.S. cities.
Cherry blossoms typically bloom in spring (often in late-March or early to mid-April). It really depends on climate though, and you may see blooms as early as January in warmer locations (like Hawaii) or as late as May in colder cities (as in the northern U.S.).
Japan gave the 3,020 U.S. cherry blossom trees to the United States in 1912 as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.
Cherry blossoms are Japan's unofficial national flower. Blooming in spring, they symbolize hope and renewal, as well as the fleeing nature of life (due to their short life span).
Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossoms.
Hanami means flower viewing in Japanese. It usually refers to cherry blossom viewing, and hanami often involves picnicking under the blossoming trees, during the day or at night (yozakura), or gathering for large events and festivals.
Thank you so much for reading along and happy spring! I hope you get to check out some of these beautiful locations.
If you know of anywhere in America that I missed, leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!