Where to See the Cherry Blossoms (and Other Flowers) in New York City This Spring

Painting on the Cherry Esplanade at Brooklyn Botanic Garden credit Meryl Pearlstein
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By Meryl Pearlstein

Flower lovers have it made this Spring. If you missed Philadelphia’s Flower Show at the beginning of March, there’s the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx to wow you. This year’s theme, “Florals in Fashion,” is all about color and mixes orchid design with a fashionista flair. You have time to see the exhibit – it runs through April 21. It’s also the beginning of daffodil and magnolia season, but the main draw in New York City is the arrival of the cherry blossoms.

Orchids and cherry blossoms at New York Botanical Garden © Meryl Pearlstein

“Mean Girls” aren’t the only ones who wear pink in the Spring and not just on Wednesdays. Like a Barbie wardrobe, pink and white hues enrobe New York City’s ornamental cherry trees come mid-March. While Washington, DC and Tokyo (New York City’s first Sister City) are better known for their rows of cherry trees, New York City is no slacker at this time of the year thanks to the gift of more than 2000 trees from the Land of the Rising Sun in 1912. 

Central Park cherry blossoms and daffodils © Meryl Pearlstein

Public parks and private gardens provide the most up-close views and Instagrammable shots of the sakura blossoms on the cherries. With soft whites, pale pinks and vivid fuchsias, these cherry trees stand tall, spread wide, or droop like weeping willows. For just a few months through the end of May, the varieties of cherry trees bloom on varying schedules, with timing dependent on the weather. The season is typically at its peak in April. 

Here’s where to go to see the Big Apple’s pink finery.

Manhattan

Central Park

White cherry blossoms at New York Botanical Garden
© Meryl Pearlstein

Central Park’s white-pink Yoshino cherries are a gift from the government of Japan and can be found in abundance on the east side of the Jacqueline Onassis Reservoir and behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There’s plenty of space to sit for a while and take in the trees’ pink and white beauty from benches lining the walks or from the park’s numerous lawns. For a perfect place for a pink picnic (love the alliteration!), Central Park has an area appropriately called Cherry Hill on 72nd Street. If you’re on the west side of the park, the bridle path is lined with rosy-pink Okame trees, the same ones that you’d see in Washington, DC. So you don’t miss any of the fleeting blossoms, Central Park has a Cherry Blossom Tracker.

Cherry Hill in Central Park © Meryl Pearlstein

Riverside Park

The West Side has more ties to Japan as well. Notable gifts to the United States in 1912 and later from the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York have created Riverside Park’s gorgeous Cherry Walk. The stretch of Riverside Walk from 100th to 125th streets is named for the pale-pink Prunus cherry trees that line it. Cyclists, walkers and children in strollers keep the pathway lively, while picnickers enjoy the adjacent benches and lawns. Reflections off the Hudson River make this an exceptionally beautiful area to spend time and contemplate how lucky you are to be in New York City during this glorious season.

Under the trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden © Meryl Pearlstein

Brooklyn

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

For a quick trip to Japan, New York style, Brooklyn provides a welcoming space. The queen of private gardens when it comes to hanami, the Japanese tradition of celebrating the transient beauty of flowers, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden takes the guesswork out of when the cherries are blooming with their online Cherry Watch. The schedule is updated frequently so you can see which trees are blooming in which areas, especially helpful if you prefer pink Kanzans to whitish Yoshinos. You’ll find many people soaking in the views along the Cherry Esplanade, a dramatic allée of pink trees where you can sit, paint or just meditate. Another favorite spot is the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden with its beautiful vermilion-colored wooden torii. Adding to the Japanese-inspired setting, the pond waters are filled with koi, as you might see in the Imperial Palace Gardens in Tokyo. 

Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden © Meryl Pearlstein

From April 23-25, the garden’s Hanami Nights light the cherry blossoms for maximum effect. Spend the evening strolling along the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and Cherry Walk, try origami art, and view a curated display of bonsai in the Lillian and Amy Goldman Atrium. The special Japanese-themed evenings also feature live performances, a bar selling Japanese beer and sake, and pop-up food menus from Japanese supermarket Sunrise Mart. Tickets are required.

Spring awakening at New York Botanical Garden © Meryl Pearlstein

The Bronx

New York Botanical Garden

April is Earth Month, and the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx celebrates it with orchids, daffodils, and cherry trees galore. More than 200 cherry trees are scattered throughout the expansive gardens, beginning with the entry walkway. Of special note, the garden’s weeping cherries gorgeously adorn the front of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and nearby paths. Schedule a full day here – in addition to the Orchid Show and the spring blooms, there are art exhibits and educational workshops. The New York Botanical Garden’s Cherry Tracker will help guide your visit so you’ll know where and when to focus your time. On April 20, the New York Botanical Garden honors Earth Day with environmentally focused workshops and programming.

Weeping cherries in front of the Conservatory at New York Botanical Garden © Meryl Pearlstein

Queens

Flushing Meadows Corona Park

The site of two World’s Fairs, Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens has a grove of cherry trees that provide a rich pink canopy. Near the Unisphere from the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, the pink Okame trees attract early blossom seekers and provide a centerpiece for the park’s trails and paths.

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