A First-Timer’s Guide to Cherry Blossoms in Seattle

Where to see the prettiest 🌸 this spring

A squirrel eats a cheese puff on a cherry blossom tree

📸: A squirrel at the UW Quad eating a cheese puff in a cherry blossom tree. | 400tmax

Did you know that Seattle has been gifted cherry blossom trees by Japan not once but, like, a whole bunch of times? 

The first gift was bestowed upon us in 1929, when Japanese delegates en route to London planted three flowering trees at Seward Park. More than 3,500 trees were to follow over the next two years, thanks to the Seattle-based Japanese Association of North America. Then in 1976, Japanese prime minister and UW alum Takeo Miki donated a thousand sakura trees to the city to illustrate the friendship between the US and Japan and celebrate our nation’s bicentennial. And in 2014, Japan gave another 32 trees to the University of Washington campus in Seattle to complement the campus’ extant collection of 100 trees. 

Also, not Japan, but we received a cool 2,000 cherry blossom trees from the United Nations Association of Japan in 1950! It’s kind of a thing here. People give us trees.

Almost a century later, this city is teeming with thousands of cherry blossom trees of all shades and species, and both locals and tourists look forward to early springtime in Seattle as an opportunity to partake in hanami. (That means “viewing cherry blossoms!”) In Japan, the delicate, short-lived flower is sometimes considered a metaphor for the fleeting evanescence of life—and also a reminder to enjoy it. 

Here are a few places to steep yourself in the sakuras before they disappear. 

The Quad at the University of Washington, where the trees even have their own Twitter account

Pierce Ln, Seattle

The Quad is the absolute star of the show when it comes to the city’s cherries, but the University of Washington campus itself has around 130 trees sprinkled throughout the whole campus. The Quad’s Yoshino cherry blossom trees are the first to bloom, but if you miss the party, you can still wander around to find the Hisakura, Kwanzan, Shirofugen, and Mt. Fuji trees that bloom later in the season. There’s a partial map here, and you can even check Twitter to see when the trees are ready to be hanami-ed.

Green Lake Park

7201 E Green Lake Dr N, Seattle

Green Lake actually has tons of interesting and unusual trees, in addition to the cherry blossoms. The cherries are scattered around the lake’s perimeter, so you can either use the Green Lake Tree Walk map, created by Tree Ambassadors, or walk around and do a free-form scavenger hunt. The lake itself makes a pretty picturesque backdrop for any selfies you might need to take too. 

Seattle Center

305 Harrison St, Seattle

The Seattle Center is the HQ for all things cherry blossom, specifically at the Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival on April 14th to 16th, which features Japanese music, dance, calligraphy classes, origami workshops, tea ceremonies, cooking demos, and more. But the Center is full of cherries all spring long. You can wander around and see what you can find, but we think the best ones are in the 9/11 Memorial Garden just west of the Fisher Pavilion—a mix of Kwansans and Mt. Fujis.

Kobe Terrace

650 South Main St, Seattle

Kobe, Japan, is a sister city of Seattle, and the union was celebrated in 1974 with the christening of Kobe Terrace, an acre of terraced gardens in the northeast corner of the Chinatown-International District. This place is just loaded with white-blooming Mt. Fuji trees, which flank the park’s winding trails. If you’re still in a meditative mood after viewing the blossoms, head to the Panama Hotel and Teahouse across the street to steep yourself in some traditional Japanese tea and snacks.

Lake Washington Boulevard

The span of LWB between Seward Park and Colman is a total cherry blossom bonanza, and it’s a fun way to get some steps in as well. Or you can just drive it if you want to see the whole thing! Anywhere along the 6.4-mile stretch offers some pretty prime hanami this time of year, and the sweet view of Lake Washington and Mercer Island is a real cherry on top. If you’re feeling historical, start at the Seward Park end: the aforementioned home of Seattle’s first three cherry blossom trees, which have since grown into a small grove.  

Author

Meg van Huygen

The daughter of a King County Metro driver and a Space Needle waitress. Meg was born on the Hill, grew up on Queen Anne, went to school in the CD, and presently haunts the U District. Her writing has appeared in Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, Eater Seattle, Curbed Seattle, Atlas Obscura, Mental Floss, and many other publications. She sometimes backs up drag queens on the accordion and hosts drunken spelling bees.

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