The Best Places In The US To See Cherry Blossoms

Spring is a season full of many things — love, hope, and new beginnings, to name a few. But in many places in the U.S., it's also the season of the beloved cherry blossoms. One of the most internationally-loved flowers blooms around this season every year, with origins tracing back to much of Asia, including China, Korea, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. However, these plants are most often associated with Japan for a few reasons. Japan is home to many varieties of "sakura" (Japanese for "cherry blossom"), which is why these blossoming trees can be found in many different shades, from white to bright pink. Through diplomacy, the country has also spread the magic of cherry blossom trees worldwide.

The first blossoms arrived in the U.S. after First Lady Helen Taft, who had lived in Japan, contacted the Japanese Consulate about bringing the magic of sakura stateside. Unfortunately, the first batch of trees in 1910 had an insect infestation upon arrival and had to be burned. Then, finally in 1912, a successful group of trees landed on American soil and was planted in the nation's capital. Over the years, seeds from the original trees have been sent to many cities around the U.S. Today, you don't have to travel far to enjoy the magic. Here are the best places in the U.S. to view and enjoy cherry blossoms — a pastime called "hanami" in the Japanese language. 

Washington, D.C.

The nation's capital is home to the oldest cherry blossom trees in the U.S., the original plants arrived as gifts from the people of Japan as a demonstration of friendship in 1912. Writer, diplomat, and world traveler Eliza Scidmore fell in love with the blossoms after a visit to Japan in 1885 and immediately wanted to bring the beauty back home. She put in a request to the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds, which was promptly ignored. Then, after a direct appeal to First Lady Taft, Scidmore's dream finally came true with the arrival of cherry blossoms in the U.S. capital in 1910.

The original trees are of many different varietals and two large trees that remain today were planted near the Tidal Basin, just south of Independence Avenue. More were planted on the White House grounds and near the National Mall. Other places to view cherry blossoms in D.C. include the National Arboretum, Hains Point, and Georgetown. The blossoms usually peak between mid-March and early April, but make sure to check local news for the most up-to-date forecasts. As the climate continues to change, so do the blooming schedules.

Nashville, Tennessee

Music City has more to offer than just bachelorette parties and shows at the Grand Ole Opry. Nashville may not be your typical cherry blossom destination, but it sure shouldn't be missed! The first buds arrived in 2008 to celebrate the relocation of the Consulate-General of Japan to Nashville from New Orleans. The cherry blossoms arrived as part of a launch event between the consulate, Sister Cities of Nashville, and the Japan-America Society of Tennessee to celebrate Japanese culture and the arrival of the Consul-General.

In 2009, Nashville hosted its first Cherry Blossom Festival and over 1,000 trees have been planted around the city since. Now, the annual event draws visitors from all over the country during the month of April. If you happen to be planning a trip, the best locations to view the bloom are the parks, including Nashville Public Square, Riverfront Park, Centennial Park, and more. The actual festival takes place in Public Square Park, where you can enjoy Japanese food, dance, music, and crafts, and it's fun for all types of travelers and flower enthusiasts. And for those with kids, there are plenty of youth-friendly activities available too, in addition to running off energy amongst the beautiful trees.

Boston, Massachusetts

Many of the Boston blooms are actually from the same cuttings as the original trees in Washington D.C. The others arrived much later in 1985 as a gift to the people of Boston, much like the original trees arrived as gifts to the people of the U.S. Today, from mid-April to early May, catch the blossoms all over the city. Boston is a bit unique in that it doesn't hold an official festival each year, as many cities in the U.S. do. But, that comes with an advantage as you can enjoy the cherry blossoms with fewer crowds than in other viewing locations.

Most neighborhoods in the city limits will have blooming trees. However, some locations are more magical than others. The best place to take a stroll amongst the pink trees is the Esplanade along the Charles River (which runs between Boston and Cambridge), where trees line the entire pathway. If the spring weather cooperates, you can even rent kayaks and enjoy the display from the water. Additionally, Harvard's campus Boston Common and Public Garden, as well as the Arnold Arboretum, are all home to numerous trees.

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis might not be the first place that comes to mind for cherry blossoms, but throughout the month of March, a spectacular bloom takes place at the Botanical Gardens. In 2012, the garden planted around 20 trees (offshoots of the originals in D.C.) to celebrate 100 years of the original tree's arrival in the nation's capital. These trees now bloom as early as late February and often until early April, depending on the year.

Additionally, you can enjoy blooms at the Japanese Gardens and Kiener Plaza near the St. Louis courthouse. And the city's most famous landmark, the Gateway Arch National Park, is surrounded by blossoms come spring. The crowds are worth the sense of awe and wonder you'll get standing in a Candyland-esque park with the arch towering above. If you have a bit more time in the state, definitely check out the official Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival in Marshfield. This town southwest of St. Louis holds a fantastic annual event every April that has begun to garner attention from all over the U.S. and now gives the city a run for its money in visitor numbers.

San Francisco, California

The Bay Area explodes in pink every spring and, depending on where you go, the flowers will bloom anywhere from late February to early May. Post World War II, many Japanese-Americans settled in a part of San Francisco now known as the Japantown neighborhood. In 1968 the first official festival was held in Japantown in order to revive the area and community. Now, it's grown to be one of the largest cherry blossom festivals in the country. The event features delicious Japanese treats and dishes, as well as traditional music and crafts.

However, if you visit outside of the official festival dates, don't worry, there are plenty of places to view the blossoms around the city. In late February, Berkeley and the rest of the East Bay kick off the unofficial start to spring with their blossoms. Then, the trees around the Hakone Gardens and Golden Gate Park begin to bloom in March. Finally, Japantown and Presidio end the event in late March through April, depending on the year. As always, check local forecasts for both flower blooms and the weather. Although, if you don't mind a bit less sun, the famous Bay Area fog makes for a magical backdrop to the blossoms. And it usually clears up by the afternoon!

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is home to one of the more temperamental blooms in the country, due to the notoriously fickle Great Lakes climate. However, once they appear, it'll be difficult to escape them as they're present in most gardens across the city. However, sakura is a new phenomenon in the Windy City, as prior to 2013 the city's blossoms were limited to a few sprinkled throughout various parks. Between 2013 and 2016, the city partnered with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago (JCCC) to bring these special cherry blossoms to the area in larger quantities.

Over 150 trees were brought in to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the 1893 World's Fair, which kicked off Chicago's friendship with Japan and the Consulate, which was the 50th anniversary of the partnerships with the JCCC. The city enjoyed its first proper blossom of these trees planted in Jackson Park in 2021 and residents delighted in the fact that they didn't have to travel to the coast or Japan to enjoy cherry blossom season. In addition to Jackson Park, you can also see blooms at the Chicago Botanic Garden as well as the Morton Arboretum in the suburbs if you wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The best viewing is anywhere from late March to early May, and keep in mind the bloom is usually quite short, around a week or a bit more, so plan your trip last minute and watch the forecasts.

Brooklyn, New York

The city that never sleeps definitely doesn't sleep during cherry blossom season. New York received a few of the original trees sent to the U.S. in 1912 and planted those in Sakura Park in Manhattan. However, these days, some of the most impressive blooms can be found in Brooklyn — where additional gift trees were sent after WWI as a sign of friendship from the Japanese government. Today, those trees can be found blooming in Brooklyn Botanic Gardens from late March to mid-May, although many reports have them blooming earlier each year due to climate change, so make sure to research the annual forecast before planning a trip.

Brooklyn also used to host the Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival, which went on hiatus in 2020 and unfortunately hasn't returned since. However, there are various events around the city and neighborhood planned to celebrate the season outside of one large event. If you have more time in New York, you can also see the pink buds in Central Park, Sakura Park (home to New York's original blossoms), Riverside Park, New York Botanic Garden, and Roosevelt Island.

Seattle, Washington

The Emerald City turns pink every year from mid-March to mid-April. And everyone who's been there knows the best place to view cherry blossoms is on campus at the University of Washington quad. Planted in 1936, the almost 90-year-old trees draw thousands of visitors to UW every spring quarter. While students might find the tourists crowding their path to class a bit annoying, for the rest of us visiting, it's a magical scene. Cherry blossoms dot every inch of the quadrangle — four buildings that are some of the oldest on campus. You'll feel like you've stepped back in time to when the trees first arrived.

An interesting point however about UW's blossoms is that they weren't always on campus. They originated in the Washington Park Arboretum, not far away, but then construction prompted a move and they've stuck around ever since. These days, you can plan your visit quite easily thanks to the live cherry blossom blog that monitors the annual blooms as well as the UW cherry blossom Twitter page, which provides hourly updates throughout the season.

Dallas, Texas

Dallas and Texas in general aren't on the top of any usual list for cherry blossoms, but the city makes for a wonderful alternative destination to view this annual phenomenon. The Dallas Arboretum is considered the most jaw-dropping destination to view blooms in the city, as it is home to over 100 trees that frame the pathways. The Dallas trees are of the lighter varietal that creates more of a snow-like picture when in full bloom, especially when the petals begin to fall off and cover the ground. This frequently leads to an almost winter wonderland scene in the park come springtime. The cherry blossoms are actually part of a larger event at the Arboretum called "Dallas Blooms," where you can also enjoy lovely views of tulips, daffodils, and other flowers.

Additionally, the Japanese Garden in the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens is a fantastic place to avoid crowds at other destinations, if you don't mind the drive. The Texan trees typically bloom in mid-March, but the season typically lasts anywhere from then until mid-April.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Like many cities on the East Coast, Philly is full of cherry blossoms in springtime. And similar to other viewing destinations in the U.S., the blooms originated as gifts. In celebration of 150 years of American independence, the Japanese government sent over 1,500 trees to Philadelphia. Additionally, the Japan American Society of Greater Philadelphia has facilitated the planting of an additional 1,000 trees to increase the prominence of sakura throughout the city.

The original trees were planted in Fairmount Park, which is the best place to visit for optimal viewing to this day. The park is also home to the annual cherry blossom festival where in addition to cherry blossoms, visitors can enjoy music from local bands, Japanese food and beer, and crafts. There's also a Japanese House and Garden in the park, home to a koi pond and other Japanese flora. In addition, blossom enthusiasts can head to the Horticulture Center as well as the gazebo in the west part of Fairmount Park for an amazing display. Other parts of the city with amazing blossoms include Kelly Drive, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Columbus Boulevard, UPenn, and Drexel Park. The flowers typically peak between mid-March and April and the festival takes place during the latter month each year.

Portland, Oregon

Portland may be known as Rose City, but in the spring, cherry blossoms give them a run for their money. These bulbs aren't as old as others in the U.S., having only arrived in the 1990s when the Japanese American Museum of Oregon (formerly the Oregon Nikkei Endowment) spearheaded a campaign to celebrate the nation's culture. This led to the creation of the Japanese Historical Plaza with the help of various members of the community as well as the city. To complete the plaza, cherry blossom trees were brought in to recreate the magic of springtime as it is in Japan. And now, it's one of the best places in Portland to view the blossoms.

However, it's not the only place to go, you can also head to the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Washington Park (including the Portland Japanese Garden), the Hoyt Arboretum, and the Pittock Mansion, all of which are conveniently located on hiking and biking trails throughout the city. Additionally, Mount Tabor, the University of Portland, and the Duniway Park Lilac Garden all put on a show come warmer weather as well. Portland's trees can usually be viewed in bloom from late March to early May, depending on the location. Although as always, be sure to check local predictions before you go.

Macon, Georgia

One of the more obscure options on this list, Macon might not be on every traveler's list, but come spring it should be at the top of yours for cherry blossoms. The more than 350,000 trees have deep origins in the town. Back in 1949, local resident William A. Fickling Sr. discovered an unusual-looking blossom which was later determined to be of course, a cherry blossom. The family then placed clippings of the tree all over the city, which is why there are so many to be viewed to this day. 

Later on in the 1980s, Carolyn Crayton decided to implement an annual event in celebration of the trees. This is why some of the best blooms can be seen today at Carolyn Crayton Park in the city and the origin story of present-day's annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon. The event is massive and draws visitors from all over. It includes a parade, food trucks, a carnival, and more. Other places to view cherry blossoms in the city include Wesleyan College, Third Street Park, and the Cherry Blossom Driving Trail. The trees usually bloom in late March, depending on the weather and the previous year's rainfall.