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Where to see the Cherry Blossoms in the Pacific Northwest

Cherry blossoms, also known as sakura, are a distinct and magical part of spring in Japanese culture. Due to Washington’s modern history being intertwined in many ways with Japan, you’ll find glorious groves in prime viewing areas throughout the region.

The beauty of cherry blossoms is celebrated along with their traditional symbolism representing the cycle of life and the seasons, and ephemeral joy of nature. Like cherry blossoms, all things in life are temporary, all things must change, and celebrated in their time.

The Japanese word for intentional viewing and appreciating sakura is “hanami,” which translates to “flower viewing.” However, hanami is more than watching flowers, and is a deliberate appreciation, joy, and reflection of cherry blossoms. 

In Japan, people will often have picnics with friends in the shadow of the sakura to share nature and loved ones together. 

With all that in mind, here’s some of our favorite spots for hanami in the Puget Sound: 

Where to enjoy cherry blossoms in the Pacific Northwest 

We have no shortage of places here to enjoy sakura in the spring. From secluded gardens to walking trails to an urban oasis here are some of the best places that offer picturesque views of sakura 

The University of Washington Quad 

We’ll start with probably the most famous of the Puget Sound cherry blossoms. Every spring, photos from the nearly 50,000 students, tourists visiting campus for the sakura, and even from Dubs the mascot frolicking in the buds become almost inescapable online. (Even Kraken forward Yanni Gourde has been spotted enjoying the UW cherry blossoms before!) 

These trees frame the Quad and tend to bloom in the end of March to early April. They were first donated over 100 years ago by the mayor of Tokyo in 1912, planted at the Arboretum, and then transferred in 1939 to UW. Additional trees were most recently planted in 2014. 

The sakura also act as an official reminder of the 130-year history of Japanese and Japanese-American students at the University of Washington. 

Seike Japanese Garden at the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden 

Located just north of SeaTac Airport between Tukwila and Burien, this isn’t just merely a spot to view sakura — it’s a serene and tranquil Japanese garden. A leisurely stroll through here these grounds is mesmerizingly peaceful. 

A path leads you throughout the garden, especially lovely during spring. It was established in memory of Toll Seike, a Nisei student at Washington State who died in Europe with the 442nd regiment of Japanese-American soldiers while his family was forced from their home in Burien and interned during one of the most shameful periods of American history. His youngest brother, Hal, came to the garden every weekend to maintain it until he died at 94 in 2021. 

Washington Park Arboretum 

Along with the UW Quad cherry blossoms, the Arboretum was another recipient of the new 2014 cherry blossoms. 

You’ll find two spots for them here, in both the Japanese garden and, just north of there, on the Azalea Way walking trail. The Japanese garden features a diverse variety of plants and offers exquisite views of cherry blossoms in the spring and is also a wonderful place to watch the leaves change in the fall.  Driving down this portion of Lake Washington Boulevard from Madison to Montlake is beautiful, but getting out of the car and exploring the nooks of cherry blossoms by foot offers an up-close appreciation of their beauty. 

But continue south on that street past Madison and through the Central District, and it’ll take you to… 

Lake Washington Boulevard from I90 south to Seward Park 

If you find yourself in the Mount Baker neighborhood down through Seward Park, you have two places side-by-side to see the cherry blossoms. Along Lake Washington Boulevard, you’ll find the road lined with cherry trees that bloom spectacularly with the lake in the background. 

Walk, ride, or drive down that way to Seward Park, and you’ll find another grove of cherry trees. Just like those at UW and the Arboretum, many of these too were donated by Japan almost 100 years ago. Before it moved to the Seattle Center, the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival originally took place at Seward Park every year. 

Just outside Uwajimaya’s International District location! 

Of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our own cherry blossoms.

Around the courtyard and surrounding areas at our Seattle location, you’ll find a mini grove of sakura that make early spring one of our favorite times to be at Uwajimaya. In the middle of the International District with its Japanese history dating back well over a century, these are in by far the most urban setting of all the places we mention here. 

Springtime at Uwajimaya is one of the best times to visit to enjoy the vibrant flower buds and history of the International District. 

You can do your grocery shopping, get a bubble tea, grab a beer and dinner (and dessert for good measure), all with cherry blossoms as your backdrop! 

Point Defiance 

The other places we’ve listed here for sakura spotting are all in Seattle or greater Seattle area, but Tacoma’s Point Defiance is also home to cherry blossoms. Japan donated these cherry blossoms in 1959 and have been a mainstay of the Point Defiance Japanese Garden ever since. 

Alongside the cherry blossoms, you’ll also find azaleas, rhododendrons, various pines, and other plants as well as Japanese environmental decorations like a tea house, lanterns, and bridges. 

Tom McCall Waterfront Park 

Heading even further south, another location famous for cherry blossoms is the Japanese American Historical Plaza in downtown Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park.  Nestled alongside the Willamette River, this park is known for its scenic beauty and vibrant atmosphere.   

In 1990, Japan gifted 100 cherry blossom trees that now line the waterfront between Burnside and Steel bridges.  The juxtaposition of the cherry blossoms against the backdrop of the river and city skyline make this place a must-see destination during spring.  

Dotting the entire Pacific Northwest, there are so many places to view these blossoms that, arguably, might be the most beautiful part of this season. In a place where nature is already pretty magical, the vibrance and fleeting nature of cherry blossoms make them stand out all the more.