While the Washington, DC cherry blossoms are famous and remarkably beautiful, don’t overlook other regions for their flowering trees! The City of Brotherly Love celebrates the flowering cherry trees in bloom each spring with a Philadelphia cherry blossom festival that is a week long. Full of a variety of events, the festival culminates with Sakura Sunday. But you can see and enjoy the Philadelphia cherry blossoms across the city whenever Mother Nature lets them arrive. And boy are they worth seeing! I’m recommending a few cherry blossoms spots in Philadelphia, tips for viewing, and an overview of the Philly cherry blossom festival.
Quick History of Philly’s Cherry Trees
Philadelphia’s cherry trees date to 1926. The trees were a gift from Japan in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the United States of America’s independence. And the number of trees continues to grow. In the last two decades, the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia planted more than 1,000 trees.
Where to See Philadelphia Cherry Blossoms
Fairmount Park, in the western part of the city, is at the top of the list for the best spots to see cherry blossoms in Philadelphia. But you can also expect to see other flowering trees, like magnolias and dogwoods, too. The trees are throughout the park but you can find some of the best in the area between the Fairmount Park Horticultural Center and Shofuso, a Japanese house and garden (and one of Philly’s best-kept secrets!). There are a real variety of different types of cherry trees, including some beautiful weeping cherry trees. And you can find Alexander Stirling Calder’s sundial ringed in trees with delicate pink blossoms. This spot in the park serves as the location for Sakura Sunday, too — but more on that later!
There are also beautiful trees lining Kelly Drive and Martin Luther King Jr Drive, running parallel to the Schuylkill River. When the trees are in bloom, it makes for a picture perfect view along the always iconic Boathouse Row.
You can also find more beautiful, delicate pink and white blossoms to enjoy between Boathouse Row and the Philadelphia Art Museum. The spot is near the museum’s sculpture garden and just down the steps (no, not those steps) from the west entrance of the museum. It’s a popular location with joggers and cyclists, so you can do a cherry blossom walking tour or just picnic.
You can also spot lots of flowering trees throughout the city. There are cherry blossoms in popular areas, such as along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and around Rittenhouse Square. Eagle-eye visitors will even notice the cherries on Cherry Street.
Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival
What would the city be without a Philadelphia sakura festival? So each spring, the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival runs for a week with a range of events highlighting Japanese culture and those famous tree blossoms. The highlight and final event of the festival is Sakura Sunday, a day-long celebration including hanami (the Japanese word for enjoying cherry blossoms), picnicking, a cosplay area, watching fantastic performances from the likes of Tamagawa University Taiko Drum and Dance Troupe (they’re always a favorite of mine!), and more. There are also stalls selling toys, Japanese clothing, and other items. Local Japanese grocer and restaurant Maido is usually a regular at the event. Tickets are required for the festival, which takes place in Fairmount Park.
You can also participate in a Cherry Blossom run/walk, try your hand at sushi making or taiko drumming, learn more about sake or the Japanese tea ceremony, among other things. Each year the events are a little different so be sure to do a little research to see what interests you.
Tips for Viewing Philly Cherry Blossoms
If you want to see the trees in full bloom, don’t assume that the cherry blossoms festival is the best time for viewing. The festival and its events are scheduled months in advance, long before the first buds have even emerged on the tree limbs. Depending on Mother Nature, peak bloom may not fall during Sakura Sunday. If you want to enjoy the blooms at their best, keep an eye on local media (including the festival’s website and social media pages) for forecast peak bloom dates.
Seeing the blooms on your own, prior to or after the festival, does have its benefits. You don’t need to buy a ticket to Sakura Sunday and the crowds are minimal. Seeing the cherry blossoms is a fantastic free things to do in Philadelphia if you’re looking to save money. But you also don’t have the same festive and fun atmosphere.
Most of the spots I’ve mentioned are dog-friendly so don’t leave your pooch at home! It’s a great excuse for a walk together.
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All opinions, as well as all photos, are my own.