For a few precious weeks each spring, Seattle's streets, parks and even the University of Washington campus (especially UW...their cherry blossoms are amazing!) come alive with pink cherry blossoms, creating one of the most stunningly attractive times of the year. Each year, cherry blossoms in the Seattle area bloom at slightly different times, depending on the weather that year, and short of watching trees in neighborhoods around town for blossoms, you can also follow UW's cherry blossoms on Twitter to find out when they're in bloom.
Cherry blossoms grow all around Seattle, but especially in parks and public spaces. In Japan, cherry blossom season is a heralded time of year with blossom forecasts keeping a close eye on the season, as the peak blossoms only last a week or two. There, the act of viewing cherry blossoms is called hanami. In Seattle, we aren't quite as formal about our cherry blossom season, but spring is the time of year that hearkens everyone back outside. You'll see lots of people out and about, walking on sidewalks, hanging out in parks, jogging, biking and generally enjoying the outdoors.
If you want to see Seattle’s most beautiful blossoms and enjoy some hanami right here in town, head to one of the areas below.
University of Washington
UW's campus is hands down the premier cherry blossom viewing spot in Seattle. Forty-five years ago, several Yoshino cherry trees were moved to UW from the Washington Park Arboretum and have become quite famous for their spectacular blossoms in March and April each year. Yoshino cherry blossoms are unique, and live to be about 100 years old and taller than your average cherry trees. The best places to find the trees on campus is in the Quad—if you've got engagement or graduation photos to take, this is an excellent spot to take them! You can also find blossoms along San Juan Road on the South Campus and close to Red Square near Gerberding Hall. UW's cherry blossoms are also some of the most high-tech as you can check on what stage the blossoms are at via Twitter. Be warned, the cherry blossoms at UW are popular so you might face stiff competition finding a parking spot and you might find a crowd of other people enjoying the pink blossoms, but don't let you stop it. It's all worth it. Also if you don't want to deal with parking, but don't mind the crowds, you can get to campus with public transit. There's a light rail stop near Husky Stadium and several Seattle Metro buses stop nearby too.
Washington Park Arboretum is a cherry blossom destination—and more! Azalea Way is known for cherry blossom blooms in the spring, but also other flowering trees and shrubs. With 230 acres filled with trees and greenery, the grounds are expansive and have plenty of trails to walk through green spaces or along the water. The arboretum is a partnership between the City and UW and connects to the Seattle Japanese Garden.
Location: 2300 Arboretum Drive E
Connected to the Washington Park Arboretum, the Seattle Japanese Garden is a separate entity and has an entry fee. The cherry blossom trees at the Japanese Garden tend to bloom a week or two after the trees at UW, so this can be a great destination if you’re a few steps behind the peak blossoms. It's also a lot less crowded than UW during peak cherry blossom season.
Location: 1075 Lake Washington Boulevard E
Several of Seattle’s parks have cherry blossoms on view, including Seward Park and Jefferson Park, both of which have trees that were gifted to the city from Japan in the early 1900s. Jefferson Park is a great park for views beyond blossoms as it overlooks the Duwamish River, the city and the Olympics in the distance.
Locations: 3801 Beacon Avenue S
Seward Park, spanning 300 acres of trails and forest, is home to old-growth forest, including three cherry blossom trees that were planted in 1929, followed by more in later years. The park also has a torii gate and Taiko-gala lantern. The park was the original home of the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival, which grew so large that it relocated to Seattle Center, where it still takes place each spring to this day. Keep an eye on the park’s website for when the blossoms are at their peak as well as special events, such as tree walks during cherry blossom season.
Location: 5895 Lake Washington Boulevard S.
Calvary Catholic Cemetery
While not everyone may want to visit a cemetery to view some cherry blossom trees, historic Calvary Catholic Cemetery has not only lovely cherry blossoms each spring, but also a view over the U-District sprawling below.
Location: 5041 35th Avenue NE
Even if you don’t go to any special viewing spot for a hanami session, Seattle and other Puget Sound cities often have cherry blossoms in public parks and along sidewalks and streets, or even in people's yards. Take a walk on a sunny day and look around. It's not tough to come across a single tree here and there, and often entire rows along a neighborhood street.
Cherry Blossom Events in Seattle
For the most part, viewing cherry blossoms is an independent event. Pick your favorite spot, bring a picnic or take a stroll and enjoy, but there are sometimes events that tie into cherry blossom season.
The Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival at Seattle Center fills a weekend with not only a celebration of the blossoms but of Japanese culture and Seattle's long friendship with Japan. Expect Japanese food, calligraphy and other fine arts demonstrations and display, performances (watch for taiko drummers on the schedule as they're always a treat to watch perform), games and more.
In 2020, the Cherry Blossom Festival will take place April 24-26 (note that peak cherry blossom time doesn't always coincide with the festival).