Experience the nation’s capital at its prettiest during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, an annual celebration commemorating the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to Washington, D.C. There are several ways to experience the blooms: rent a paddleboat for a spin around the tidal basin where you can take in the Jefferson Memorial, take aboat tour from Georgetown, bike along the blossoms or opt for a self-guidedwalking tour. Foodies should opt for the Cherry Blossom Food Tour ($49), which combines DC’s culture, history and architecture with local flavors inspired by cherries and the region’s Japanese influence. For an out-of-the-ordinary family-friendly option, download the free SCVNGR challenge app created by the International Spy Museum for a cherry-blossom-themed scavenger hunt.
Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, San Francisco (April 13 & 14 and 20 & 21)
Spread out over two weekends, this San Francisco celebration includes Japanese food booths, exhibits and demonstrations on the arts of ikebana (flower arranging), origami, sumi-e (ink painting), plus karate and judo. The festival concludes with the Grand Parade from the Civic Center to Japantown, where participants include the Cherry Blossom Queen and her court in colorful kimonos, Japanese classic folk dance groups and traditional taiko drummers.
Kitakami Tenshochi Cherry Blossom Festival, Japan (mid-April thru early May)
Tenshochi Municipal Park and its 1.4-mile pathway along the Kitakami River, home to more than 10,000 cherry trees, takes center stage during this festival on the Japanese island of Honshu. Take in the blooms with a boat ride, where you’ll pass beneath colorful koinobori (carp streamers) and over 100,000 azaleas, which add to the vibrant spectacle. Be sure to visit the promenade after sunset too, when the cherry trees are illuminated with fairy lights. For over-the-top romance, opt for a horse-drawn carriage ride beneath the blooming branches along the water.
Sakura Matsuri, Brooklyn (April 27 & 28)
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Sakura Matsuri is a favorite of New York families, thanks to a weekend lineup that includes myriad kid-friendly activities like traditional taiko drumming lessons and origami classes. Over 60 dance and musical performances take place throughout the weekend, culminating with the Cosplay Fashion Show of outfits inspired by anime movies and television series, manga and video games on Sunday. Kids will also love the Hanagasa Odori (Flower Hat Dance) Parade, presented by the Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York on the 27th.
Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, Canada (April 4 thru 30)
This festival is only eight-years-old, but there’s plenty to keep visitors busy in British Columbia’s largest city, with dozens of events in parks throughout. April 6 and 7 sees the Sakura Days Japan Fair in VanDusen Botanical Garden (expect arts and crafts demos, plus musical and dance performances and haiku readings) and, new for this year, the Sakura Illumination, with trees lit up after dark.