After a long gray winter, there are few things that can lift my mood like seeing the first pink cherry blossoms of spring filling the sky with their delicate blooms.
I’m especially lucky — some of the best buds on the East Coast bloom near me at Branch Brook Park in Newark (yes, that Newark). The 5,000 trees create a cotton candy skyline for a week in early April that banishes all thoughts of bleak winter days.
I’m not the only one who feels the cherry blossoms’ positive mood pull. The Japanese equate sakura, cherry blossoms, with new beginnings, and the act of hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, in early spring is met with both reverence and celebration in Japan, with multiple generations spending days and evenings at parties, picnics and festivals lauding this fresh new start.
Although Japan, especially Tokyo, is equated with hanami celebrations, you can find sakura in destinations around the globe. It’s the perfect excuse to plan spring travel — a cherry blossom pilgrimage offers not just the visual spectacle of the blooms and their aftermath of soft silky petals covering the ground like fragrant snow, but a chance to immerse yourself in the culture of each destination, too.
Related: The best places to see cherry blossoms around the US this spring
Of course, trees can be temperamental depending on the weather, so build a bit of time buffer into your travels if you’re planning a trip specifically around seeing the delicate pink and cream blooms and their flower fireworks.
From Amsterdam to Japan, here’s where to immerse yourself in spring’s sakura.
If you’re considering traveling to see spring’s cherry blossom bloom, chances are you have Tokyo in your sights already, since sakura are synonymous with this city, where the tradition of hanami dates back 1,200 years. The entire city celebrates the blooms with picnics and events, special sakura-themed menus, and hanami bento and snack spots near viewing areas.
There are multiple locations around Tokyo to view the pink sakura wave. Among the most prominent is Ueno Park, which transforms into a pink wonderland with 1,000 flowering trees that bring millions of visitors to bask in their rosy glow. In the evenings, the park is illuminated for a glowing nighttime visit. Another top stop is Chidorigafuchi Park, where the Imperial Palace is located, which is especially memorable for its nearly half-mile tunnel of blooms plus a sakura-lined canal that you can boat through.
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According to Japan’s cherry blossom forecast, Tokyo’s blooms are predicted to start March 23 and be at full flower on March 30. (Once again, these dates can wiggle a bit depending on Mother Nature.)
Where to stay: Staying near major transportation hubs will make it easy to see sakura around the city (and not be stuck in the crowds at the most popular spots). The Conrad Tokyo occupies the top floors of the Shiodome skyscraper, with stellar views of Tokyo Bay, and is near several train stations. It’s also next to Hama-rikyu Gardens, a hidden gem for peaceful sakura viewing. During peak hanami, the last week in March, rooms start at $818 or 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
Related: The best hotels in Tokyo for your next Japan getaway
It’s not just Tokyo where the sakura are revered in Japan. Kyoto is also world-renowned for its surge of cherry blossoms that bloom just in time for spring and romantically outline the tranquil pathways of its many parks. Known as the cultural heart of Japan, and serving as the central preservation hub for Japan’s vibrant culture and history, seeing the sakura among its 2,000 temples and shrines — including Nijo Castle and Toji Temple — truly imbues the ancient practice with a sense of history.
One particularly special spot is Philosopher’s Path, which weaves through cherry tree-lined canals between the Ginkakuji and Nanzenji temples. It’s a particularly serene setting for hanami. For evening viewing, Maruyama-Koen Park is especially popular for its illuminated branches and picnic areas under the bowers.
According to the Japan Meteorological Corporation, peak sakura viewing in Kyoto will start with the first blooms on March 23 and peak on March 31. The city sponsors multiple events, including night viewings.
Where to stay: The Park Hyatt Kyoto has a prime location in the Higashiyama ward and combines modern luxury with ancient pagoda guesthouse-style accommodations. (TPG staffers also love its French-inspired teppanyaki dining at Yasaka and its convivial bar, Kohaku, where craft cocktails are served with classic Kyoto views). Rates during hanami start at $1,273 or 35,000-45,000 World of Hyatt points per night, making it a great option for World of Hyatt loyalists.
Related: What’s faster: Race from Tokyo to Kyoto by Japan Airlines plane and bullet train
Seoul, South Korea
The cherry blossom spectacle at Yeouido Hangang Park in Seoul is a must-see, and it doesn’t have the same influx of foreign travelers that you’ll find in Tokyo, so you can avoid some of the flower-viewing crush that’s become part of the experience there. Some of the top viewing spots are Yeouido Park and Gyeongbokgung Palace, both of which have stunning views of clouds of blooms.
The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the biggest viewing events in South Korea. It takes place in early April and features parades and performances, including a magical night lantern parade. Although it’s not in Seoul, it’s possible to do a one-day excursion with Klook, where a bus will pick you up in the morning, take you to the festival and then bring you back in the evening.
Where to stay: The stylish Andaz Seoul Gangnam is centrally located, making it easy to walk to most of Seoul’s main attractions; plus, there’s direct access to Apgujeong station to reach the cherry blossom sites. Expect design details like bojagi, a traditional Korean cloth used to create textile art. The hotel has an array of hot tubs, a sauna and a lap pool. The property is a Category 5 World of Hyatt property; rooms start at $281 or 20,000 Hyatt points per night during the first week of April.
Related: A confluence of innovation and honored traditions: South Korea 2024
I am solidly in the camp that thinks Paris is always a good idea, especially in late March and the beginning of April when cerisiers (cherry trees) paint the town pink.
You’ll find pockets of the pink flowers all around the city. Some top spots include near the Louvre at the Jardin du Palais-Royal, where you’ll also spot spring daffodils filling the flower beds. You can also catch the pink wave along the Champ de Mars leading to the Eiffel Tower and in the Trocadero Gardens (the ultimate Instagram selfie with the tower and the pink petals). One of my favorite cherry blossom spots in Paris — Square Jean XXIII, next to Notre Dame — is currently closed, but it should be open for the 2025 flower season, if you’re planning a trip for next year.
Unlike other destinations where you’ll find cherry blossom events, there are no organized festivals in the City of Light. Do like the Parisians do, and plan a picnic under the flowering bowers.
Where to stay: The Hotel du Louvre, part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, is tucked in between the Louvre and the Jardin du Palais-Royal, so you’ll have cherry blossom views no matter which way you turn when you walk out the door. For a double room in mid-April, the member rate with breakfast starts at $565 per night. This is a Hyatt Category 7 property, with point redemptions available for mid-April starting at 30,000 points per night.
Related: The best hotels in Paris
Although this might not be the biggest display in Europe, the cherry blossom season in Amsterdam has something that no other city can claim: a distinctly feminist feel. At Kersenbloesempark (Cherry Blossom Park) in Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) in Amstelveen, a suburb of Amsterdam located 5 miles south of downtown, the park’s 400 trees, a gift from the Japanese Women’s Club, are all named after women, with half in Dutch and half in Japanese.
There are no exact dates for the blooms, but expect about a two-week bloom sometime in late March or early April. Note that picnicking is only allowed during weekdays, and there are no restrooms in the gardens (check out the Amstelveen website for nearby restaurants).
Where to stay: From the centrally located Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam, it’s easy to both explore Amsterdam and to hop on tram line 5 to reach Amstelveen (about a 25-minute ride). IHG member rates for the hotel start at $231 a night in early April, with reward night stays starting at 31,000 IHG points. And as part of Kimpton’s Plant Pals program, the hotel will deliver a plant, which has a name and name tag, to your room.
Related: How to spend 1 day in Amsterdam
Jerte Valley, Spain
Sure, it’s impressive to see hundreds of cherry blossom trees together. And when you view thousands in one place, it’s quite a sight. But how about millions of trees? That’s what awaits in the Jerte Valley in the Extremadura region of Spain (about three hours west of Madrid), where more than 2 million cherry trees create a sea of petals in late March and early April.
During an extended celebration that runs from late March all the way into May, you’ll find everything from special marketplaces to medieval fairs, plus music, culture and cuisine events centered around the blooms. Unlike the ornamental varieties of Japanese cherry trees, the ones here produce prized fruit. If you return in May or June, you can even join the cherry harvest.
Where to stay: The Jerte Valley enjoys a rural setting, and there are no opportunities for points redemptions here. However, there are some authentic and welcoming places to spend the night, including Hospederia Valle del Jerte, which has a historic exterior but modern rooms. There’s an outdoor pool, a full breakfast and fantastic views of the valley, all for around $110 per night.
As a former resident of the nation’s capital, I can attest that Washington’s nearly 4,000 Yoshino cherry blossom trees transform the serious, buttoned-up city into a veritable pink carnival during the short lifespan of the blooms.
In addition to the festival held March 20 to April 14, with everything from a parade to a kite festival to a “Petalpalooza,” the Tidal Basin, where the majority of cherry blossoms are located, turns into a round-the-clock picnic scene, with thousands of people lying in the soft fallen petals, enjoying the spring weather.
Note that if you can’t visit during the main peak bloom period, another variety of cherry blossom, the Kwanzan, usually blooms two weeks later in other parts of the city. And if you want to avoid the crowds, head to the National Arboretum for a much more relaxed viewing experience.
Where to stay: Hilton fans will want to head to the Waldorf Astoria Washington DC, which occupies the Old Post Office building. It’s grand and very ornate, with a multifloor atrium and even a 19-foot cherry blossom tree in the lobby, where a Cherry Blossom Afternoon Tea is served. Special Cherry Blossom packages include a two-night stay, exclusive seating for the tea and special access to hanami locations around DC. Expect rates around $580 or 110,000 Hilton Honors points per night during the peak of bloom season.
Here’s a U.S. spot for hanami that may come as a surprise: Macon, Georgia. The Yoshino trees here were mistaken for the more popular dogwood when they were originally planted in 1949, according to city officials. Today, though, the annual bloom is celebrated in big style. For 10 days — this year, the bloom is predicted from March 15 to 24 — the entire city turns pink as more than 350,000 cherry trees are in full bloom (by comparison, Washington has 3,800).
This year a new event, The Pink Provisions Party on Poplar, on March 15, will feature local restaurants and bars presenting all of their signature creations for the celebration. Think cherry ice cream, pink doughnuts, foamy fuchsia cocktails, a cherry blossom pilsner from Ocmulgee Brewpub and even a cherry blossom coffee blend from Z Beans.
A live “Bloom Cam” feed allows those who can’t make it to watch the cherry trees as they announce the arrival of spring.
Where to stay: Use your Marriott points to stay at Hotel Forty Five, Macon, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel. The new boutique 95-room hotel is right in the middle of all the pink party happenings, and you can check it out from the Hightales Rooftop Bar. Double room rates start at $216 or 39,000 Marriott Bonvoy points a night during cherry blossom season.
Vancouver, British Columbia
With more than 40,000 cherry trees, many of which came directly from Japan, Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park becomes a veritable puff of pink in the spring.
With so many trees comprising multiple varieties, the blooming period spreads over nearly two months, so if you’re visiting in March or April, you will likely be able to spot some petals on the trees.
The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival will be held from March 29 to April 25 (almost a full month), with a mix of arts and culture events, including a Japanese Sakura Days Fair, a Haiku Festival and a Blossoms After Dark event for illuminated evening viewing.
Where to stay: Keep your stay green with a visit to the Fairmont Waterfront, whose organic rooftop garden grows everything from vegetables to fruit trees, not to mention beehives (you can try the honey at their “pollinator” dinner.) Room rates start at $299 a night in early April (Accor Live Limitless members receive 5% off the lowest rate).
Related: Booking the perfect Pacific Northwest summer vacation with points and miles
Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria boasts the mildest year-round climate in Canada, and as a result it’s a haven for spring florals. Starting at the end of February and going until May, the city offers an incredibly extended, and impressive, cherry blossom bloom.
One of the most popular places to see the tapestry of pink hues is along the aptly named View Street in the heart of Downtown Victoria. It’s usually the first area to explode in a sea of pink flowers, so this is a stop for early birds.
Although there’s no formal festival, Victoria does have an interactive cherry blossom map, so you can find the blooms around the city whenever you visit in the spring.
Where to stay: The Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour is a TPG favorite, with availability starting at $225 or 36,000 Marriott Bonvoy points a night in March. There are cherry blossoms around the harbor area for easy viewing, and the hotel has a pool for post-hanami relaxation.