Nothing quite captures the joyous arrival of spring than cherry blossom season.
Ancient hanami (flower-watching) celebrations in Japan may be the first image that springs to mind when you think of this fleeting floral spectacle. However, there are plenty of destinations along the East and West coasts where you can view firsthand those puffs of flawless pink and white blossoms.
From Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin to the serene Japanese Garden of Portland’s Washington Park, sakura displays are accompanied by elaborate Japanese cultural events and traditions.
It’s a poignantly short window of opportunity — and Mother Nature is notoriously unpredictable — but you can expect peak blooms to occur in late March and early April, with slight variations from north to south.
The National Park Service forecasts peak bloom in Washington, D.C., between March 22 and 25, though (depending on the weather) you can expect to see blossoms both before and after those dates.
Here are eight of the best places to see cherry blossoms in the U.S. this spring.
The capital’s annual three-week National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place from March 20 to April 16. More than 3,000 trees span fields and gardens within city limits, but the headline act unfolds at the Tidal Basin, where blossoms photogenically frame some of the nation’s most cherished landmarks. Over 1.5 million people converge on the city each year to witness the spectacle, so be prepared to jockey for a good viewing spot.
The festival is a pink petal extravaganza featuring elaborate parade floats, marching bands, a kite festival, celebrity entertainers and a “Pink Tie” ball. Along the banks of the Anacostia River, “Petalpalooza” on April 8 showcases local musicians and artists with live performances, art walks and installations, as well as family-centric activities and a fireworks show at 8:30 p.m.
Celebrations culminate on April 15 and 16 with the Japanese Street Festival — the largest of its kind in the U.S. Along Pennsylvania Avenue (between Third and Seventh streets), you’ll find martial arts demos, J-pop, traditional food and beverage vendors and a Ginza Marketplace. A one-day pass is $10, and a two-day pass is $15.
If you want to see gorgeous blooms — and beat the crowds — head to the U.S. National Arboretum, about 30 minutes from downtown.
Where to stay: The Salamander Washington DC (formerly the Mandarin Oriental), between the National Mall and The Wharf, is a short walk from the Tidal Basin. The hotel’s Cherry Blossom Views package comes with views of the basin and a cherry blossom-themed afternoon tea service for two in your room or suite. Cash rates for the Cherry Blossom Views package in a standard king room start at $720 per night.
One of the nation’s most extravagant and proudest cherry blossom displays occurs in Macon. It’s celebrated with a 10-day-long International Cherry Blossom Festival (March 17-26), which dates to 1982.
More than 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees bloom from mid-to-late March while the “pinkest party on Earth” features hundreds of events, including the Cherry Blossom Ball, wiener dog racing, tribute bands and dance parties.
Where to stay: A solid budget option for families, Springhill Suites Macon by Marriott has rooms from 33,500 Marriott Bonvoy points or $105 per night. Spacious, functional rooms come with microwaves and fridges, and there’s an indoor pool and fitness center.
Nashville might be better known for its country music scene, but it also plays host to the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival on April 15. It features a 2 1/2-mile Cherry Blossom Walk, which begins in Nashville Public Square. There are also children’s activities, martial arts, sumo suit wrestling, a “Pups in Pink” parade, traditional Japanese music, dancing and purveyors of Japanese specialty fare.
The city’s passion for cherry blossoms dates to 2008 when the Japanese Consulate-General for South-Central U.S. transferred from New Orleans to Nashville and donated 1,000 cherry blossom trees.
Where to stay: The Hotel Indigo has chic rooms and an ideal location, just a two-minute walk from Nashville Public Square. There’s also live music every night and a design that takes its cues from Nashville’s commercial history. Cash rates in mid-April start at $359, or you can redeem IHG One Rewards from 57,000 points per night.
Fairmount Park, Philadephia
Philly’s Fairmount Park is home to over 1,600 sakura trees, which were donated to Philadelphia by the people of Japan in 1926 as a gift to mark 150 years of American independence.
Held April 15 and 16, the family-friendly Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia draws over 17,000 visitors over two days. It features kimono dressing, origami tutorials, sushi-making classes, martial arts, taiko drumming, live music performances and a traditional tea ceremony.
Where to stay: Base yourself at the W Philadelphia and combine glorious cherry blossom viewing with a tour of Philadelphia’s historic sites. Just a 10-minute walk from Rittenhouse Square and 20 minutes from the Liberty Bell, this glam Marriott Bonvoy property will cost you from $243 or from 43,000 Bonvoy points per night in April.
Japantown, San Francisco
You’ll find cherry blossom trees throughout San Francisco‘s Golden Gate Park and cascading photogenically over the bridges and jewel box tea house of its beloved Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest public Japanese garden in the U.S. (it dates to 1894).
Spring’s top event is the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, held in the Japantown neighborhood and second only to Washington, D.C.’s in size, drawing more than 220,000 people over the first two weekends in April.
Cultural activities include taiko drum performances, bonsai displays, tea ceremonies, doll making, flower arranging, a Japanese food bazaar with a beer garden, a dedicated Children’s Village and traditional art vendors and workshops. Most events take place on Post Street.
Where to stay: In Japantown, the Hotel Kabuki, a JdV by Hyatt property, features 1930s and 1940s Japanese-style pop art. Bookend cherry blossom festivities with Southeast Asian specialties at Nari and then retreat to the hotel’s meditation garden. As a Category 5 Hyatt property, award rates in April range between 17,000 and 23,000 World of Hyatt points per night, or $338 cash.
The Emerald City ushers in the spring season with a three-day celebration of Japanese culture along with cherry blossom viewing at a handful of locations across the city. Across the Pacific Northwest, cherry blossom season generally peaks the third week in March.
The largest and oldest festival of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival dates to 1976 when then-Prime Minister Takeo Miki of Japan donated 1,000 cherry trees in honor of the U.S.’s bicentennial. Held April 14-16, cultural events include traditional music performances, silk threading, origami demonstrations, kibori wood carving, Japanese cuisine and games.
The best place to view the blossoms is at the Liberal Arts Quadrangle at the University of Washington, where 130 Yoshino cherry trees line the quad’s stately lawns and Gothic buildings. At Washington Park Arboretum, you’ll also find cherry trees along Azalea Way and alongside bridges and walkways in the Japanese Garden.
Where to stay: The Hyatt Regency Seattle is one of TPG’s favorite Seattle hotels for its low points rate and proximity to can’t-miss downtown attractions, such as Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum. As for blossom peeping, it’s just a 12-minute drive to the University of Washington. If you decide to rent a car and you’re a Globalist member, the nightly self-parking fee of $40 will be waived. Also, you’ll receive complimentary access to the Regency Club, which offers a full breakfast each morning, evening canapes and panoramic skyline views.
The best place to see cherry blossoms in Portland is Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which fronts the Willamette River. More than 100 cherry trees bloom across the park’s northern recesses, adjacent to the Japanese American Historical Plaza, which commemorates the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were deported to internment camps during World War II.
In the hills of Portland’s Washington Park, the city’s beloved Japanese Garden is hailed as the nation’s most beautiful. It hosts a number of sell-out cultural workshops, including ikebana (flower arranging) and wine tastings.
At the end of March, cherry blossoms explode along serene walkways that lead visitors to pagodas, bridges, waterfalls and koi ponds. Reservations are recommended, and tickets cost $19.95 for adults. The striking Umami Cafe, designed to resemble Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-dera temple, is a lovely spot for traditional Japanese tea.
Where to stay: The Nines, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Portland is one of the city’s premier hotels. It’s in a prime location next to Pioneer Courthouse Square and is a 30-minute walk to Washington Park’s Japanese Garden. The rooftop Departure restaurant and bar is a local favorite for its innovative Asian fusion cuisine, vibrant cocktail scene and stunning city views. Luxe rooms, awash with satin and velvet, marry contemporary styling with historical charm and walls are graced with original artworks from local students. Rooms start from $257 or 43,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
Brooklyn, New York
At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 26 cherry tree species fringe the green lawns of the Cherry Esplanade. One of the highlights of the season is the double-flowering Kanzan cherries, which generally bloom toward the end of April.
The Cherry Walk winds behind the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, one of the oldest and most visited Japanese-inspired gardens outside Japan. It’s dotted with traditional architectural elements, including a red wooden torii, ornate bridges, stone lanterns and a Shinto shrine.
Where to stay: In 2021, Ace Hotel debuted its second New York outpost in South Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill. As much a local hipster paradise as a destination for travelers, it hosts pop-up parties in the hip lobby and boasts a sultry bar and well-appointed rooms that feature eclectic artifacts such as custom Tivoli radios, guitars, turntables and vintage furniture. Ace Hotel does not have a loyalty program. Cash rates in April start at $349 per night.