51st Annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
It is very likely that you are familiar with the notion that the advent of spring means the blooming of the cherry blossoms in Washington DC. But did you know that San Francisco, itself a home to thousands of cherry trees, has the second largest festival in America celebrating the occasion of their blooming? It’s true! The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival is considered to be one of the largest celebrations of cherry blossoms and Asian culture in the entire country, and it is the largest single event revolving around these things on the West coast.
Since 1968, the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival has been giving people throughout the Bay Area the chance to experience the vibrant traditions, songs, dances, and other artistic expressions that come to us by way of Japan. And the people? Well, every year they respond in droves at the chance to join in the festivities. Boasting an average attendance of over 200,000 people, the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival takes place over two consecutive weekends in April. This year, the dates the 14th and 15th and the 21st until the 22nd.
The NCCBF is far more than just a showcase of Japanese culture (although, this in itself would be fine enough reason to attend). Visitors can expect to have the chance to listen to scores of musicians, eat some of the Bay Area’s most delicious foods, watch martial arts performances, view the yearly Queen Program, and watch as the Grand Parade—which takes place on Sunday, the 22nd— winds its way from City Hall to Japantown.
This parade is perhaps the highlight of this festival full of highlights. Beginning at the San Francisco City Hall, it will meander its way up Polk Street until it hits Post Street. Then it will take Post Street all the way to the intersection of Post and Fillmore and the beginning of Japantown. The whole parade will also be led by the world famous San Francisco Taiko Dojo as well as the newly crowned Queen and her royal court.
The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival is a completely free event, although there will be ample opportunity to make up for this as you wander through the vendors who sell things from food to art to handmade crafts.