When someone mentions cherry blossoms, we immediately think of the giant, bright pink fields that flower around Japan or in Washington, DC. each spring.
But we were surprised to discover that, in addition to the big, well-known festivals, hundreds of smaller cherry blossom festivals around the world offer equally glorious displays with fewer crowds.
The International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia, for example—dubbed “the pinkest party on earth”—offers nightly concerts, hot air balloon rides and hot-pink parade floats, while the subtler celebration in Copenhagen honors the birth of author Hans Christian Andersen (and is situated around the city’s iconic Little Mermaid statue).
Traveled to see the cherry blossoms? Share your experience in the comments below!
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK: Denmark may not be known for its cherry blossoms, but it is known as being birthplace of author Hans Christian Andersen, whose bicentennial was honored with the planting of 200 flowering cherry trees (donated by Hiroshima) in 2005. Today, the trees blossom around Copenhagen's iconic Little Mermaid statue, with is based on the classic Andersen story. April 27-28; sakurafestival.dk.
WASHINGTON, DC: In a gesture of friendship, the mayor of Tokyo donated 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the US capital back in 1912 (though the first batch of trees had to be burned after they turned out to be infested with nematodes). Today, the National Cherry Blossom Festival spans two weeks and includes handmade kite displays, parades, and helium balloon floats. March 20-April 14; nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.
KITAKAMI, JAPAN: The sheer density of cherry trees in Kitakami, Japan make its annual cherry blossom festival one of the most gorgeous displays in the world. The entire length of a 1.4 mile path is framed by pink blooms, while the nearby river is decorated in bright "koinobori," a traditional carp-shaped flag. April 15-May 5; japan-iwate.info.
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: The Brooklyn Botanic Garden—located on the eastern border of Brooklyn's Prospect Park—hosts over 60 performances and exhibits during its annual Sakura Matsuri cherry blossom festival. In addition to flowering blooms, you'll find live music and lessons in traditional ikebana and origami. April 27-April 28; bbg.org.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: Located in San Francisco's Japantown, the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival gets special bragging rights for being the largest in the United States after DC. Plan on arriving early early: with crowds reaching up to 150,000 people, you'll want to claim your spot for demonstrations in drumming and kendo. April 13-14, grand parade Sunday, April 21; sfcherryblossom.org.
MACON, GEORGIA: After realizing that the cherry trees in his front yard matched those he saw in DC, Macon, Georgia native William A. Fickling agreed to organize the planting of over 500 cherry trees throughout his hometown. Since 1982, the city of Macon has been celebrating its International Cherry Blossom Festival for ten days each spring. March 15-24; cherryblossom.com.
MATSUMAE, JAPAN: Located on the picturesque island of Hokkaido, Matsumae's annual cherry blossom festival is famous for its proximity to the iconic Matsumae Castle, a 17th century structure that overlooks the park's 10,000 cherry blossom trees. Details at jnto.go.jp.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA: Though less famous than neighboring cherry blossom festivals in Japan, the Children's Grand Park in Seoul, South Korea is bursting with soft pink blooms each spring. Details at visitkorea.or.kr.
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA: Having celebrated its first festival in 2005, the cherry blossom festival in Vancouver is one of the youngest in the world. But don't think that diminishes its splendor: With flowering trees in over 50 city parks, including the massive 1,000 acre Stanley Park, there are plenty of places to take a picnic and enjoy the view. April 4-30; vcbf.ca.
HIMEJI, JAPAN: With its bright white hill-top castle, the three-day festival in Himeji, Japan—home to over 1,000 cherry blossom trees—is one of the most famous in the world. Each day, visitors can participate in traditional activities like drumming or the tea ceremony, or enjoy treats at specialty food booths. Details at japan-guide.com.