Must-See Cherry Blossoms in New Jersey's Branch Brook Park
Enjoy world-class cherry blossoms this spring in New Jersey at one of the region's premier festivals. The 2023 Essex County Cherry Blossom Festiva, held in Newark's Branch Brook Park from Saturday, April 1 through Sunday, April 16, 2023, allows you and your family to revel in rows and rows of gorgeous cherry blossoms. There's definitely no need to travel to D.C. to see a stunning display of lush blooms!
The event features two festivals-within-the-festival—the Essex County Family Day and Bloomfest—both of which offer plenty of family fun, including performances, bounce houses, a nearby playground, live music, and Japanese cultural demonstrations. It all takes place under the fragrant canopy of the sprawling park's 5,000 cherry blossom trees—the largest collection in the country.
Read on for an overview of Branch Brook Park and the festival, along with tips for visiting with kids, and find more seasonal must-dos in our Guide to Spring Activities in New Jersey.
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Branch Brook Park boasts the country's largest collection of cherry trees.
Visiting Branch Brook Park for Cherry Blossoms
Branch Brook Park is an expansive, 360-acre green space located in the North Ward of Newark, just north of Route 280 and stretching into Belleville. The park is listed on both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places, and it was designed by the renowned firm of Frederick Law Olmsted to feature graceful, curving paths and roadways, stately stone entrances, gazebos, and concert lawns. The Japanese cherry blossom trees, which rival the pink beauties at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., were gifted to the park by a Newark philanthropist in 1927.
A fenced-in playground near the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center features a treehouse-inspired play structure for older kids with a covered, twisting slide, monkey rings, and a hideout in the tree "trunk" decorated with pink blossoms. A toddler play area has lower slides and climbers as well as two stone lions to explore. There are bucket swings, sling swings, and plenty of benches for caregivers. An adjacent children's garden has stone seating and artwork by local schoolchildren. Ample parking is available directly in front of the playground, and paved trails invite families on an easy hike through the park.
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Stroll through the park and take in the cherry blossoms with your family.
Know Before You Go: Cherry Blossoms Festival
Cherry blossom festivities are scheduled from Saturday, April 1-Sunday, April 16, 2023. The festival kicks off with an official bike race on Saturday, April 1, and a 10K on Sunday, April 2. Throughout the week, visitors can stroll through the park at their leisure, stop by the welcome center, and learn all about the history of the trees and the park by dialing into a cell phone audio tour with signposts along the trails.
Make time for the popular 1-mile fun run and walk on Saturday, April 15, at 10am on the Concert Grove, Southern Division. Kids are encouraged to run individually or as a member of a school team. It's a free event and all participants will receive a t-shirt.
Following the race, families can gather near the Concert Grove for crafts, contests, face painting, performances, and festival food at Essex County Family Day. The event runs Saturday, April 15 from 11am-3pm on the Concert Grove. Bring a picnic lunch or buy food from one of the many on-site vendors.
The festival culminates on Sunday, April 16 with Bloomfest! from 11am-5pm at a new location: Oval, Northern Division and Concert Grove, Southern Division. Bloomfest! features children's activities, food vendors, live music, a crafter's marketplace, and Japanese cultural demonstrations. Our kids were mesmerized by the booming taiko drummers and dancing one year.
For a detailed schedule of events and registration for the bike race and 10K, please visit the Essex County Park's website.
Note: The festival days draw huge crowds, which can make parking tough. You can park within the park, but some sections might be closed off for the event. On-street parking around the park is also available.
Planning on visiting Washington this year? Don't miss our list of 100 things to do with kids in the nation's capital.
All photos by Shinya Suzuki via Flickr. Video by Andre Sala.
Originally published in 2016.