If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and love cherry blossoms as much as I do, you may be surprised that you can enjoy them right here every Spring, even if you can’t go to Japan or Washington, D.C.! To be sure, they aren’t nearly as plentiful here as they are in Japan, where they are literally planted everywhere, but there’s enough for you to be able to enjoy these Springtime blossoms and participate in your own mini Hanami if you want. In case you’re not familiar with Hanami, it’s the Japanese custom of flower viewing every Spring, when friends and families enjoy picnics together while appreciating the spectacular but fleeting blooms! In this post, I’ll share with you my favorite places to see cherry blossoms in both San Francisco and the Bay Area!
March 21, 2023 field report – the cherry blossoms are blooming in Filoli and are soooo beautiful! I will post a video walk-through on my new YouTube channel soon, so give me a follow if you’re interested! Cherry blossoms are also starting to bloom at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.
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When Do Cherry Blossoms Bloom in the Bay Area?
Cherry blossoms are beautiful but fleeting, blooming for only around two or three weeks. In California, they typically bloom between mid-February to early May. The bloom time depends on the type of cherry blossom tree, and also the temperature and weather.
Based on my observations, these are the approximate bloom times for cherry blossoms in the Bay Area:
Mid-to-late February: San Ramon, Berkeley
Mid-March to Early April: Filoli, Japanese Tea Garden, Hakone Gardens
Late April to Early May: Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Park’s Lindley Meadow, the Presidio
Because of their short blooming period, sakura (the Japanese term for cherry blossom trees) blooms have traditionally symbolized the fleeting nature of beauty and life itself for Japanese people. The blooms remind us to truly and fully enjoy the beauty of life while we can! Because of this, I’ve always viewed cherry blossoms both with rapture and with a bit of wistfulness, knowing that they will be gone soon. But thankfully, there are always photographs to remind us of their beauty!
What Type of Cherry Blossom Trees Grow in the Bay Area?
The types of cherry blossom trees that can be grown in an area depends on the climate. Here in the Bay Area and most of Southern California, the climate is more suitable for the Kwanzan cherry trees, which have an upright shape, than for the weeping cherry trees that form a dramatic arching cascade of flowers. However, you can still find some weeping cherry trees here, such as at Filoli.
The Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in the Bay Area
Here’s a summary of the best places to see cherry blossoms in the Bay Area, with details below.
- Filoli Historic House & Garden in Woodside
- Golden Gate Park in San Francisco: Japanese Tea Garden, Lindley Meadow & the San Francisco Botanical Garden
- Palace of Fine Arts
- City of San Ramon
- Hakone Estate Gardens in Saratoga
- City of Berkeley
Cherry Blossoms at Filoli
I recently had the opportunity to visit the gardens at Filoli, where the cherry blossoms have started to bloom, and it’s now my favorite place to see cherry blossoms in the Bay Area!! In fact, it’s my new favorite garden overall and has my vote for the prettiest Spring Garden in Northern California (maybe all of California?). They have both Kwanzan and weeping cherry blossoms that start to bloom in March.
The gardens are absolutely beautiful in early Spring, with thousands of tulips, daffodils and camellias in bloom throughout the large, beautifully maintained garden – it’s truly a Spring flower wonderland! There are also stunning (and huge!) magnolia trees with some flowers still (they peak in February/early March). I highly recommend a visit!
Filoli Historic House & Garden is an estate and garden located in Woodside, approximately 30 minutes south of San Francisco by car. The 654-acre property has beautiful flowers in bloom all year long.
As I mentioned above, I also took some video while I was there and will post a video walk-through on my new YouTube channel soon, so give me a follow if you’re interested!
Cherry Blossoms Inside Golden Gate Park
Cherry Blossoms can be found throughout Golden Gate Park! The best part is that there are several different varieties that bloom at different times so they can be enjoyed for a longer time during the Spring!
Cherry Blossoms at the Japanese Tea Garden
What better place to enjoy the beauty of cherry blossoms, which are native to Japan, than at a traditional Japanese garden? The Japanese Tea Garden inside Golden Gate Park has a pretty cherry tree right near the front entrance, and several more inside. The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public one in the United States and has a high arching drum bridge, a five-story pagoda, koi ponds, a Zen Garden and many mature trees within 5 acres. There’s also a tea house where you can enjoy a traditional tea or even a green tea latte to refresh yourself!
The cherry blossoms typically bloom at the Japanese Tea Garden in March-April.
Cherry Blossoms at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens
Located right next to the Japanese Tea Garden is the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, where you can find some cherry blossoms within the Jean Wolfe White Garden. Spanning a huge 55 acres, the garden is home to over 8,000 types of plants, trees, and flowers.
This garden is also my favorite place to see spectacular magnolias in February. There are over 200 of them here! You can see some of my photos here.
Cherry Blossoms at Lindley Meadow
Located inside Lindley Meadow in Golden Gate Park is a small grove of seven lovely pink cherry blossom trees that bloom in late April to early May. I love to stroll under the shade of these trees and admire the blooms in the Spring. There’s a picnic table nearby so you can enjoy lunch with family and friends too. You can enter Lindley Meadow from Fulton Street and 30th Ave.
The photos below were taken on May 1, 2022.
Cherry Blossoms at the Hakone Estate Gardens in Saratoga
Another place to see cherry blossoms is at a beautiful 18-acre Japanese garden located in the South Bay – the Hakone Estate Gardens in Saratoga. Here you’ll find dozens of cherry blossom trees just outside the entrance. The setting here is just beautiful and even more special with the pink and white sakura blooms. This garden was originally a private estate and is now open to the public. It features a variety of gardens, multi-tiered waterfalls and koi ponds, a dry garden, a bamboo garden, and more.
The cherry blossoms here usually bloom in March-April.
Cherry Blossoms in the City of San Ramon
In the Bay Area, most cherry blossom trees are planted in either small groups, or as a single tree to brighten the landscape. But if you want to see cherry blossom trees planted in mass, there’s actually a place where you can find rows and rows of them planted together! This place is in the suburban city of San Ramon. This East Bay suburb has so many cherry blossom trees that I’ve been referring to it as the cherry blossom city!
The trees seem to be planted all over the city, and you’ll start seeing them as soon as you exit the freeway. They can be found in long rows all along Bolinger Canyon Road (including a popular spot in front of the Dougherty Station Library), next to many residential and commercial buildings, and also in front of the San Ramon Community Park. Many of them on Bolinger Canyon Road are planted in rows of three. How absolutely delightful that this city has decided to plant so many of these beautiful trees!
Despite the fact that many of the trees are planted next to a main road that can be very busy during commute hours, it doesn’t take away from the beautiful effect of so many pink blossoms blooming together! Also, please note that the cherry trees planted next to Bolinger Canyon Road are not located in a park and are not suitable for picnics.
Cherry Blossoms at the Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is my favorite place to see cherry blossoms in San Francisco, because I love visiting the Palace of Fine Arts any chance I get! There are cherry blossom trees located throughout the area, including just outside and also inside the Palace of Fine Arts. The soft pink blooms look so amazing against the beautiful classical columns here – it’s no surprise that they’re a popular wedding background in the Spring! The following three pictures were taken on May 1, 2022 (and yes, we did see a wedding in progress on that day!)
Cherry Blossoms in the City of Berkeley
February 11, 2023 update – I’ve added the City of Berkeley to the list of places to see cherry blossoms! Ken and I drove through the city 2 days ago and saw both cherry blossoms and magnolia trees in full bloom! I’ve known about the beautiful magnolia trees in the area for awhile now (see my post of where to find magnolias in the Bay Area) but didn’t know about the cherry blossoms.
Specifically, we saw a row of them at the Dorothy Bolte Park in the northern part of the city as we were exiting Tilden Park. They are located right next to the street, and there’s also a giant flowering magnolia tree across the street, next to the Acacia Steps. There are magnolia trees and cherry blossoms located throughout the city! The climate in the Berkeley/Oakland area is great for plants.
I’ve also recently read about a small grove of 35-40 cherry blossom trees at the west entrance to UC Berkeley, on University Drive near Oxford Street. They were planted there in 2013 in to honor university alumni of Japanese ancestry. I’m looking forward to seeing these beautiful trees myself at my alma mater! 🙂🌸🌸
Cherry Blossoms at Japantown
Japantown is where the annual Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year and is also home to several streets with cherry trees. A great place to start is at the Peace Plaza, located between the East and West Malls, where there is a row of cherry blossom trees. As you walk around the area, you’ll likely notice more pink blooms scattered about!
Other Places to See Cherry Blossoms in San Francisco
Once you’re aware of the beautiful cherry blossoms blooming, you’ll probably start noticing more of them as you travel around the city. Some place I’ve seen them include the Presidio, the Sue Bierman Park near the Embarcadero, at Alamo Square Park located next to the historic Queen Anne homes, and in front of various apartment buildings and homes.
The Best Places to Enjoy a Picnic or Mini Hanami in the Bay Area
If you want to enjoy a picnic with friends and family while enjoying cherry blossoms in the Bay Area, I would say that the best places to do that are at the Palace of Fine Arts or at Golden Gate Park’s Lindley Meadow, both of which have grassy lawn areas for picnicking. The Palace of Fine Arts is a beautiful setting to walk around and enjoy as well. (But please note that if you drive and park there, you should take care to remove all valuables from your car due to recent high levels of car break-ins in the area…)
If you live near Berkeley, Dorothy Bolte Park, a smaller neighborhood park, has a few very pretty cherry blossom trees that bloom in February and is also suitable for a picnic.
The gardens that have cherry blossoms have refreshments for sale, but typically do not allow picnics inside. The other public places listed that have cherry blossoms are not public parks and typically don’t have a large enough grassy area for picnics.
Cherry Blossoms Beyond the Bay Area
Cherry Blossoms at Descanso Gardens in Southern California
When Ken and I visited Southern California a couple years ago during our SoCal Spring Flowers & Gardens tour, we very much enjoyed Descanso Gardens, a delightful garden near Los Angeles. We saw some cherry blossoms and magnolia trees there inside their beautiful Japanese Garden, in addition to lots of tulips!
Cherry Blossoms in Sacramento
In Sacramento, a grove of 28 cherry blossom trees (“The Sakura Grove”) was planted at Southside Park on October 28, 2018 to recognize the contributions Japanese Americans have made to Sacramento. The Southside Park neighborhood was once the home of many Japanese families that were displaced during the WWII internments.
In addition, a new park called The Hanami Line is being planned along the Sacramento River, featuring a massive planting of flowering cherry trees!
Cherry Blossom Photography
As with many other beautiful Spring blooms, cherry blossoms are short-lived, blooming for only around two weeks or so. But if you capture them on camera, you can enjoy them year-round! If you want to capture the beauty of these small flowers, make sure to bring a macro lens with a long focal length. For Springtime portraits with your friends or just for yourself, I recommend a 50mm prime lens. My favorite lens for cherry blossom photos is my Nikon 105mm macro lens. I have written a post on flower photography for situations like these if you’re interested!
If you can’t tell, my life muse is beautiful flowers and most of my travels, photography subjects and DIY projects are related to flowers! 🙂🌸🌸
Spring Flowers Similar to Cherry Blossoms
If you love cherry blossoms, you may also be interested in other similar Spring blooms such as peach blossoms and magnolias in the Bay Area! They are both also very stunning and beautiful! You can see my photos and posts here:
Beautiful Peach Blossoms in the Bay Area
Where to Find Magnolias in the San Francisco Bay Area
Explore a Secret Rose Garden with Me!
Come explore a secret rose garden with me, full of blooming roses, rose terraces, rose walls, rose pillars, and even a rose-covered pergola straight out of a fairytale! 🌸
It’s my first video for YouTube – I hope you like it! 🙂
Thank you for stopping by my blog! I hope you found this post useful, and I hope you have a wonderful day!
Hi, I’m Pansy!
Hello, thanks for stopping by! I’m Pansy, California-based travel blogger, photographer and lover of ALL the pretty flowers! You may notice that most of my travels, photography & DIY center around flowers and nature! 🌸🌼🌿
I also recently started a YouTube channel where I feature walks through beautiful gardens, parks & flower fields!
If you’d like to contact me, please send me an email or DM me on Instagram!
Riana ElNaggar says
Hi! I saw that you updated your website yesterday saying that the cherry blossoms in San Ramon are in bloom now. Are you referring to the blossoms by the Dougherty Station Library in your above photo? If so I would love to take my family tomorrow afternoon. I used to picnic with my family in Japan under the cherry blossoms and have been wanting to recreate that memory here in the States with my family too. Do you think it would be appropriate to picnic under those trees? Thank you so much for this amazing blog!
Hi Riana – yes, I am referring to the blossoms by the Dougherty Station Library in San Ramon! It’s a great place for a visit to enjoy the blossoms and to take some pictures, but it’s not really a place for picnics! It’s not a park, so it doesn’t have any tables or benches, and there’s not enough grassy area for a picnic… It’s a relatively small area between the street and the library with 3 rows of beautiful cherry blossoms! Although there were only a few other people there when we visited today, it can be somewhat crowded at times. Also, since it’s been raining so much lately and more rain is scheduled for this weekend, the ground may be wet and muddy even… I’m sorry to disappoint you, but if I find a place that’s more appropriate for a picnic in the East Bay with cherry blossoms, I’ll be sure to update this post! Two places that do have grassy lawn areas for picnicking are the Palace of Fine Arts and Lindley Meadow in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. There are even picnic tables at Lindley Meadow (although there are fewer cherry blossom trees there than at San Ramon).
btw – how amazing that you were able to enjoy cherry blossom season in Japan! I would love to experience that sometime! 🌸🌸🌸