I started seeing the tiniest hint of spring in Central Park today and it got me itching for some cherry blossoms and magnolias. I visit Atlanta and DC soon, so I will definitely get my fix. Here are some of my favorite festivals happening around the US where you can participate in hanami, or the traditional Japanese custom of flower viewing. This year, many of the festivals will offer opportunities to donate to the Japanese earthquake victims.
Washington, D.C.: The most popular of the festivals across the U.S., The National Cherry Blossom Festival runs through April 10 and celebrates the 3,000 cherry trees that Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave to the city of Washington in 1912 to honor the two nations’ friendship. The highlights of the two-week celebration are the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade and the Japanese Street Festival, both on April 9. http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org
If you can’t get enough of D.C.’s bounty of blossoms, make a trip to Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown to see what I believe are some of the most beautiful gardens on the East Coast. General admission is $8 and admission for seniors, students, and children (2-12) is $5. www.doaks.org
Philadelphia, PA: The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the sakura (cherry blossoms) in the city of Brotherly Love. Top viewing sites are along Kelly Drive (North of Boathouse Row), at the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park, and at Belmont Plateau. Head to Fairmount Park on April 9 for Sakura Sunday, the centerpiece event of the festival, and enjoy live musical performances along with fun activities including karate and origami demonstrations, the “Prettiest Pet in Pink Contest,” the Harajuku Fashion show and much more.
Brooklyn, NY: Escape the frenzy of Manhattan and find serenity and natural beauty at the month-long Brooklyn Botanic Garden Hanami celebration, running through May 1. You can plan out a route tracing the prettiest buds by following the “Cherry Watch Blossom Status Map” online before you visit. Top spots include the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and the Cherry Esplanade. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and free for children under 12.
San Francisco, CA: Celebrate the 44th year of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival while indulging in Asian tradition and everything pink. The festival will be held on two weekends, April 9-10 and April 16-17, on Post Street between Laguna and Fillmore in San Francisco’s Japantown. On April 17, catch the Grand Parade which begins at City Hall. Foodies will also rejoice over the amazing street food options.
Pawtucket, RI: The “Ocean State” offers up their second annual Rhode Island Cherry Blossom Festival, a dedicated effort to raise money for a Landscape Improvement Fund which focuses on growing Cherry Trees locally. The festival will be held on May 21 and includes races, a parade, a cherry blossom bicycle tour, face painting, food vendors, and other family-oriented activities.
New Haven, CT: The 38th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off Friday night, April 8, with the annual chamber concert. On Sunday, April 10 from 12pm-5pm, historic Wooster Square Park is where to be with jazz and swing bands, face painting, cherry tree planting, the famous “All Things Cherry table, and more. Be sure to try the cherry pies.
Vancouver, Canada: This year’s Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is especially festive with the celebration of Vancouver’s 125th anniversary. Admire the 37,000 beautiful cherry trees in the city while participating in the exciting events running through April 22. Enjoy the “Tree Talks and Walks” on April 9 and 10, the “Bike the Blossoms” event on April 16, and more. Channel your inner poet and submit your personal best to the 2011 Haiku Invitational.