Philly’s Cherry Blossom Festival In Bloom This Week
Celebrate spring and Japanese culture all week long!
The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off this weekend, with over a week of events celebrating spring and Japanese culture. The festival runs from April 7 to 15, and as always the festival culminates with its largest event: Sakura Sunday, a family-friendly (and pet-friendly) day of performances, food, shopping, and so much more at the in Fairmount Park. If you want to get started on the celebrations earlier, and teach your kids about its significance and traditions, here are our top picks for Cherry Blossom Festival events all week long!
April 14, 10 am — 3 pm
Morris Arboretum, 100 E. Northwestern Ave., Philadelphia
Experience the beauty of Morris Arboretum’s cherry tree collection in bloom, as well as traditional Japanese cultural activities to celebrate the season. The event (compressed into one day because of the weather) will feature a taiko drum performance, a traditional tea demonstration, kimono dressing, origami workshops, and a samurai demonstration of the ancient Japanese swordsmanship technique Ken Jutsu. And if the weather cooperates, you can go on a 45-minute guided Cherry Walk to appreciate the variety of cherry species planted throughout the arboretum.
April 8, 2 pm (doors at 1:30)
Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Branch, 1901 Vine St., Philadelphia
This electrifying aural and visual display consists of three drummers and a dancer. The huge taiko drums (“big drums”) were originally used in Japan to drive away evil spirits and the plague—today they keep audiences glued to their seats.
Horticultural and Lansdowne Drives, Philadelphia
Throughout the week, there will be different pop-up demonstrations at the Shofuso House every day, each day highlighting a different element of Japanese culture. Some highlights include tea ceremony on April 7, kimono dressing on April 10, and a drum performance with an all-ages manga pin craft corner on the evening of April 13. And especially for kids, come on April 9 for Sakura Crafty Story Circle, where kids will hear Under the Cherry Blossom Tree by Allen Say on the veranda, followed by an age-appropriate craft.
In past years, you may recall these weekday pop-ups were held at Liberty Place, and we have to admit that despite the beauty of Shofuso, we are a bit disappointed that moving it to the relatively out-of-the-way location means it’s no longer a pleasant little Center City surprise to come upon during your lunch break that may have alerted you to the upcoming festival, but rather something you now have to seek out.
Also, while the Liberty Place pop-ups were free, all of the Sakura Week activities at Shofuso require guests to pay admission to the house. Admission for these events is $12 for adults, $8 for students with ID, seniors, and kids ages 6-17, and free for kids 5 and under as well as members of the military.
April 11—13, 5—9 pm; April 14, 1—9 pm; April 15, 10 am—5 pm
Horticultural and Lansdowne Drives, Philadelphia
New for this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival is the Sake Garden, a pop-up beer garden from one of our favorite family-friendly al fresco experiences, Parks on Tap. The garden will have beer, cocktails, and Asian fusion fare available to purchase and enjoy beneath the trees of Fairmount Park (along the walking path towards the gazebo and sundial). On April 15 (Sakura Sunday), it will be open all day! Be sure to check the website and social media, because the garden will not be open in cases of inclement weather—because of our crazy “spring” weather, the garden has already had to postpone its opening from April 7 to April 11!
April 15, 10 am—5 pm
Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park, 100 N. Horticultural Drive, Philadelphia
Of course the main event of the Cherry Blossom is Sakura Sunday. This day-long festival has everything: performances, food, shopping, crafts, fashion, even a dog parade! There is a full day’s worth of performance on multiple stages, including fashion shows, taiko drum and dance, J-pop, and so much more.
Throughout the day, there will also be indoor activities like kimono dressing, calligraphy workshop, origami, and a demonstration of ikebana. You can also watch participants bring their best to some very interesting competitions, like the Prettiest Pet in Pink dog parade (people go all out dressing their dogs, and each one is introduced and given their moment in the sun), and the Subaru Sushi Samurai of the Year Competition, which combines sushi making with art as participants craft masterpieces from the delicacy.
In addition to all the activities and performances, there is also a large marketplace with Japanese vendors selling everything from housewares to kimonos to toys! There are many food vendors as well so come hungry (but also pack snacks because lines can get very long at popular ones). Sakura Sunday also is just a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the beauty of spring in Fairmount Park with your family, as well as some amazing people-watching—all those cosplay and Harajuku outfits are not just confined to the fashion show stages!
More Tips for Sakura Sunday
Tickets are available in advance or at the gate. If you buy in advance online, you can save some money and pay $12, as opposed to $15 the day of the event. If you do choose to buy your ticket at the gate, cash is the preferred method of payment. The event is rain or shine, and no refunds are given, so if the weather is looking iffy and you’re not sure, just buy your tickets the day of the event.
Getting to Sakura Sunday is a bit of a challenge, since you can’t park at the Horticulture Center. One option is to get dropped off (have your Uber driver—or kind-hearted friend–drop you off at 4300 Avenue of the Republic). Parking is available for $10 per vehicle at the Mann Center grounds, and from there you can either walk (about 10 minutes) or take a free shuttle to the festival. Alternatively, you can take a shuttle from 30th Street (across the street from the station) from 9:00 am– 3:30pm. Shuttle buses depart roughly every 15 to 20 minutes, and bus fare is included in the price of Sakura Sunday tickets. Just make sure not to miss the last bus back to Center City at 5:30 pm from the Horticulture Center.
Outside food and non-alcoholic drinks are permitted, so while there is great food available there, you can also pack a picnic if you prefer. And the Parks on Tap Sake Garden will be up and running all day on the day of the festival, so don’t miss that!
Lead photograph Courtesy of Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia.