You Can See Beautiful Cherry Blossoms in the West—but Hurry!
Pops of pink to rival Japan can be found without crossing the Pacific. Here’s where—and when—to see them. (Spoiler: Now!)
In Japan, where cherry trees start popping around the vernal equinox, the blooms are seen as a sign that spring has finally arrived—and their quick passing as a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of beauty.
Here in the Western U.S., it’s not as easy to go deep among a cloud of pink flowers (Washington, D.C. holds top honors for that in the States), but it can be done. Cherries like a temperate coastal climate with cool winters. Anchorage and San Diego may be out, but the trees thrive here, from the San Francisco Bay Area to just past the Canadian Border.
If you hurry you can catch the San Francisco Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, being celebrated in the city’s Japantown through April 22. Although this festival is more about Japanese culture than literal flowers, you will see a lot of cherry trees planted along Japantown’s streets. Be sure to stop at the Japanese Tea Garden in nearby Golden Gate Park, where there are also cherry trees to be found. South of the Bay, the enclave of Saratoga is the home of Hakone Gardens, which currently has cherry blossoms as well. Make the trip soon, though; petals are already dropping in droves in the Bay Area and probably will not last until the weekend of April 27-28.
Also still happening is the bloom at Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park. This is, however, another place to visit sooner rather than later, as the blossoms started going off two weeks earlier than average this year.
Seattle, too, is home to many spring-blooming cherry trees. The University of Washington has a well-known grove, but this spot is mostly over for the year. No matter; other pockets around town are still going strong. One such place is the Washington Park Arboretum (pictured above on April 20). If you’re in town the weekend of April 27-28, you can catch the Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival, which commemorates the gift of 1,000 cherry trees the city received from Japan in 1976.
Towards the northern limit of the area where cherry trees thrive in North America, Vancouver’s bloom is still active. Especially good places to see blossoms are Queen Elizabeth Park (where they usually last until the end of April) and near the Japanese Canadian war memorial in Stanley Park. The city hosts a Cherry Blossom Festival every year; this year’s runs through April 28.