Cherry-blossom appreciation has been elevated to an art by the Japanese, who each spring hold everything from flower-appreciation picnics to poetry readings beneath the trees' delicate pink blooms. But other places offer excellent opportunities to enjoy the stunning spring flowers, too. Cherry trees blossom across the globe, from Washington, D.C., to Stockholm and Paris, as well as Japan.
Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse County is one of the best places in Michigan to see cherry blossoms. Traverse City tourism officials recommend driving M-37, a state highway that runs the length of the peninsula, for views of Grand Traverse Bay and vineyards, along with the famous cherry trees. Another route is the Leelanau Trail in Leelanau County, a recreational trail that passes many orchards. The best time to see the blossoms is mid-May.
Popular with both locals and travelers, the Fresno County Blossom Trail is one of California's best places to indulge in cherry-blossom viewing. Bikes and cars can take the trail. The best time to see the blossoms is from the end of February through mid-March.
Macon is home to more than 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees -- more than Washington, D.C. Peak bloom occurs around the third week of March and lasts about 10 days. The city's International Cherry Blossom Festival runs March 16-25 and includes a fair, live music, and parades. There are also two-hour, twice-daily bus tours of the neighborhoods with the most blossoms costing $16.50 for adults, $12.50 for students, and $8.50 for children 5 and under.
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden near Richmond offers the Cherry Tree Walk, a path that has been planted with a variety of trees (Yoshino, Akebono, weeping cherry, Kwanzan, and Autumnalis) to extend the blooming season. Admission is $13 for adults; $8 for children 3 to 12. Peak viewing time for the beloved Yoshino trees is mid-March, but with the variety of trees planted at the garden, the season often begins and ends after that time.
Hakone Estate and Gardens is a 15-acre Japanese-style retreat in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Named after the famous Hakone National Park in Japan, the estate is home to one of the oldest Japanese gardens in the Western Hemisphere. An abundance of cherry trees bloom from about late March through mid-April. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for children 5 to 17, and free for children 4 and under.
The 200 cherry trees lining the Hocking River at Ohio University represent a decades-old relationship between the school and Japan's Chubu University, which offered the trees as gifts. The cherry trees are illuminated each year when they're in full bloom. One of the best ways to see them is to cycle along the 21-mile Hockhocking Adena Bikeway.
Since 2012, the Japan-America Society of New Hampshire has been planting cherry trees across the state to honor a peace treaty negotiated in New Hampshire more than 100 years ago, ending the Russo-Japanese War. Portsmouth City Hall is one of the best places to see the trees. They're planted around the city government building and nearby South Mill Pond.
For nearly 20 years, the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival has marked the seasonal opening of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden. The weeklong festival, April 7-15, includes music, dance performances, and sushi-making classes. One of the best places to view the cherry blossoms is at the Shofuso garden, home to a roughly 80-year-old weeping cherry tree. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 3 to 17.
NEW HAVEN, CT
New Haven's annual cherry blossom festival takes place April 22 on historic Wooster Square, where 72 Yoshino cherry trees were planted in 1973. Once a modest event, the festival attracts more than 10,000 people. It features music, food, arts and crafts, and exhibits from artists and authors beneath illuminated cherry blossoms.
There are myriad ways to enjoy the annual blossoms in the nation's capital, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival is the most high-profile event. It will start March 20 and continue through April 15. The festivities include music, fireworks, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. In addition to the festival, there are bike, boat, and even photo-safari tours -- and, of course, plenty of things to do that have nothing to do with cherry blossoms.
MOUNT FUJI AND LAKE KAWAGUCHI, JAPAN
The blossom season in Japan begins in late March and continues through early May. One of the most iconic places to admire the cherry trees is on Lake Kawaguchi at the foot of Mount Fuji. When the lake is calm, there is a reflection of Mount Fuji on the water, making for stellar photographs from a small cape along the eastern shore called Ubuyagasaki. The blossoms here are at peak bloom in mid-April.
MOUNT YOSHINO, JAPAN
Imagine a blanket of 30,000 trees covering the slope of a mountain from foot to base. That's what's in store for those who visit the World Heritage Site of Mount Yoshino. The trees are divided into four distinct areas (Shimo, Naka, Kami, and Oku) from the foot to the top of the mountain. The Shimo area reaches peak bloom in early April, and the opening of blossoms moves up the mountain through the end of the month.
Stockholm's Kungsträdgården (King's Tree Garden) provides yet another place to stroll, picnic, or play chess beneath cherry trees in full bloom. The park, in the center of Stockholm, dates back to the Middle Ages. But the 63 cherry trees were planted in 1998. Blossoms here typically peak between mid- to late April.
JERTE VALLEY, SPAIN
Come spring, Spain's Jerte Valley, about three hours from Madrid, turns white with the flowers of 2 million cherry trees. The trees, which cover the mountainsides, typically bloom in mid-March, with the blossoms lasting about 10 days. The best way to see them is to stroll the trails that meander among the many villages of Jerte Valley.
From late February through the end of April, blossoming cherry trees can be seen throughout the City of Light, from the Champ de Mars, near the Eiffel Tower, to Square Rene Viviani. One of the most popular locations, according to travel blog The Glittering Unknown, is Square Jean XXIII on the south side of Notre Dame cathedral. The Jardin du Palais-Royal is said to be home to one of the largest cherry trees in the city.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has an impressive collection of cherry trees that includes some 26 different species. The cherry blossoms usually appear between late March and mid-May, but check the website for updates. The first trees often bloom along with the daffodils. Admission is $15 for adults and $8 for students 12 and older.
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Vancouver is home to 40,000 cherry trees, many of them a gift from Japan. The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival at VanDusen Botanical Garden runs April 3-29, traditionally with free "Bike the Blossoms" tours and "Tree Talks & Walks." For those who want to explore on their own, an online map provides information about the state of the cherry blossoms in 23 neighborhoods around the city.
Salem hosted its first cherry festival around 115 years ago. Today, the free festival is a one-day celebration (March 25) featuring the more than 150 Akebono flower cherry trees lining the Capitol Mall. Activities include taiko drum lessons, children's activities, and special musical performers visiting from Japan. Kite-flying demonstrations, a Japanese tea ceremony, a kimono fashion show, Japanese dance and chorus performances, and cherry product samples have all been part of past events.
Hamburg is another city regularly named one of the best places to see cherry blossoms, thanks in large part to the city's Japanese population, which began planting the trees around Alster Lake in the 1960s. To show its appreciation for the trees, the city began hosting an annual festival and fireworks show in 1968. The festival takes place in May, but an exact date has not yet been set for this year.
ST. LOUIS, MO
The Missouri Botanical Garden is home to hundreds of cherry trees. Many are in its 14-acre Japanese garden, one of the largest in North America. More than a dozen Kanzan trees produce frilly pink blossoms during April. There are also more than 40 weeping Higan cherry trees and 40 Yoshino cherry trees that blossom throughout the month. Admission is $12 for adults; kids 12 and under are free.