Where To See Cherry Blossoms in Portland, Oregon

Longer days, the Saturday Market, and cherry blossoms. These can only mean one thing for Portlanders; spring is starting to make her appearance. 

Just like the vibrant murals along Alberta, the cherry blossoms decorate city’s streets in beautiful colors—even on a gloomy spring day. It’s a pleasant sight to see after a dark winter, even for the rain loving locals. 

Please remember to respect the trees. 

  • Do not climb on them or break and/or shake the branches. 
  • Do not pick blossoms. 
  • Avoid the tree roots. 
  • Pick up your garbage. 
  • Check and respect park/local rules.

When Do The Cherry Blossoms Bloom? 

  • March and April. 

The best time for viewing is 4-5 days before and after peak bloom, and peak blossom is dependent upon weather. Cherry blossoms usually hit their peak anytime between mid-March and mid-April.

Peak blossom: at least 70% of the blossoms have emerged.

Where To Find Cherry Blossoms Around Portland 

There are a few spots around the city to admire the cherry blossoms. 

Tell the difference between plum, peach and cherry blossoms below.

#1

Tom McCall Waterfront – Japanese American Historical Plaza 

  • 98 SW Naito Pkwy. Portland, 97204. Daily, 5AM-midnight. Free. 

Yes, this is the most popular spot in Portland to the see cherry blossoms. Yet you know how the saying goes, “it’s popular a reason.” This area is worth visiting for the history of the trees and the amount. The view of the waterfront and bridges are also why people come. There are 100 cherry blossom trees along this path that you can enjoy and walk underneath! 

History: Did you know that the cherry blossoms along Portland’s waterfront are a gift from Japan on August 3, 1990? The Japanese American Historical Plaza & Bill of Rights Memorial is there to raise awareness about what Japanese Americans experience here in the U.S from 1880s to today. You’ll find 18 stones with poems on them & bronze sculptures throughout the plaza. Created by Japanese American landscape architect, Robert Murase.

How to view the Japanese American Historical Plaza & Bill of Rights Memorial:

  • Start from the stone wall’s south end and walk north. The stones at the beginning honor the Issei—1st generation of Japanese people that came to America at the end of the 19th century. 

2,500+ Japanese people lived in Oregon by 1904. 9 out of 10 were men—working as entrepreneurs, farmers, lumberers and railroad builders. More women & children arrived after 1910 and the 1st generation of Japanese American children were born, the Nisei. In 1924 the U.S. started to deny Japanese immigration.

  • The break in the stone wall represents the spring & summer of 1942.

When President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which sent 120,000+ Japanese people into incarceration camps & deprived them of their American rights. 3,600 Issei and Nisei were kept at the Portland Assembly Center from May – Sept. 1942. Others were at the Portland Expo Center (used for farm animals at the time). Many men and prominent members of the community were taken away by the FBI in the middle of the night with no warning or explanation.

  • Large boulders in the center of the plaza list the 10 camps—where most Japanese Americans were imprisoned for 3 to 4 years.

Family tradition structure was torn apart, families ate separately and people lost their freedom, emotionally & physically. The cracks in the ground represent the shattered lives of the internees.

In WW2 25,000+ Nisei/Japanese Americans served in Europe while their families were regarded as “enemy aliens.” When the war was over Japanese Americans were freed from the camps, but had nowhere to go as neighbors took over their property. No Japanese American businesses were left in Portland.

Note: Hit this on a weekend and stroll down to the Saturday Market afterwards. Early morning light is the best here.

#2

Washington Park 

  • 4033 SW Canyon Road, Portland, 97221. Daily, 5AM-10PM. Free. 

You can find cherry blossoms all over this 400-acre park. Which also includes the Hoyt Arboretum, Portland Japanese Garden, and the International Rose Test Garden. The best spot to see them outside of those spots is around the blue tennis courts on Kingston Avenue. 

#3

Portland Japanese Garden 

  • 611 SW Kingston Ave. Portland, 97205. Monday + Wednesday, 10AM-5:30PM. Price: $18.95 per adult, $10 tripod fee. 

This peaceful escape has been opened since 1967 and is said to be one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. You can find them near the Upper Pond in the Strolling Pond Garden and the Natural Garden. 

Plan your adventure through their website.

Note: Make reservations ahead of time at the Umami Café to enjoy some Japanese tea and snacks during your visit.

#4

Hoyt Arboretum 

  • 4000 SW Fairview Blvd. Portland, 97221. Hours: daily, 5AM-10PM, visitor center 10AM-3PM. Free. 

If you missed peak bloom on the downtown waterfront, head to the Hoyt Arboretum. The best time to see cherry blossoms here is in April – along the Wildwood Trail near the east water tank. 

60 trees of the Shirofugen are here as well. They have a fluffier appearance due to a double-flower that gives it more petals, but can be mistaken for cherry blossoms. 

Note: Check out the buttercup winterhazel trees which are also native to Japan at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. As well as the rare PNW tweedy red flower at the Alpine Rock Garden (visitor center). 

#5

Pittock Mansion 

  • 611 SW Kingston Ave. Portland, 97205. Daily. Free (outside). 

On top of cherry blossoms, the Pittock Mansion also provides views of downtown and the mountains on a clear day. 

Note: Take a tour of the mansion if it is open. You can also hike here from the Upper Mcleay TH in Forest Park.

#6

Mt. Tabor Park 

  • SE 60th Avenue & SE Salmon St. Portland, 97215. Daily, 5AM-midnight. Free. 

Another spot for cherry blossoms and downtown Portland city skylines. Find the cherry blossoms on 60th Ave above the water reservoir and sprinkled throughout the park. 

Note: Mt. Tabor is an extinct volcano! Bring along a picnic. 

#7

Laurelhurst Park 

  • SE Ceasar Chavez Blvd & Stark St. Portland, 97214. Daily, 5AM-10:30PM. Free. 

This is also one of Portland’s favorite parks. 

#8

University of Portland 

  • Academic Quad, 5000 N Willamette Blvd. Portland, 97203. Daily. Free. 

Find them at the square… quad… courtyard or whatever you want to call the area around the bell tower. Also placed throughout campus and the surrounding streets. You can catch a view of the industrial part of Portland and the river as well on campus.

#9

Local neighborhoods 

Many neighborhoods around Portland have cherry blossom trees. All you have to do is explore! Start with taking a walk around your local neighborhood. 

  • Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden neighborhood. 5801 SE 28th Ave. Portland, 97202. 
  • Hawthorne neighborhood. 
  • NW 21st – 23rd area. 
  • Between Alberta and Killingsworth Street. 
  • Mississippi Street and surrounding streets.

Outside Of Portland 

Looking to get out of Portland? Check out these spots. 

  • Vancouver Clark College 

Sure, this is outside of the Portland city limits, but back in 1990 the college received 100 Shirofugen cherry trees (another type of native Japanese cherry blossoming tree). So, it is worth the visit. 

Note: Stop in downtown Vancouver and eat at Little Conejo or Brickhouse. Thirsty? Grab a drink at the The Grocery Cocktail & Social or at McMenamins along the Big River (Columbia River). 

  • Washington State University – Vancouver Campus

Find cherry blossoms throughout the campus and views of Wy’east (Mt. Hood).

  • Hood River Fruit Loop

Drive around the beloved Hood River fruit loop to see cherry blossoms, among others, and views of Wy’east (Mt. Hood).

Honorable Mention: Find Chinese Plums at the Lan Su Chinese Gardens in downtown Portland.

Difference Between Cherry Blossoms & Other Flowering Trees 

Not every pink or white flowering tree you see around the city is a cherry blossom. Still beautiful to look at nonetheless! 

Cherry blossoms are a part of the Prunus tree family. Which includes over 400 and shrubs, like cherry, plum and peach, according to Portland Nursery and Leafy Place (read more here).

Plum, peach and cherry blossoms are the most commonly confused, but there are several ways to tell them apart. 

Color 

  • Cherry blossoms are white or light pink. Or even dark pink depending on type & individual plant.
  • Peach blossoms can be white, pink or red.
  • Plum blossoms range from white to dark pink/crimson.

Petals 

  • Cherry blossoms have a slit at the end of petal and are pointed with a dent in the middle.
  • Plum blossom petals are round and circular.
  • Peach blossoms have a similar shape to cherry blossoms, but without the dent and slit.  

Leaves 

  • Cherry blossom leaves are green.
  • Plum blossoms leaves are usually brown-purple. 

Flower Placement 

  • Cherry blossoms have a long leaf stalk and many flowers in one place.
  • Plum blossoms have one flower and almost no leaf stalk.
  • Peach blossoms have two flowers in one place and a short leaf stalk.

Hanami 花見: A Traditional Japanese Custom 

Hanami (花見) means “flowering viewing” in Japanese and a custom that can be traced back to the Nara period (710~ 794). 

It originally started with focusing on plume blossoms (ume), but then turned to the popular sakura or cherry blossoms. 

In today’s world hanami involves outdoor celebrations and picnics beneath the trees with family and friends. Hanami can also be just a stroll in the park. Night celebrations decorated with colorful lanterns underneath the trees is called yozakura よざくら, which means “night sakura.”

Hanami Picnic Essentials

  • Blankets
  • Food
  • Picnic Mat
  • Utensils

Hanami Food

  • Hanami Bento
    • Makizushi – sushi rolls
    • Inarizushi – sushi wrapped in tofu skin
    • Tamago – Japanese style sweet egg omelette
    • Kamaboko – pink and white fish cake
    • Karaage – Japanese deep fried boneless chicken
    • Ebi – deep fried breaded prawn
    • Takoyaki – octopus balls with various filling
    • Onigiri – Japanese rice balls with various filling
    • Tsukemono or salad
  • Hanami Sweets
    • akura Mochi: Sticky rice cake filled with red bean and wrapped in a salted cherry blossom leaf.
    • Hanami Dango: Sweet dumplings made from rice flour and typically come served on a skewer in three colours – pink, white and green.

Want to explore some wildflower trails this spring?! Check out my Top 10 Wildflower Trails Near Portland post!

Sources

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s