Tag Archives: Cherry blossoms

Cherry Blossoms, It’s Poppin’ Time.

US-FEATURE-CHERRY BLOSSOMSIt’s April and that means it must be cherry blossom season. Nothing says spring like these glorious trees and even though there’s still a chill in the air, I’m going to trust Mother Nature to make one of her finest appearances when she’s ready. After the drudgery and darkness of what seemed like the longest winter in ages, when these buds burst in shades from the softest white to the deepest pink and reach full blossom, the world just looks a whole lot brighter. Few things are more delightful than lying under a cherry blossom tree, its pinky petals swirling a magical snowstorm around you.

I’m crazy for cherry blossoms and crazier for them because of the travel they inspire. If you’re looking for a good reason to get away, I’m giving you one. Washington, D.C. may showcase the grand dame of cherry blossom, or sakura, festivals in the U.S., and a trip to the nation’s capital never disappoints, but there are plenty of other places around the country to be in their good company. So if you’re looking for a day trip, weekend getaway, or something a bit longer, figure one of these destinations into your plans and don’t forget the camera.

Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival
Branch Brook Park, NJ

April 5-13, 2014
Cherry blossoms are the crowning glory of this town and Essex County takes great pride in these trees.  Locals and visitors pack this park to take part in a 10K run through the cherry tree groves, bike race in the Cherry Blossom Challenge, or enjoy a number of other events. Vaux and Olmsted, who designed NYC’s Central Park, conceived the design for this park so visitors are in for a treat.

Essex County Branch Brook Park, NJ April 5-13, 2014

The pride and joy of New Jersey’s Essex County.

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival
Vancouver, British  Columbia
April 3-28, 2014

Vancouver came late to the cherry blossom garden party but after their first festival in 2006, the city’s been attracting visitors to this extravaganza ever since. The festival’s organizers believe so strongly in the power of the beauty of these blossoms to unite people, that their purpose behind this annual event is simple—to embrace citizens of all ages.  Yet another great reason to visit Canada.

Vancouver's very cherry trees.  (Photo credit: Richard Greenwald)

Vancouver’s very cherry trees. (Photo credit: Richard Greenwald)

International Cherry Blossom Festival
Macon, GA

Cherry blossom season peaks early in Georgia, with these natural debutantes making their entrance in March. No worries, festivities run through April and because this town is the cherry blossom capital of the world, visitors can reap the benefits long after the crowds have gone.

Southern bells.

Southern bells.

Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival
April 2-13, 2014

Philadelphia, PA
The City of Brotherly Love, karaoke, and cherry blossoms—it doesn’t get much better than that!  A project of the Japan American Society of Greater Philadelphia, the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival is an engaging cultural celebration with events like Dine Out Japan, musical and dance performances, sushi making classes, martial arts and loads more.

Philly's festivities await you.

Philly’s festivities await you.

Sakura Matsuri,Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
April 26-28, 2014

Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s CherryWatch Blossom Status Map predicts the first tree to bloom next week and Brooklynites can’t wait.  Held the last weekend of April, the Sakura Matsuri is an entertaining celebration of Japanese culture, including a traditional kimono fashion show.  The garden will be buzzing that weekend, so if you’d like to avoid the crowds and have the view all to yourself, plan an off visit during the week.  No matter when you go, make a day of it by visiting the Brooklyn Museum, located next door.

Blossoms and more are in the house in Brooklyn. (Photo credit: Wesley Rosenblum)

Blossoms and more are in the house in Brooklyn. (Photo credit: Wesley Rosenblum)

You don’t need to visit a festival to enjoy these blossoming beauties.  They’re easily found along esplanades, in most parks, and sprinkled throughout neighborhoods that have cherry blossom friendly climates.  All that’s required on your part is to gaze up and enjoy their pink but fleeting loveliness.



Brooklyn Blossoms

Brooklyn Public Library Park Slope branch blossoms.  (Photo by author.)

Brooklyn Public Library Park Slope branch blossoms. (Photo by author.)

Any plans for a “hanami” anytime soon?  Maybe the first question should be, do you have any cherry blossom trees in your town?  If so, how about taking a walk to your local park where these trees are bursting with flowers right about now.  A “hanami” is the Japanese practice of picnicking under a blooming cherry blossom tree.  Ideally, you’d want to pack a lunch or dinner and enjoy some sake with it but there’s no need to stand on ceremony.  The point is to create a “be here now” moment and to celebrate the beauty of these trees.

I’m stuck on cherry blossoms these days.  Every year I eagerly await their arrival and go out of my to way to walk down blocks where I know they’re blooming.   Last Sunday’s New York Times travel section featured articles on walking.  Did you happen to read it?  The main feature highlighted strolls through some of Europe’s best cities: London, Tuscany, Istanbul, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Scotland, Berlin and Switzerland.  What does this have to do with cherry blossoms?  Well, after reading about these walks, it got me itching to go somewhere.  I couldn’t exactly hop a flight but I already live in a great walking city, so I put on my comfy shoes, grabbed my camera, and set out for a ramble to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where cherry blossoms are the star attraction right now.  These trees are common throughout Brooklyn neighborhoods and while their season is spectacular, it’s short-lived so I got a move on.  With pale seashell colored blooms that burst from dark pink buds to wedding white flowers, to others that pop double-blossoms of magenta, my plan was to overdose on these beauties.

Towering cherry blossom. (Photo by author.)

Towering cherry blossom. (Photo by author.)

There are lots of tourists here today and I realize, oddly enough, that they’ve probably built this “walk” into their travel itineraries.  On weekends, people from diverse cultures arrive like lemmings to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and in a span of 10 seconds you could easily eavesdrop on five different languages.  Young couples with their in-laws, families out to enjoy a perfect Spring day after what seemed like a never-ending winter, parents with newborns, or friends with out-of-town visitors. Wherever they’re from, everyone seems to delight in their appreciation of cherry blossoms.  This garden has 27 varieties and I’d be hard-pressed to tell you which type is my favorite.  I just take my time and soak up the good vibrations they seem to generate.  This place will really be packed this weekend when Sakura Matsuri, the Cherry Blossom Festival, celebrates traditional and contemporary Japanese culture.

Cherry blossom paparazzi at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  (Photo by author.)

Cherry blossom paparazzi at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. (Photo by author.)

Cherry blossom snow drifts around a bicycle. (Photo by author.)

Cherry blossom snow drifts around a bicycle. (Photo by author.)

As much as I’d love to travel to Japan to see these trees, the inspiration to stroll in my own city has satisfied me.  On the walk back, cherry blossom petals fall like snow in the front yards of private homes and along the sidewalks.  Two trees on my block have plump pink buds just beginning to flower.  I’ll revisit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on a weekday, when it’s more quiet, and enjoy my own hanami .  Right now, I’m quite content to appreciate their beauty from my stoop, in my own neck of the woods.  If you don’t have the time or money for a trip right now, take a stroll and see what’s blooming in your town.  Some of the most interesting and enjoyable pleasures might just be a short walk from home.  Enjoy!