CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVALS

The World's 10 Best Cherry Blossom Festivals

When the pink and white blooms known as sakura signal the start of spring, cities around the world start celebrating. Check out our favorite cherry blossom festivals, from the small town of Macon, Georgia to the big annual blowout in Washington, D.C. and across the globe to Japan and Korea, plus travel tips on how to get there.

 

 

Matsumae Koen Park Cherry Blossom Festival Matsumae Town, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
More than 10,000 cherry trees burst with color in this seaside town surrounding the famed 17th-century Matsumae Castle, with its graceful, three-tiered, curved eaves. It's located on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, which means that the cherry blossoms spring to life late in the season, from late April to mid-May. The grounds hold more than 250 varieties of the famed tree, including the so-called "weeping sakura," with branches that droop like a willow. A parade opens the festivities, which also feature local seafood, crafts, and even a karaoke contest.  Don't Miss: A bite of local delicacies from vendors on the castle grounds. Favorites include iwanori seaweed (harvested from the cold, deep water of the Tsugaru Strait and used in miso soup) and bottled Northern sea urchin with wild leeks.
When to Go:
Festival dates have not been set as of press time. In 2010, the festival ran from April 29 through May 16.
Where to Stay:
The Hakodate Danshaku Club is a sleek hotel named for an early-twentieth-century baron who brought modern British shipbuilding techniques—and a hearty variety of potato—to the region. Rooms on the south side of the building afford views of Mount Hakodate and the surrounding harbor. Doubles from $120, danshaku-club.com.

Copenhagen Sakura Festival Copenhagen, Denmark (sakurafestival.dk)
To celebrate the bicentennial of Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen in 2005, the Danish Honorary Consul of Hiroshima gave Copenhagen 200 flowering cherry trees, sparking a new city tradition. The two-day cherry blossom festival takes place in Langelinie Park, where the first trees were planted—and appropriately enough, home to the city's famed Little Mermaid statue, based on an Andersen tale. In addition to traditional martial arts demonstrations and tea ceremonies, a number of Japanese crafts, from origami to calligraphy, are taught in free workshops daily. Because the trees are relatively new, the blooms become more brilliant each year as the trees age. Don't Miss: The flea market, or nomi no ichi, near the main stage, which is filled with handicrafts like wooden tops, wire sculptures, manga-style comic books, and specialty candy.
When to Go:
May 7–8, 2011
Where to Stay:
Located two blocks from the famed Tivoli Gardens, the cozy Hotel Alexandra is filled with chic retro Danish design originals and homey personal touches, like a warm lobby library. Doubles from $102, epoquehotels.com.

 


International Cherry Blossom Festival Macon, Ga. (cherryblossom.com)
This Georgia city of roughly 93,000 bills its festival as "the pinkest party on Earth." And though this celebration may be one of the most unabashedly Westernized of the group, it can also lay claim to being one of the biggest, with over 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees spread throughout the city. It all began in 1952 after Macon realtor William A. Fickling Sr. made a fateful trip to the nation's capital. Enraptured by the pretty pink bloom, he began handing out cuttings from his backyard cherry tree to local friends and neighbors. Soon, the city was awash in pink every spring. Nowadays, the 10-day cherry blossom festival includes a beauty pageant, a huge street party, a fireworks show, and a "balloon glow"—a nighttime display of illuminated hot-air balloons. Don't Miss: The Bed Race—as in, yes, bed frames and mattress on wheels—happens on Cherry Street, in which teams of locals race decorated beds through historic downtown (March 19, 1 p.m.).
When to Go: March 18–27, 2011.
Where to Stay
: Built in 1842 by a former mayor, the colonnaded Greek Revival 1842 Inn offers a wide front porch and 19 guest rooms with four-poster beds—a romantic and historic starting point from which to enjoy the blossoms (doubles from $189 during the festival, including breakfast, 1842inn.com). The Macon Marriott City Center trades in antebellum charm for a convenient location, a colorful lounge for après-festival cocktails—and a lower price tag.  Doubles from $130, marriott.com.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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