There are few more delightful ways to celebrate the arrival of spring than by viewing the beautiful cherry blossoms flowering all over New York City. Everyone seems to know about the Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, but there are other places to enjoy gorgeous cherry blossoms without the crowds.
In Japan, cherry blossom viewing is taken to almost religious heights. Blooming flowers are carefully watched, enjoyed and celebrated, and traditional Sakura Hanami parties feature eating, drinking and music.
Here are the best places to see cherry blossoms in New York City this spring.
Enjoy the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's famous cherry blossom esplanade during the popular Sakura Matsuri Festival or come during a quiet spring morning. Photo courtesy of the venue.
Sakura Matsuri 2016/Cherry Blossom Festival – Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has the most lavish celebration of cherry blossoms in New York City. This year, the weekend-long festival takes place on Saturday, April 30-Sunday, May 1 and includes Japanese cultural activities, music and art. Kids will enjoy sword-fighting play, Taiko drumming, manga artists, children's workshops, a traditional Sohenryu tea ceremony and all of the people dressed in Japanese costumes. The BBG's Cherry Blossom Festival draws huge crowds, so consider visiting the Garden's famous Cherry Blossom Esplanade earlier in the season. Track the blossoms online to time your visit perfectly.
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Kids plant a cherry blossom tree on Randall's Island. Photo courtesy of the venue.
Randall's Island Cherry Blossom Festival – East Harlem
Activity-packed Randall's Island hosts its annual fest on Saturday, May 14. In addition to its collection of cherry blossoms, families can enjoy arts and crafts, a butterfly release, performances of Taiko drumming and the Okinawa Dance Troupe, plus a calligraphy by Taisan Tanaka.
Riverside Park Cherry Walk – Morningside Heights
Riverside Park has its own Sakura Park with a beautiful cherry walk featuring trees gifted from the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York decades ago in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton's steam-power demonstration on the Hudson and the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery of the river. The cherry trees are located between 100th and 125th Streets.
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Check out the blooms at Queens Botanical Garden's "Cherry Circle" and then hit the petting zoo during its Arbor Festival. Photo courtesy of the venue.
Queens Botanical Garden Cherry Circle – Flushing
While the Queens Botanical Garden does not have special events for Sakura, it does have a beautiful Cherry Circle. In addition, on Sunday, April 24, the garden hosts an Arbor Festival with gardening and environmental workshops, a beer tent and children's activities.
New York Botanical Garden – the Bronx
Although NYBG's Cherry Valley doesn't get a fest, the blossoms are still sweet. There are more cherry blossoms scattered throughout the Ross Conifer Arboretum, too. While there, catch the annual Orchid Show (through Sunday, April 17) and, of course, visit the Everett Children's Adventure Garden and the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden, as well as weekly family activities.
Picnic under the cherry blossoms in Central Park. Photo courtesy of Ayumi Sakamoto.
Central Park – Manhattan
Central Park is a great place to view cherry blossoms and have a picnic (not allowed at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden). Visit the zoo, a destination playground or a museum. Some of the best cherry blossom viewing sites are on the bridal path at 90th Street, East Drive at 66th Street, the east side of the boathouse at 74th Street, and Cherry Hill, mid-park at 72nd Street just west of Bethesda Terrace.
This post was originally published in April 2012, but is updated annually.
Top photo by Paul Stein via Flickr.