Come spring, the best place to be in the city is Central Park. Why, you may ask? Because the cherry trees are in bloom for just a few weeks and it is therefore the best time to capture some cherry blossoms and spring content! Take a walk on a Sunday morning at the beginning of April, you will see influencers, dog walkers and photographers alike, camera out to catch the best blooms.
Now, Central Park is quite big and it can be quite a trek to explore its vastness in search for cherry blossoms. To be fair, if you do decide to take a grand tour of the park, there is a good chance that you will stumble upon some blooming cherry trees and other spring flowers. However, having done so many times, I know where the best blooms are.
My best tip should you want to capture some spring content is to get up early. Head over to the park around 7 to 7:30am. Even at that time, the park gets busy with runners and dog walkers. So if you want to avoid crowds and be just yourself in your photos, you’ll have to wake up with the sun. Not even an hour later will Central Park be crowded and you’ll have to queue to take pictures in the best spots!
But first thing first, before you cover where the best cherry blossoms are, let’s go over what type there actually is in Central Park.
The different cherry blossoms of Central Park
Central Park has four types of cherry trees, although the most famous and recognizable kinds are Kwanzan and Yoshino cherry trees.
- Kwanzan: They are distinguishable by their smooth bark marked with horizontal pores and fluffy double petal flowers. Kwanzan trees can be found on the west sides the Reservoir, around 90th Street.
- Okame: The Okame tree produces abundant bright pink flowers with one-inch-long petals. The blooms completely cover bare branches. They tend to show very early spring and last longer than other blooms.
- Yoshino: The most popular cherry tree of the park. They produce white blossoms and can be spotted all around the park but mostly on Pilgrim Hill and Cherry Hill.
- Higan: With white and pink flowers, Higan cherry trees can be found by Sheep Meadow and Cedar Hill, but most prominently along the Great Lawn.
In general, cherry trees start blooming around mid-March and based on the type of blossom, up until mid-April if not early May. However, in recent years, and especially in 2023 when the winter was much milder than usual, cherry trees have been blooming earlier. Therefore, it has a bit become a race against the clock to catch blooms.
Cherry blossom timeline:
- Late February to mid-March: Okame.
- End of March to mid-April: Yoshino, Higan.
- Early May: Kwanzan.
Central Park has a cherry blossom tracker. It is not a live map and it not updated every day, however it can still help you know when to go catch some blooms in the park.
Note: Higan cherry trees are also known to bloom in flushes, producing flowers from late fall to early spring.
Cherry trees locations
Now, let’s get on with our cherry blossoms locations. They come in no particular order and although some are close to each other, some others are located all over the park.
Pilgrim Hill is on the east side of Terrace Drive. It is directly by the entrance to the park on 5th Ave and 72nd St. It takes its name from the statue perched at its top: the statue of a Pilgrim. In the winter, when covered in snow, it is a great place for sledding. In the spring, it is covered in blooming Yoshino cherry trees.
Cedar Hill is located on the east side of the park, between 76th and 79th streets. It has a big lawn dotted with rock outcrops and cedar trees (it’s in the name). Another popular area for sledding in the winter, it offers a large concentration of blossoming Kwanzan trees in the spring.
Speaking of Kwanzan trees, the main location to see that kind of cherry blossoms is on the west side of the Reservoir. The Reservoir is the largest body of water in the Park, located between 86th and 96th Streets. The landscape (i.e., Bridle Path, Engineer’s Gates, etc) around is famous for its many blooming Yoshino and Kwanzan cherry trees.
Terrace Drive is a road that crosses through the park from 72nd Street. If you walk all the way, you will see a lot of Yoshino and Okame cherry trees, starting with Pilgrim Hill and culminating with Cherry Hill. Pretty much every meter along the drive is a photo opportunity with blossoming trees and spring flowers.
One of my favorite places in Central Park in the spring is Shakespeare Garden. The layout and flora is inspired by English gardens. You will see a lot of flowers such as tulips, daffodils, etc and some cherry trees displaying white cherry blossoms. If you pay attention, you may spot a little bunny or two!
Directly south of Cedar Hill, located between 77th St and 74th, is a large concentration of Kwanzan and Yoshino trees. Just a few minute walk away from the Conservatory Waters, it takes its name from the Glade Arch.
Nothing is more telling than a name and in this case, you will know exactly what I am about to talk about. Cherry Hill is located north of Terrace Drive and West of Bethesda Fountain and the Bow Bridge. It had gorgeous lake side views with the iconic San Remo building in the background. In the spring, Cherry Hill is covered in Yoshino cherry blossoms, which attract a lot of people.
Again, if you don’t want to wait in line for your photos or have people in the background, you’ll have to get up early! It is one of the prettiest places in the park during spring.
Find both Kwanzan and Yoshino Cherry trees on either side of Bethesda Fountain, as well as both pink and yellow magnolias.
The Great Lawn
The most impressive collection of Higan cherry trees in Central Park is at the southwest corner of the Great Lawn. The flowers look like a pink waterfall of branches. You’ll also find Kwanzan and Yoshino cherry blossoms on the southern and eastern edges of the lawn.
The Obelisk (Cleopatra’s Needle)
Located behind the MET and north of the 79th St traverse, the Obelisk has a large concentration of Kwanzan trees as well as magnolias. It’s not too far from the Great Lawn.
For a complete map of all the cherry blossom trees in Central Park, you can refer to this map.
Other blooms of Central Park
Of course, cherry blossoms are not the only blooms one can see in Central Park. Indeed, the flora of the park consists of 438 species representing 262 genera and 89 families. This provides even more photo opportunities.
- Lilac: The Neil Singer Lilac Walk offers both Yoshino trees and lilac which bloom from late April to June.
- Forsythia: You will find forsythia all over the park. They are quite easy to spot due to their bright yellow color, and start blooming at the end of February.
- Magnolias: Magnolia season predates cherry blossoms season by a few weeks. You’ll be able to find them pretty much all over the park including Bethesda Terrace, Bow Bridge, the Conservatory Garden, etc.
- Wisteria: There are two main locations to see wisteria in Central Park, the pergola in the Conservatory Garden and at the Mall. They usually bloom in May but with such a warm winter in 2023, some of started to show flowers mid-April.
- Daffodils: They are all over the park. Yellow or white, they usually come in huge concentration in flower beds or just on the side of any road or path in the park.
- Tulips: The ultimate spring flower. You’ll find them south of the Mall or in the Conservatory Garden.
Cherry blossoms locations in New York City
Now, while Central Park is a great place to see cherry blossoms, it obviously is not the only place. Below is a list of other locations.
- Madison Square: Yoshino and Kwanzan trees, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths.
- Union Square: Kwanzan trees.
- Park Avenue: Kwanzan trees, okame trees, magnolias.
- Roosevelt Island: Yoshino trees.
- Washington Square Park: Magnolias, Yoshino trees, Kwanzan trees, daffodils, irises.
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Okame, Yoshino, Kwanzan, Magnolias.
- New York Botanic Garden: Okame, Yoshino, Kwanzan, Magnolias.
Both botanic gardens obviously have a much larger variety of blooms and trees.