Even though it’s officially spring as of March 20, it’s not really spring until the cherry blossoms start blooming in NYC. New York City in spring is absolutely magical! With the warmer weather comes an extra pep in your step. Seeing cherry blossoms in NYC in particular is a major draw for both locals and tourists. Over the years, I’ve found these to be the best places to see cherry blossoms around New York City!
I mentioned in my Washington DC cherry blossoms article that the cherry trees around Tidal Basin were a gift from the people of Japan to the US in the early 1900s. This is the same history in New York as well. The cherry trees that came to New York were planted in what is now known as Sakura Park, up in the Riverside area of Morningside Heights.
Surprisingly, it’s not that popular of a spot, but let’s go over a bunch of other locations that you must check out if you want to see cherry blossoms in the city.
In NYC specifically, peak bloom typically occurs mid to end of April. It’s heavily dependent on the weather, but I always gauge it to be about two to three weeks after the peak blooms in Washington DC happen. That being said, there are a variety of blooms happening and overlapping with each other. There are phases to the blooms, like the magnolias which bloom first earlier in the spring like March, followed by the Yoshino cherry blossoms which are the white with pink flowers which are considered the main show. The National Park Service benchmarks these cherry trees at Tidal Basin to determine when peak bloom is and the same sentiment carries over to NYC, even though we don’t really have anyone determine peak season here. Lastly, there’s the fluffy pink kwanzan’s to end the season late April.
The flowers from buds to final stage extends for about one week, but peak bloom can literally happen overnight. If you want to catch them at their most fluffy, you need to be prepared! Make sure to have a game plan if you want to hit up all of these locations when you’re in New York City!
For most people, it might seem like the blooms all look the same, but for cherry blossom nerds (and scientifically speaking), there’s a distinct difference.
Of course, there are other species too, but these are the big 3 everyone takes pictures of.
Roosevelt Island is an absolute must to check out! It’s so popular here during the day though, so if you want to come here when it’s empty, you’re going to have to come early at sunrise, which is usually at 6:30 am. There are two main ways to get here, either by the f train or the tram. The tram is one of the cutest novelty experiences that everyone should do at least once in New York!
The ‘Instagrammable spot’ is on the south side of the Queensboro Bridge, right along the riverside. The tree tunnel here makes for really good compression shots. If you walk a little further north along the river though, (the right side of the bridge) there are significantly fewer people and you can get a beautiful frame of the bridge and sunset without your view being blocked!
There are SO MANY spots in Central Park to see cherry blossoms! I didn’t realize how many locations I had pictured in my archives, but these have been amassed over the years. If you’re trying to hit a bunch of spots in a short period of time, having a strategy is crucial! Cherry Hill is probably the most popular spot and for good reason. They get incredibly fluffy and the way they frame the San Remo building in the background, it looks like a floating castle in the sky!
Other notable spots in Central Park include:
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is the reigning kwanzan cherry blossom champ. They have an esplanade dedicated to rows of these cherry trees that look so fluffy and beautiful! There’s a bloom tracker on their website that allows you to watch the progress of their flowers blooming. They also host the annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival during this time, which covers and educates how these beautiful flowers are intertwined with Japanese culture.
If you can go during the week in the morning, it’s so quaint and peaceful. There aren’t that many people there which is a big departure from the weekends where it’s a mad house. It does cost money to go in, but there are discounts for both students and seniors.
Be sure to give yourself extra time to walk around other parts of the campus and outside in front of the Brooklyn Museum. It’s a pretty big campus.
The ultimate spot to see Yoshino cherry blossoms in NYC is across the East River, at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City. There are Yoshino cherry trees all lined around the turf field of Hunters Point South, and when there’s a fiery sunset, this view with the skyline is absolutely incredible! I can’t get enough. Gantry Plaza is unbeatable if you want to see cherry blossoms with the most gorgeous New York City skyline view. Hands down my favorite spot because of the gorgeous sunsets that go behind the skyscrapers all year round.
Further into Queens to find Yoshino cherry blossoms are in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. It’s where the first Men in Black was filmed, and the Unisphere and NY Pavilion are next to the Queens Museum and Arthur Ashe Stadium where the US Open is held. It’s an expansive area that’s nice for a leisurely walk.
If you’re a Mets fan, you already know how to get here. Simply take the 7 train all the way to the Mets-Willets Point stop.
For a real hidden gem, head over to Rainey Park in Astoria, Queens. It has some of the densest kwanzan cherry blossoms in the city. It’s a hidden gem because no one comes here unless they’re a local. It has partial NYC skyline views with One Vanderbilt which is why I included it. Another good spot for sunset!
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