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Cherry blossom season in New York City marks the beginning of longer, warmer spring days. It’s time to shake off winter, pack a picnic and enjoy the great outdoors. Here’s a guide to the best cherry blossom locations and celebrations in NYC, including the famous Sakura Matsuri festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Cherry Blossoms in New York City
The most famous cherry blossom festival in the US is held each spring in Washington DC when the city’s Tidal Basin goes into full bloom. (The 2021 festival will be a Covid-safe combo of in-person and virtual events.) Other popular destinations include the Horticulture Center in Philadelphia and the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, GA.
But I think NYC is the best spot to see and snap the showy pink cherry blossoms in spring. City residents are overjoyed that winter’s finally over. They’re happy. And friendly. So it’s a great time to visit.
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Although bloom time varies, plan on the peak occurring some time during the latter half of April. Cherry blossom festivals are held in various locations during that time. Or feel free to celebrate the season in the traditional Japanese manner, called “hanami.” It’s the peaceful contemplation of the annual spring blooms.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Sakura Matsuri Festival
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden hosts an annual Sakura Matsuri festival, celebrating Japanese culture. When Mother Nature cooperates, the Garden’s Cherry Esplanade is in full bloom. The festival is traditionally held during the last weekend in April.
TravelingMom Tip: Arrive early in the day or late in the afternoon (last admission is at 5:30 p.m.) to avoid crowds.
If the Sakura Matsuri festival is canceled due to Covid, the Garden’s grounds are still open for strolling and snapping Instagrammable cherry blossom photos!
Other NYC Cherry Blossom Festivals
The following locations hosted cherry blossom festivals prior to Covid. In lieu of organized events, you can visit these destinations during mid- to late April for beautiful blooms – bring a picnic!
- Randall’s Island Park – unique recreation area in the East River, between Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx
- Flushing Meadows Corona Park – site of two World’s Fairs
- Roosevelt Island – take the Tramway for a bird’s eye view of NYC
New York Botanical Garden Cherry Blossoms
Located in the Bronx near the Zoo and famously delicious Arthur Avenue, The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is worth a visit any time of the year. But in spring, the gardens and conservatory are truly a delight.
Why? Because cherry blossom season coincides with the botanical garden’s annual Orchid Show. A full blown show won’t be held in 2021 due to Covid, but the Garden’s Haupt Conservatory will feature orchids in the permanent exhibits from February 20, 2021 – April 4, 2021.
The grounds feature more than 200 cherry blossom trees. Called sakura in Japan, cherry trees come in different varieties including yoshino and kwanzan. The botanical garden showstoppers are the weeping cherries planted in front of the Conservatory.
To catch the trees in full bloom, plan your visit to the New York Botanical Garden using this Cherry Tracker.
FREE Places to See Cherry Blossoms in New York City
New York’s Central Park in spring is a wonderful place to visit. The first warm days are perfect for exploring its 840 acres, 21 playgrounds, the vintage carousel, Great Lawn and family-friendly zoo.
And visitors in spring can see gorgeous cherry blossoms in bloom at a number of different FREE locations in the park:
- Conservatory Garden (East Side from 104th to 106th Street)
- The Reservoir (85th Street to 96th Street)
- Pilgrim Hill (East Side at 72nd Street)
- Cherry Hill (Mid-Park at 72nd Street)
- Dene Slope (East Side from 65th to 67th Street)
A bountiful number of spring bulbs (in addition to flowering cherry blossom trees) are planted in the Park’s Shakespeare Garden (West Side from 79th to 80th Street). It’s a visual treat that rivals the masterpieces hanging at the Met.
TravelingMom Tip: If you are visiting NYC with teens struggling with Shakespeare sonnets and plays, reading the 10 plaques featuring some of the author’s famous flower quotes might help them understand the Bard.
If you’d like to know more about Central Park cherry blossom tours, the Central Park Conservancy conducts guided Cherry Blossoms Tours on select dates in April. Tickets are $15 for non-members. Check out the handy Central Park Bloom Guide to follow the flowers in the park.
During Covid, Central Park tours are conducted virtually, via Zoom. The park’s website has the latest information.
Want to get the kids some exercise while you’re checking out NYC’s cherry blossoms? Then head to Riverside Park. Sited along the Hudson River on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Riverside Park features a 4-mile long path. The section between 100th and 125th Streets is called the Cherry Walk.
Many of these trees were part of the same batch of trees planted at the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C.. They were presented as a gift in 1912 by the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!
TravelingMom Tip: The closest parking lot to access the Cherry Walk is at 97th Street and the Henry Hudson Drive.
Another batch of the gifted cherry trees with pink flowers thrives in Sakura Park, located close to Riverside Park at West 122nd Street.
This 2-acre park also features a ten-foot tall Japanese stone tori or lantern, a children’s playground and outdoor performance space.
Historic Green-Wood Cemetery covers 478 beautiful acres in Brooklyn, planted with plenty of mature spring-blooming shrubs and cherry trees.
The cemetery offers two-hour historic trolley tours, so you can combine traditional sightseeing with your hanami. Check the cemetery website for tour availability during Covid.
More Insider Info on Cherry Blossoms
- What’s the best time to see the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.?
- Escape the crowds and check out Philly’s fantastic cherry blossoms!