Tag Archives: parks

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
March-April

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.

 

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Get Your Flicks and Kicks.

And babe, don’t you know it’s a pity
That the days can’t be like the nights
In the summer, in the city
In the summer, in the city
–Lovin’ Spoonful

Manhattan Skyline Sunset

Manhattan Skyline Sunset (Photo credit: Justin in SD)

Spending the dog days of summer in New York City can be…hellish. Anyone who’s already used up vacation days, or can’t spring for one, knows that when it sizzles like this there are few options to stay cool. But nothing’s worse than holing up in your apartment with the air conditioner cranking, missing out on the spectacular neon-pink sunsets and warm breezes of these hot summer nights.DogConorFieldmanBoals

Luckily it seems like this season nights in the city—and the surrounding boroughs of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island— hold some pretty cool offerings for outdoor music and entertainment. The best part is, plenty of it is free and depending on where you go, you can bring your own food and drink. Last week, I—and hundreds of fellow New Yorkers—danced the night away at a silent disco that was part of the outdoor Midsummer Night Swing series at Lincoln Center. Dancers and spectators wore a perpetual grin, and the place was rocking. Whatever side of the floor you were on, the night was magic.

Midsummer Night Swing's Silent Disco.

For visitors and locals, the metro area offers a spice rack of entertainment. If you’re a resident and haven’t enjoyed any of this goodness, times a wastin’.  It’s sometimes easy to keep to your own part of town, but have some fun, play tourist and visit the other boroughs.  Here’s what’s ready and waiting for you:

From opera to jazz, folk, rock, world music, or classical, you can still catch some of the best performances and musicians at the Free Summer Concert series happening all around the town from Central Park to Van Cortlandt Park. Beck will play a benefit concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on August 4th. It’s sold out but don’t let that stop you. Pitch a blanket on the grass outside the bandshell and you can still enjoy the show.

Hot fun at Celebrate Brooklyn. (Photo credit:  Ryan Muir)

Hot fun at Celebrate Brooklyn. (Photo credit: Ryan Muir)

The Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library offers culture and arts events. Check out their unique book and writer discussions on the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Norman Mailer, or stomp the night away at their outdoor Plaza Swing Series.

Coney Island beachside flick. (Photo credit: Coney Island Fun Guide)

Coney Island beachside flick. (Photo credit: Coney Island Fun Guide)

Drive-in movies may be a thing of the past around here but luckily you can catch a flick in the park or on the beach. From Wreck-It-Ralph to Argo, Free Summer Movies is a great back-to-basics way to enjoy a hot summer night. A special shout out goes to Coney Island, The Rockaways, and Staten Island. These areas are showing true grit in rebounding back from the beating they took from Superstorm Sandy and are running movies for folks of all ages.

Last but not least, today is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday and the folks at Madiba, the South African restaurant, will throw their annual celebration. “This restaurant was built on Nelson Mandela’s ideals of love,” said Madiba manager Denis Du Preez. “It doesn’t matter if we light a candle, put a flower out or just put up a picture on his birthday—it’s about the people who come here and rejoice with us and celebrate our hero.” Starting at 6:30pm, they’ll be pouring free Brooklyn Lager and will release lanterns into the night sky.

The town is hot!  Throw on your shorts and flip-flops and celebrate the summer nights—and don’t forget your good will, and blanket or beach chair.  Wherever you are, stay cool and enjoy!

Peace.