If you have friends in Japan, chances are high that your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds have been inundated with pictures of cherry blossoms this spring. Every season the Japanese anticipate the arrival of sakura (cherry blossoms), as the flowers represent rebirth and renewal while reminding us how precious and fleeting life can be.
As fun as the revelry in Japan looks, we can recreate the spirit of o-hanami, or flower viewing, right here in New York. To enjoy the beauty of the blossoms while they last, here are nine places to see sakura in each borough.
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden
BBG is known for its tremendous Sakura Matsuri, a two-day celebration of all aspects of Japanese culture, from traditional to contemporary. This year’s event is April 25 and 26. Popularly considered New York’s rite of spring and the nation’s largest event in a public garden, Sakura Matsuri features performances, demonstrations, and exhibits that showcase the best of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. In recent years, Sakura Matsuri has attracted one of the largest, most colorful audiences for any cultural event in the city. If you can’t go this weekend, you can still enjoy the cherry blossoms at BBG’s Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and the Cherry Esplanade until May.
- New York Botanical Garden
Not to be confused with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx has more than 200 flowering cherry trees of its own. You can find them in the Garden’s Cherry Valley, in the Arboretum, and in front of the Conservatory.
- Central Park
There are two types of cherry blossoms you can find in Central Park: Kwanzan and Yoshino. The Yoshino are in bloom now, and they are located on the east side of the Reservoir, along Lilac Walk (northeast of Sheep Meadow), Conservatory Water, Ramble (near 72nd Street), Delacorte Theater (near 80th Street), and at the southeast edge of Great Lawn.
The Kwanzan trees have double-petal pink flowers that typically bloom in early May. You can find them on the west side of the Reservoir, East Green, near the Metropolitan Museum (E. 83rd and 84th Streets), East Drive at 74th Street, Bethesda Terrace (at 72nd Street), near the Loeb Boathouse, and at the southeast corner of the Great Lawn Oval.
- Sakura Park
A hidden gem in the city, Sakura Park lies between Riverside Church and International House. In 1909 the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York presented 2,000 cherry trees to New York City as a gift from Japan to commemorate the 18-day celebration of the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery and exploration of the river that bears his name as well as the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s steam-powered boat demonstration. The boat carrying these trees was lost at sea, but a new shipment arrived in New York in 1912. The original planting consisted of 700 trees, and the surviving trees of that batch are in Sakura Park as well as in parts of Riverside Park and in Central Park.
- Cherry Walk at Riverside Park
In addition to Sakura Park, the Cherry Walk is one of the places where trees given by the Committee of Japanese Residents were planted. This four-mile path along the Hudson River stretches from W. 72nd Street to W. 158th Street, and the trees, which are a part of Riverside Park, bloom between 100th and 125th Streets.
- Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island boasts cherry trees that line the promenade near the 59th Street Bridge. Community members will host their own cherry blossom festival on Saturday, April 25 from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. In the past the festival featured performances by Japanese artists in a street fair atmosphere, but this year’s event is a community-related effort for residents to picnic and meet their neighbors.
- Randall’s Island
The third annual Randall’s Island Cherry Blossom Festival takes place on Saturday, May 2 from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. There will be Japanese musical performances, a pottery exhibition, and lots of family-friendly activities.
- Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Another hidden gem is a grove of cherry trees located near the World’s Fair site at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The Japanese American Association of New York first conceived the idea of a “21st Century New York Cherry Blossom Project” in 1992, and 168 trees were planted in 2001. The 11th JAA Sakura Matsuri was held on April 18 of this year, but the flowers are still in bloom and quite gorgeous. Head to Flushing Meadows Corona Park before the fleeting petals have floated off of the trees.
- Silver Lake Park
Located on Staten Island’s north shore, Silver Lake Park is the Central Park of Staten Island. A one-time location for ice harvesting, Silver Lake Park is home to Japanese flowering cherry trees.
Do you have a favorite place to see cherry blossoms? If so, let us know in the comments. Happy o-hanami, everyone!