From the April 2019 issue

3 Cherry Blossom Travel Destinations for Families

Nothing says spring quite like cherry blossoms. See them bloom at one of these cherry blossom travel destinations in Michigan, New York and Oregon.

cherry blossoms on a green background
Photo from MSU Tollgate Farm

Every year, in early April, cherry blossoms trees begin to bloom. In Japanese culture, these little pink buds are cause for celebration, but you don’t have to fly with the kids to Japan to join in on the festivities.

Here are three spots in the United States where you and your family can enjoy the blooming beauties. Locally, you’ll find an exhibit in Novi, and little further away in New York and Oregon are some more cherry blossom travel destinations.

Read up on each one’s specific offerings here, decide which one will fit your families need best and enjoy some spring family fun.

Close to Home: MSU Tollgate Farm and Education Center in Novi

Looking almost like pockets of pink popcorn balls bursting from tree branches, a new crop of cherry blossoms will be on display for the first time this spring at the MSU Tollgate Farm and Education Center in Novi (near the Twelve Oaks Mall).

Last year, work began on the 160-acre farm property’s newest addition – The Sakura Garden. The project, funded by 16 different Japanese businesses, included building a Japanese-style pavilion and planting 16 ornamental cherry trees (this adds to the property’s existing trio of cherry trees).

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“What’s interesting about this effort is that the state of Michigan as a whole has a very good relationship with Japan in general, and it’s amazing the huge concentration of Japanese families in Novi,” says Mike Mathis, director of the MSU Tollgate Farm and Education Center. “From an MSU perspective, this has been a great opportunity to work with this audience and be really inclusive of everyone.”

Families are welcome to pack a picnic and come to the pavilion to enjoy an afternoon together, he adds.

“My understanding is that the cherry blossoms are symbolic for the people of Japan as a sign of spring and celebration,” Mathis says.

Beyond the Japanese garden, look for other signs of springtime around the farm as your family explores the property. Expect to see various trees blossoming and baby farm animals, like lambs and goats, in the pastures.

A Day Trip: Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York

Timing the precise moment to see cherry blossoms is tricky – and can vary year to year no matter where you go. The season is short, too: Full peak is about a week after the first blossoms appear, and petals begin falling about a week later! The Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York maximizes your odds of seeing the explosion of color by offering a variety of cherry trees that bloom at different times during the spring.

“There are over 20 different cultivars (varieties) of cherry trees at BBG,” says communications director Elizabeth Reina-Longoria. “The earliest blooming trees – many of which are located in BBG’s historic Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden – start blooming in late March or early April.”

While you’re here, she adds, “Don’t miss the Discovery Garden, where kids of all ages and their families can explore habitats, uncover plant mysteries and learn about garden wildlife at fun, hands-on exhibits.”

Insider tip: Check exactly how many trees are blooming before your visit by looking at the “Cherry Watch” map of BBG, which is updated daily in season.

Even farther away: Portland Japanese Garden

Lauded as one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan, the 12-acre Portland Japanese Garden was established in 1963. Stroll through its eight unique garden styles and, along the way, learn more about the country’s art and culture.

The garden unveiled an expansion in 2017, which included a bonsai garden. Look for its large weeping cherry tree during your visit, located on Cherry Hill within the Strolling Pond Garden.

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