Words by Marcia Breen.
Nothing says spring like the blooming of cherry blossom trees, bursting with pretty pink petals. “Petal peeping” is a fun and festive way to get some fresh air, a little exercise, and brush off the winter chill. It can also be a great excuse to explore a city you’ve never visited. Here are five places where you’ll find the gorgeous trees in bloom around the country.
This is the granddaddy of all cherry blossom festivals in America. Tourists turn out in droves to see the blooming of 3,750 cherry trees, given as a gift from Japan in 1912 as a sign of friendship (cherry blossom viewing is huge in Japan. They call it Sakura Hanami and celebrate with food, drink and music.) More than 1.5 million people flock to the National Cherry Blossom Festival each year, and it’s no wonder. The nation’s capital is downright magical when the trees along the Tidal Basin bloom during this two-week long festival. You can learn about the history of the cherry blossom trees, national memorials and more on a free guided tour from the National Park Service. Or, if you want to avoid the crowds, visit the U.S. National Arboretum instead. The 2018 festival is scheduled for March 20-April 15.
Believe it or not, the cherry blossom capital of the world is neither Japan nor our nation’s capital. It’s actually in the small, unassuming southern city of Macon, Georgia, with more than 350,000 cherry trees – almost 100 times as many as Washington, D.C. For the last 35 years, Macon has welcomed visitors from around the world for the “Pinkest Party on Earth.” Roll down the cherry blossom trail with a tour guide, and you’ll get a spectacular view of old antebellum mansions and hear the history of how this town came to be the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World. Bonus: this festival also has lots of fun events and activities for families like live music, amusement rides, free cherry ice cream day and the annual Pink Pancake Breakfast. Macon is just an hour and a half from Atlanta. The festival runs March 16-25.
Image courtesy of the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau
New York City
When you think of the Big Apple, you think of concrete. But come spring, pretty pink trees dot the sidewalks, and city dwellers know that the long dark days of winter are finally behind them. And believe it or not, Brooklyn is one of the best places to see the blooms. Walk down the Insta-worthy Cherry Esplanade at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens’ Sakura Marsuri Cherry Blossom Festival, and you’ll see more than 200 cherry trees whose fleeting beauty attracts thousands annually. There is traditional music and dance as well as sword demonstrations, tea ceremonies and hands-on activities for kids at this, the largest event in a public U.S. garden. Major bonus: you can see the cherry blossoms and then head off to see the rest of what NYC has to offer! The festival runs April 28-29.
Image via Flickr
It may be called the Rose City, but come late March or early April, Portland is pretty in pink. Stroll along the Willamette River through downtown’s Waterfront Park, and you’ll find 100 Akebono cherry trees popping with pink and white petals. The trees are the heart of the Japanese American Historical Plaza at the north end of the park. Dedicated in 1990, the park is a memorial to those interned during WWII. Portland and the Japanese city of Sapporo have been sister cities for more than 50 years, and the trees and memorial are a testament to the city’s ties to Japan. You’ll also find cherry trees in a more traditional setting at the Portland Japanese Garden, lauded as one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan.
Image via Flickr
There’s more to Music City than just country music. With about 950 cherry blossom trees dotted all around the city, Nashville is one of the prime places for petal peeping. In 2009, the city came up with a plan to plant 1,000 cherry trees over the course of ten years. It’s getting closer and closer to achieving that goal. You can see them all on the Cherry Blossom Walk, which is the kickoff to the festival. The 2.5-mile course begins and ends in Nashville’s Public Square, the site of the Cherry Blossom Festival. There’s lots of fun for the kids at the festival itself from arts and crafts to bounce houses and blow-up sumo suit wrestling. The walk and festival takes place on Saturday, April 14.
Image via Flickr