April 03, 2024
By Featured Venues & Destinations

With the arrival of spring comes a flurry of cherry blossoms erupting across the landscape. While nobody can say for certain when exactly the blooms will first make their appearance, there's no mistaking it once they finally blossom.

Did you know there's a whole national tradition surrounding the arrival of these beauties? Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, is a Japanese custom that celebrates the arrival of spring. With a rich history and cultural significance that dates back over a thousand years, Hanami celebrates the transient beauty of cherry blossoms--known in Japanese as sakura. In Seattle Southside, we're lucky to be graced with so many options for cherry blossom viewing that the custom feels right at home here.


When is Cherry Blossom Season in Seattle?

Cherry blossoms are notoriously fickle and different varieties bloom at different points. But you can start to see blooms as early as the beginning of March, if the weather is warm enough. Peak blossom-viewing time usually takes place between mid-March and early April. 

Every year is a little bit different, but if you plan your event to take place around early April you can usually guarantee a good number of cherry blossoms will be visible.


Hanami History

Cherry blossoms have long been a symbol of the fragile nature of life in Japanese culture--a concept closely tied to Buddhist influences. The blossoms' brief, brilliant blooming period is often seen as a metaphor for the fleeting beauty of youth and the ephemeral nature of existence.


The tradition of hanami translates to any place where you can view cherry blossoms, and it goes well beyond Japan. The tradition is believed to have originated during the Nara Period (710–794 CE). Initially, it was plum blossoms (ume) that were admired, but by the Heian Period (794–1185 CE), cherry blossoms came to attract more attention. The Heian court nobles of Japan would hold elaborate outdoor feasts under the blooming sakura trees, celebrating with sake and food. These gatherings were occasions for writing and reciting poetry that reflected the natural beauty of the blossoms. While hanami was initially a pastime of the elite, cherry blossom viewing gradually became popular among the common people during the Edo Period (1603–1868 CE). It was during this time that many of today's well-known sakura viewing spots were cultivated across Japan.


Today, people in Japan celebrate hanami by having outdoor parties under cherry trees in bloom. Parks are filled with thousands of people who enjoy food, drinks, and the company of friends and family as they appreciate the fleeting beauty of the sakura. The nation of Japan has made gifts of their flowering cherry trees to cities around the world as a sign of friendship, famously including Washington D.C., and many of the trees around the Seattle area come from a gift of 1,000 sakura trees made in 1976 by then-Japanese Prime Minister Take Miki.


While hanami may not be quite as popular here in the United States as it is in Japan, people are still drawn to the beauty of cherry blossom trees, especially in places with high concentrations of the trees, like Angle Lake Park here in Seattle Southside and the University of Washington campus.


How To Hanami

Anyone can celebrate the beauty of Hanami and create their own traditions during cherry blossom season!


Make teambuilding a spring seasonal spectacular and get ready to enjoy the springtime vibes by putting together a picnic, complete with comfy blankets to relax on. While a bento box might be the traditional choice for your picnic lunch, don't feel restricted by cuisine when putting together your hanami picnic menu. Pack whatever food sounds tasty, and don't forget to bring all the utensils you'll need to enjoy your food.

We also recommend bringing a thermos full of warm tea just in case there's still a chill in the air, plus sipping green tea under the trees is very traditional. It's considered very good luck if a blossom petal falls into your cup! And while sipping sake under the blossoms is also traditional, remember that drinking alcoholic beverages outside of sanctioned areas is against the law, so it's much safer to go with green tea.


There are lots of great options around Seattle Southside for checking out the cherry blossoms, including: Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden, PowellsWood, and our personal favorite, Angle Lake Park, which coincidentally offers great planespotting and, views of Mt. Rainier (when the mountain's out, of course).


Here are some quick hanami do's and don'ts to make your picnic picture perfect:

  • DO bring a bag for garbage and clean up after your picnic. After all, hanami is a celebration of the beauty of nature, so let's do our best to protect it!
  • DON'T try to pick branches or blossoms off of trees. While you can pick up blossoms that have fallen to the ground, cherry trees can be very fragile and are easily damaged.
  • DO take lots of pictures to capture the transient beauty that's only on display for a few weeks out of the year.
  • DON'T climb the cherry trees or shake the branches to make petals fall intentionally.
  • DO try to time your pictures with the wind for that perfect petal-blown look!


Experiencing Hanami is just one of the many reasons to meet in Seattle Southside. Here are some more:

Ideally Located

Situated outside of the hustle and bustle of the downtown corridor, Seattle Southside’s central location puts your attendees at the center of it all. Whether you’re planning a corporate retreat, family reunion, business meeting, church or military group gathering, Seattle Southside pairs beauty with convenience.



Get the most out of Seattle Southside on a budget with meeting hotels typically priced 20–30% less than those in downtown Seattle. Take advantage of great deals with the Seattle Southside Savings Pass for attendees to get discounts on attractions, dining, and shopping.



Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is less than 10 minutes away from Seattle Southside, so getting to and around Seattle Southside is a cinch. Nearly every hotel has a free airport shuttle, and attendees can cruise around town on the free mall shuttle or visit downtown Seattle on the Link Light Rail.


Free Help

Seattle Southside RTA's team will help you in every step of your planning process to create a perfect event experience. Get complimentary meeting planner support services and welcome resources, including registration bags, coupons, a mobile visitor center, and more.

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