Welcome to spring, and the magical bright pink and white blooms of cherry blossom season.
Here are a dozen-plus dozen spots in New York City and the rest of NY State where you can enjoy acres of these blooming beauties through mid-May, many for FREE in public parks, so you can enjoy cherry blossoms on the cheap.
Since this has been an unusually warm winter, with late-season snow in the Catskills and Adirondaks, many cherry trees are blooming earlier than their normal April-May. There are several types of cherry trees, which typically bloom at different times.
Since I’m a NYC native, let’s start with my hometown.
New York City’s 843-acre backyard for the perfect place to capture spring in the city, and the short-lived cherry blossom season brings nature lovers from all over the world to admire fields of cherry blossoms.
The first of the season are the early-blooming Okame, already blossoming on the West Side of the Reservoir, which is named for Jackie Kennedy Onassis, who lived nearby. The deep pink, late-blooming Kwanzan trees typically bloom in Mid-May.
Catch the stunning white blossoms of the Yoshino trees flowering on Cherry Hill, mid-park at 72nd Street, usually through mid-April.
To witness the white and pink Higan trees, check out the west side of Sheep Meadow, on Cedar Hill, and in the Conservatory Garden on the Woodland Slope, typically early April). For the most impressive collection of trees go to the southwest corner of the Great Lawn.
- Central Park – and all NYC Parks – are open daily 6am to 1am, with FREE admission.
- Use the park’s new Cherry Blossom Tracker to find out when blooms are at peak.
Riverside Park, Manhattan
Hundreds of cherry trees line the paths between 79th St. and 125th St., along the Hudson River.
There are two main sections – one is between 79th and 94th Streets. This is more popular because it is shorter, with several exits from the park, and a broad Promenade with a wonderful community garden at 94th St. that blooms with colorful tulips, daffodils and other early spring flowers and shrubs.
The section between 96th and 125th is known as Cherry Walk, and is directly adjoining the river, with access across the West Side Highway only at each end of the route. So unless you are ready for a two-mile walk dotted with picturesque cherry trees, and sharing the walkway with cyclists and joggers, do the southern half.
Sakura Park, Manhattan
Sakura Park owes its name to the more than 2,000 cherry trees delivered to parks in New York City from Japan in 1912. The word sakura means “cherry blossom” in Japanese. The cherry trees were to be presented as a gift from the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York as part of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in 1909.
This 18-day celebration commemorated the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s innovative demonstration of the steam-powered boat on the Hudson River and the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery and exploration of the river which became named for him. Celebrations also took place throughout the state of New York. However, the steamer that carried the original delivery of cherry trees from Japan was lost at sea. A new shipment of trees arrived in New York City in 1912 and were planted both in Riverside Park and in Sakura Park.
- Located in Morningside Heights, north of West 122nd Street between Riverside Drive and Claremont Avenue, and steps from Grant’s Tomb and Riverside Church.
- Admission is FREE
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, Brooklyn
With over 200 cherry blossoms sprawled across six gardens ready to bloom in late April, the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens is a picture-perfect spot for cherry blossom season.
Take a shaded stroll down the Cherry Esplanade and through the late-blooming Kanzan cherry blossoms, or pause for a peaceful moment of reflection at the pond, viewing pavilion, or torii (traditional gate). The shrine on the three-acre Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden is filled with flowering cherries, Japanese maples, tree peonies, irises, and bamboos.
The Cherry Esplanade is also the heart of the Garden’s Sakura Matsuri, the annual cherry blossom festival in May.
- The Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Bloom hours are Tues.-Thurs., 8AM -8:30 PM and to 6PM on Fri.-Sun. BBG is closed on Mondays April 1 – May 15.
- Paid tickets are required for entry.
- Use the park’s Cherrywatch to find out which blossoms are at peak.
Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
A cemetery as a destination for cherry trees? Yes!
There are nearly 200 cherry trees here at this 478-acre National Historic Landmark, which was one of America’s first rural cemeteries when Brooklyn was the countryside, and features an array of peaceful hills, valleys, glacial ponds, and paths. Also a collection of what Green-Wood describes as “permanent residents”, including members of the Tiffany family, Leonard Bernstein, and Charles Ebbets, who owned the Brooklyn Dodgers, who played in Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.
Walk along Battle Avenue or take a trolley ride around the grounds to admire and honor the flourishing pink and white cherry blossoms. Stay tuned for information regarding the annual Hanami Festival.
- The Main Entrance at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street, just one block from the R subway station.
- Open daily 8 AM – 5 PM. FREE admission.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
Drop by Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, home to two 20th-century World Fairs and a captivating palette of colorful cherry blossoms!
Stroll or bike through one of the city’s most iconic parks on one of the many scenic trails and historic walks, while you gaze at the budding blossoms. For a truly delightful view, go west on the Promenade toward the Unisphere, which was the centerpiece of the 1964 World’s Fair.
- Admission to the park is FREE. Some costs are required for additional activities. Hours vary based on attraction.
- See a full list of attractions and hours here.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, Staten Island
This 83-acre campus is said to be the largest ongoing adaptive reuse project in America and home to 23 historical buildings, nine botanical gardens, and 10 acres of wetlands.
The best cherry blossoms are around the site’s Chinese Scholar’s Garden, one of two authentic classical outdoor Chinese gardens built in the United States.
- Admission to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden is FREE and open seven days a week from dawn to dusk.
- Tickets for the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors (65+) and students, and free for children under five, active military, and Snug Harbor members.
- Staten Island residents are admitted free on the first Friday of each month with proof of residency.
Roosevelt Island, Manhattan (New York City)
Early-blooming Yoshino and late-blooming Kwanzan trees line the West Promenade walkway on the southern half of island. It’s along the East River, so there also are sweeping views of Manhattan’s East Side.
It’s a beautiful waterfront scene with cherry blossoms canopying overhead. Keep walking south to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park to enjoy the scenery from the southern tip of the island!
- Take the Roosevelt Island Tram from East 59th St. and 1st Avenue across the East River to Roosevelt Island – one ride for one subway fare.
- FDR Four Freedoms Park is on the southern end of the island – a ten-minute walk or wait for the FREE shuttle
- The park is FREE and open to the public 9 AM – 5 PM and closed on Tuesdays.
Cherry Blossom Festivals in New York State
10th Annual Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival, Buffalo
Along with the sea of pink and white, the festival features Japanese cultural events and activities for all ages like Taiko Drum performances, the Pink Parade, and an array of speakers and performers. Can’t make it to the festival? Visit the Japanese Gardens of Buffalo anytime from the end of April to mid-May to catch the blossoms.
- In 2023, the festival is April 29-30, 2023.
- Admission and parking are FREE
The 6th Annual Peekskill Cherry Blossom Festival, Peekskill (Hudson Valley)
Capture the beauty of over 100 budding cherry blossoms with a backdrop of the Hudson Highlands at the Peekskill Riverfront Walkway
Snap some photos while you take a stroll along the river and visit some of the local vendors, food trucks, plant sales, raffle prizes, and activities for kids like flower pot painting and inflatable slides.
- The festival is Saturday, May 6, 2023, 10 am-5 pm at the Peekskill Riverfront Green Park, with easy access from the MetroNorth Peekskill train station.
- Admission and parking are FREE.
The Japan Center at Stony Brook’s Sakura Matsuri: Cherry Blossom Festival, Stony Brook (Long Island)
The Sakura Matsuri: Cherry Blossom Festival at Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center celebrates the blooming of the cherry blossoms while being entertained by the sounds of Taiko drums, elegant Japanese performances, and an array of cultural exhibits and activities for all ages.
- The 2023 festival is Sunday, May 7, 2023, from Noon – 5 PM (rain or shine) at Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center located on the West Campus.
- Admission to the festival is FREE, but paid wristbands are required for certain events and performances.
Where Else to See Cherry Blossoms
Washington Park, Albany
Best known for its Tulip Festival in early May, Washington Park, in the heart of Albany, is also a beautiful photo spot for cherry blossom trees! Slowly meander through the Knox Street Mall or have a seat on a bench and take in the sweet-smelling blossoms throughout the 84-acre park. Don’t forget to check out the monuments, lake, and the oldest and only remaining original structure in the park: the footbridge.
- Washington Park is FREE admission.
- Open from November – April, sunrise to 10 PM, and from May – October, sunrise to 11 PM.
F.R. Newman Arboretum at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, Ithaca (Finger Lakes)
Discover endless photo ops on the 100-acre grounds of the F.R. Newman Arboretum in the Cornell Botanic Gardensm featuring more than 20 different types of flowering cherry trees.
These beautiful and lightly fragrant cherry blossoms like the Okame and Sargentii usually bloom in mid-spring (last year they bloomed late-April) and can be found in the Cornell Class of 1923 Flowering Tree Collection. You can also catch magnolias and crabapples flourish from mid to late May.
- The Arboretum is FREE year-round, dawn-dusk.
Orange County Arboretum, Hamptonburgh (Hudson Valley)
These picture-perfect cherry blossom displays are in the arboretum, which is within in the Thomas Bull Memorial Park.
Sprawling across 35 acres of former pasturelands are countless collections of trees, shrubs, and plants alongside the breathtaking view of the Shawangunk Mountains. Mosey down the gravel pathway through the Asian Tea Garden for grand displays of flourishing pink and white cherry blossoms or admire from the benches.
Blooming in previous years from mid to late-April.
- The park is FREE and open daily rain or shine, dawn until dusk.
Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay (Long Island)
This vibrant and elegant site is home to countless historical structures and horticultural collections including flourishing cherry blossoms in the spring.
The Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Districts, with two acres of greenhouse displays, 22 gardens, and more than 10,000 types of plants and stunning architecture. Wander through peaceful, quaint paths surrounded by vivid hues of pink, white, and green.
- Open daily 9 AM – 5 PM.
- Parking is $8 per car, $75 per bus ($35 for non-profits) between May 1 and Labor Day, on weekends and holidays from Labor Day to November 21, and in April on weekends and holidays only.
Boscobel House and Gardens, Garrison (Hudson Valley)
Get your daily dose of history while you snap photos of cherry blossom trees at the Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison.
This nonprofit museum opened 60 years ago and was once the dream house of wealthy British Loyalists. Take in the 68 acres of grounds scattered with flowering cherry trees overlooking the Hudson River and West Point across the river.
Boscobel also hosts a famous Shakespeare festival each summer.
- Admission to the gardens and grounds is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, $7 for children (4-18 years old), and free for members and children under four.
- Open Saturday from 10 AM – sunset, and Sunday from 12 PM – sunset.
- Take MetroNorth to Cold Spring, and either walk to Boscobel (ten minutes) or take a taxi.
This article is adapted from one on the I Love NY website.