Our Coast-to-Coast Guide to Cherry Blossom Festivals

We’ve cherry-picked the 5 best places to see cherry blossoms this spring. (Hint: There are more options than just Washington, D.C.)

Young boy sitting on his dad's shoulders looking at pink cherry blossoms

by NEA Member Benefits

After a dark, cold winter, few spring sights are greeted more warmly than the pink and white blossoms of flowering cherry trees. Washington, D.C., claims pride of display with the National Cherry Blossom Festival (March 20 to April 14), drawing more than 1.5 million visitors. The festival honors the mayor of Tokyo’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees in 1912. The cherry blossom is Japan’s national flower, symbolizing both life’s vitality and its brief nature, and the Japanese celebrate spring with ohanami: parties with food and festivities, by the trees.

Today, cherry trees are so popular that you don’t have to go to D.C. to experience this seasonal beauty. Parks and gardens in cities across the country have spectacular displays, and some host unique Japanese cultural events: All make for a festive spring getaway in March or April. Remember that nature controls exactly when trees blossom. If you want to see the cherry blossoms at their peak—which may only last a few days—reach out to festival coordinators to determine the best time to visit.

Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia


Cherry Blossom Festivals - Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival

Photo courtesy of the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia

This festival began in 1998 as a daylong celebration, when the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia pledged to plant 1,000 additional cherry trees in 9,200-acre Fairmount Park. It is now a popular multiweek festival with dozens of events that focus on Japanese culture, from taiko drumming to traditional dance to flower arranging. The centerpiece event of the 2024 festival, Sakura Weekend, takes place April 13 and 14 at the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center. But you can visit the main park areas with cherry trees—near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Kelly Drive and the Schuylkill River—anytime (rent a bike and hop on the tree-lined bike path). Also visit the must-see Shofuso Japanese House and Garden and the Horticulture Center

Many events are free, including Sakura Weekend. If you want to do more sightseeing, Fairmount Park is near Center City and its historic attractions and museums.

NEA member travel benefits: Fly into Philadelphia International Airport (PHI); get your plane tickets by searching through NEA Travel: Flights. On the hotels page you can find prices like an average of $161/night at the stylish Le Meridien Philadelphia, which is right by City Hall, or an average of $122/night at the Cambria Hotel Philadelphia Downtown Center City. Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, an IHG Hotel, averages $137/night and has a fun design, a 24-hour fitness center and complimentary bicycles.

Plan your itinerary: Visit Philadelphia | Visit Pennsylvania

Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco

April 13–14 & 20–21, 2024

Cherry Blossom Festivals - Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

Photo courtesy of Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

The city’s historic downtown Japantown neighborhood, one of three remaining Japantowns in the continental United States, has celebrated cherry blossom season and both traditional and modern Japanese culture with a festival since 1968. More than 200,000 people fill the festival area annually to attend events—many of them free—from musical to martial arts performances to origami and calligraphy demonstrations. 

The food bazaar offers a chance to sample Japanese delicacies and street-food favorites from unagi don (eel over rice) to yakitori skewers. A film festival and a large parade are other highlights. Japantown has cherry trees and the Peace Plaza (with its Peace Pagoda), but the cherry trees in Golden Gate Park are a city highlight. In the park’s Japanese Tea Garden, you can enjoy a break in the historic teahouse and wander pathways among traditional plantings and statuary.

NEA member travel benefits: Visit NEA Travel: Flights to book a ticket to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Next, click on the NEA Travel: Hotels page to search for lodging. You’ll see options like Hotel EPIK for an average of just $67 a night, which has compact rooms but is adjacent to Japantown, or the ornate Queen Anne Hotel, also near Japantown, which is inside a restored Victorian mansion and averages $145 a night.

Plan your itinerary: San Francisco Travel | Visit California

Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis

Late March to early April

Cherry Blossom Festivals - Missouri Botanical Gardens

Photo © St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission. All Rights Reserved by photographer Burt Remis.

At this 79-acre botanical garden, a National Historic Landmark dating back to 1859, more than 230 flowering cherry trees create a much-anticipated spring display. Although the cherry trees are spread throughout the garden, the 14-acre Japanese Garden, which is among the country’s largest, should be your first stop. Perfect for strolling, the garden has waterfalls, a lake, islands, bridges, lanterns and a viewing platform, as well as white Yoshino cherry trees and pink weeping Higan cherry trees. It all creates a serene setting for enjoying spring. 

The garden (entrance fee $16, free for kids under 13) also includes, among other special areas, the Climatron—a geodesic dome used as a conservatory—as well as the Tower Grove House and Victorian district garden. Near the botanical garden, the 1,300-acre Forest Park contains gardens and trails as well as the St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Zoo and other attractions.

NEA member travel benefits: Visit NEA Travel: Flights for the best deals on flights to St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL). Over on NEA Travel: Hotels you’ll see deals like an average of $148 per night at the art-filled Angad Arts Hotel, a boutique hotel with its own art museum with rotating exhibits, and a vibrant rooftop bar and restaurant. Hotel Indigo St. Louis Downtown, which averages $129 per night, features 88 stylish rooms and an excellent central location.

Plan your itinerary: Explore St. Louis | Visit Missouri

Virginia Beach Cherry Blossom Festival

Late March to early April

Cherry Blossom Festivals - Virginia Beach Cherry Blossom Festival

Photo courtesy of the City of Virginia Beach

This free daylong event in 97-acre Red Wing Park began in 2006 as a way for the Sister Cities Association of Virginia Beach to introduce Japanese traditions to the community and promote goodwill and cultural understanding with Miyazaki, its Japanese sister city. The Japan Education Culture Center’s gift of 150 Yoshino cherry trees created a perfect setting for the festival and spring blossom viewing, and the park has developed a beautiful traditional Japanese garden. 

You can bring a lawn chair and blanket and spread out to enjoy Japanese and other cultural musical, dance and drumming performances, and Japanese craft activities let everyone have hands-on experiences. There’s plenty more to see and do in Virginia Beach in spring as well, from the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center to First Landing State Park to the Virginia Beach Boardwalk.

NEA member travel benefits: Norfolk International Airport (ORF) is the closest airport to Virginia Beach. Find the best airfare prices at NEA Travel: Flights. For lodging, visit NEA Travel: Hotels to see options like Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, which averages $149 a night and is right on the beach, with indoor and outdoor pools. Marriott loyalists have SpringHill Suites by Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront, which includes breakfast, WiFi and an indoor and outdoor pool for an average of $155 a night. Schooner Inn is also on the beach, although a bit more basic, and averages just $70 a night.

Plan your trip: Visit Virginia Beach | Virginia is for Lovers

International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia

March 15‒24, 2024

Cherry Blossom Festivals - International Cherry Blossom Festival

Photo courtesy of the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Move over, Washington! Macon’s 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees (compared to D.C.’s 3,800) give weight to the city’s claim to be the “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World.” Beginning in 1952 after a visit to D.C., local realtor William A. Fickling, Sr. started giving away Yoshino cherry trees and spreading the word about their beauty. Planting continued, and the 1982 festival that began with the principles of “love, beauty and international friendship” has grown into a major 10-day event in this city 85 miles south of Atlanta. 

Concerts, exhibits, arts and crafts, food trucks and a fair with amusement rides celebrate mostly American culture. Central City Park activities take place from noon to 9 or 10 p.m. daily; admission is $10 per person (free for children under 10). With all those blossoms, you’ll also want to download a driving map and explore the trees and the city’s historic districts on Macon’s Cherry Blossom Trail.

NEA member travel benefits: You can fly to Middle Georgia Regional Airport (MCN) or Macon Downtown Airport (MAC) on Sun Country Airlines, or fly to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), which is just an hour’s drive from Macon. Check for discounted airfare using your NEA membership benefits. You can also get a great deal on hotels, like an average of $92 a night at the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson Macon North, GA, which has free breakfast, and an indoor pool and gym, or for about $110 a night you can get a suite at SpringHill Suites by Marriott Macon, which has large suites with kitchenettes perfect for families and an indoor pool, plus breakfast is included.

Plan your itinerary:
Visit Macon | Explore Georgia

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