Did you know that Tokyo is New York City’s first Sister City? Perhaps that’s why we have such a fascination with the cherry trees that show up in parks all over the city in the spring. Many of the trees were gifts from Japan, further fostering a pink friendship between the two cities.
Sakura Season in NYC
As spring trees bloom, the ones that elicit the most oohs and aahs are the cherries, the sakura. There are whites, pale pinks and vivid fuchsias. They stand tall, they spread wide or they droop like weeping willows. For just a few months through the end of May, the varieties of cherry blossom trees bloom on varying schedules, with timing dependent on the weather.
Plan Your Visit
Notable gifts from Japan to the US in 1912 and later from the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York have created Riverside Park’s gorgeous Cherry Walk. Finally re-opened this winter after a massive reconstruction project, the stretch of the park from 100th to 125th streets is named for the Prunuc cherry trees that line it and is again filled with cyclists and strollers. 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.
Central Park has an area called Cherry Hill on 72nd Street but that’s not the only place you’ll find the white-to-pink Yoshino and bright-pink Kwanzan sakura in the elegant park. A map of the cherry trees will help you as you search out your favorites. Central Park’s Yoshino cherries are also a gift from the government of Japan and can be found in abundance on the east side of the Reservoir and behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art as you head towards the Great Lawn. The area is perfect for picnicking with lawn areas and plenty of benches and you’ll see a parade of camera buffs posing against the showy pink and white blossoms.
Visit frequently as the intensity of the petals changes from week to week. For a shaded, dramatic walk, the bridle path from East 84th Street up to Engineer’s Gate flanks you on both sides with lush blooms. Can’t get there? Take a virtual tour.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
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 Cherry Watch. The schedule is updated frequently so you can see which trees are blooming in which areas, especially helpful if you prefer pink Kanzan ones to whitish Yoshinos, or an allee of trees where you can sit, paint or just meditate.
The two main draws are the aforementioned Cherry Esplanade and the Japanese-Hill-and-Pond Garden. It’s easy to envision yourself swept away to Japan when you look at the lovely trees and a beautiful vermillion torii set against the pond. Adding to the Japanese-inspired setting, the waters are filled with koi as you might see in the Imperial Palace Gardens in Tokyo. Through May 9, weekends are enhanced with outdoor pop-up music and dance performances in lieu of the Garden’s traditional Sakura Matsuri (cherry blossom festival) postponed this year due to COVID-19.
New York Botanical Garden
More than 200 cherry trees are scattered throughout the expansive New York Botanical Garden beginning with the entry walkway leading to the first of many colorful sculptures by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, “I Want to Fly to the Universe.” The mix of Japanese art and Japanese cherries creates a transportive effect as you roam the grounds.
The New York Botanical Garden’s Cherries Tracker will help guide your visit so you’ll know where and when to focus your time. Stop to admire the weeping cherry trees and the “Dancing Pumpkin” sculpture in front of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory before meandering along the path in the Cherry Collection. Daffodil Gardens is a beautiful area to admire the season’s varied yellow and white flowers along with the pinks of the cherries.
A Pink Pause
Tastings NYC is the master of the portable picnic. To celebrate this beautiful time of the year, the Manhattan hospitality specialists have created the “Cherry Blossom Picnic,” a pretty-in-pink box of cherry blossom-influenced treats. Setting the stage is spring quinoa and roasted chicken, both with touches of pink. The final act is an adorable bag of mini strawberry pound cakes along with a pink beverage, your choice of a rosé Champagne or a rosé wine.
For a touch of pink romance and some virtual hanami, pour a bottle of rosé from New York’s rosé-only vineyard Croteaux. Born on the North Fork of Long Island, Croteaux is perfect for a cherry blossom toast. If you’re not near the North Fork, you can order their varietals online. Then grab a corkscrew and sit back to watch the sunset under the pink petals.