After the icy New York winter, the annual Sakura Matsuri Brooklyn Cherry Blossom Festival at the BBG (Brooklyn Botanical Gardens) lights up the trees and hearts of New Yorkers. Starting from mid-March and usually peaking in the middle of April, the bare branches are replaced with white, Fuschia, and pink crepe flowers.
A festival of flowers and color
Traditionally, cherry blossom festivals are found in Japan, and the Brooklyn Cherry Blossom Festival at the Botanical Garden draws inspiration from the Tokyo celebrations. There are Japanese Taiko drummers, geishas, and all manner of people getting in costume for the day out in the early spring sun. Unlike the Japanese festivals, these are alcohol-free events, though I’m sure you’ll find people sneaking bottles and cans in their bags and hampers.
The Sakura Matsuri festival in Brooklyn is part of a family of cherry blossom festivals held in American centers like San Francisco and Washington, DC. Last year, it didn’t run, making the celebrations a little more low-key but cheaper, with just the normal admission fee for the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. When Sakura Matsuri runs, you’ll pay $40 for an adult ticket, with kids under 12 free.
Pack your picnic basket
Like the Japanese cherry blossom festivals, BBG comes alive with families, couples, and friends. Sadly, the area is surprisingly under catered. There are no bars at the Brooklyn Cherry Blossom Festival and just a couple of tents selling culturally irrelevant snacks like ice cream, chips, and sodas. It would be a great opportunity for local Japanese restaurants to be on hand selling their delicacies as it’s something that is really missing. Instead, most people bring their own treats.
Where to find the Cherry Blossoms at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The main area to celebrate the arrival of spring is at the Cherry Esplanade and around the Japanese Hill and Pond garden. In these areas, you’ll find some of the oldest plantings, with some dating back as far as 1921, along the gorgeous Cherry Walk.
Not all the trees in the part of the gardens where the festivities happen are cherry blossoms. People often mistake the equally beautiful bouquets of the crabapple and magnolia Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’. The cherry blossom tree breeds include the Prunus sargentii ‘Fudan-zakura’, ‘Kanzan’ (P. ‘Kanzan’), and the ‘Ukon’ (P. serrulata ‘Ukon’).
When can you see cherry blossoms in Brooklyn?
The cherry blossoms start blooming from mid-March to April, and at the peak, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens become the place to be seen. In some years, they may start earlier if triggered by multiple warm days over 60F. If you want to avoid the crowds at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, head to neighboring Prospect Park, where plenty of beautiful pink blossoms spread across the parklands.
Finally, although the sun may be shining, the Brooklyn Cherry Blossom Festival usually attracts a brisk breeze. Where appropriately warm clothes and sunscreen. And one more thing, don’t be that annoying influencer ignoring the fencing and signage to get that perfect selfie – it damages the grounds for everyone.
The Brooklyn Cherry Blossom Festival and Sakura Matsuri celebrate Japanese culture and the beauty of the Cherry Blossom.
The cherry blossoms are closest to the Brooklyn Museum entrance to the BBG, 990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn.
Take the 2 or 3 train to Easter Parkway/Brooklyn Museum. The gardens are open Tuesday–Thursday: 8 a.m.–sunset and Friday–Sunday: 8 a.m.–6 p.m.