Ah, springtime: When nature takes a box of crayons to drab, gray winter. The world (well, the northern hemisphere) blooms March through May, offering blossoms so beautiful they're worth a trip halfway around the world.
Matsumae Koen Park Cherry Blossom Festival
When:Late April to mid-May
Thesakura(cherry blossom) is Japan's national flower, and festivals have revered its beauty for nearly 1,500 years. Spring begins to bloom in February in Okinawa, then travels northward to Hokkaido, where the blossoms peak in early May. Mountains, parks, and cities are covered in pink and mauve, and petals shower bypassers like confetti.Of the dozens of Japanese festivals,Matsumae'smay be the most magnificent. More than 10,000 cherry trees are set among the 17th-century Matsumae Castle paint this seaside town on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido. Commencing with a grand parade, the festivities also feature booths purveying local seafood, tea ceremonies, crafts, haiku competitions, fireworks and a karaoke contest.Late April to mid-May
Insider Tip:If you can't make it up to Hokkaido, consider theHimeji Castle Cherry Blossom Viewing Festival, held in early April.
National Cherry Blossom Festival
Washington, D.C.'s annual event, inaugurated in 1927, celebrates Japan's 1912 gift of 3,000 ornamental cherry trees. Highlights include theBlossom Kite Festivalwith handmade kite displays and competitions. Paddleboat rides in the Tidal Basin delight families and couples alike. Travel photographers conduct workshops, including special sunrise and twilight flower safaris. Kids construct koi mobiles at theTextile Museum, and CherryBlossom Food Toursshow guests delectable dishes inspired by both cherries and the area's Japanese influence. The celebrations climax with theNational Cherry Blossom Festival Paradedown Constitution Avenue — one of the nation's largest spectacles.March-April
Copenhagen Sakura Festival
In 2005, the Danish Honorary Consul of Hiroshima gave Copenhagen 200 flowering cherry trees to commemorate the bicentennial of beloved storyteller Hans Christian Andersen's birth.The festival locale Langelinie Park, home to the first plantings as well as the famous Little Mermaid statue inspired by an Andersen tale, appropriately resembles a fairytale come to life. Traditional martial arts demonstrations from karate to kendo (fencing with bamboo rods), authentic folk dances,taikodrum performances, and tea ceremonies enliven the proceedings. Free workshops highlight Japanese crafts like origami, calligraphy, andikebana(the art of flower arranging).April
Insider Tip: Thenomino ichi(flea market) near the main stage is a treasure-trove ofmangacomics, wooden carvings, wire sculptures, and more.
North Carolina Azalea Festival
Founded in 1948, theNorth Carolina Azalea Festivalin Wilmington is the state's largest event of its kind: a county fair featuring a circus, competitions, celebrity headliners, galas and more. More than 200,000 celebrants attend the annual street fair and throng to watch the main parade. Over 1,000 volunteers help stage50-plus events ranging from concerts to art contests to coin shows. Proud locals open their homes and gardens for tours. The traditional arrival of Queen Azalea opens the festivities, but the pink, lavender, and white blossoms preen all spring long.April
Insider Tip: The blossoms take the spotlight during theCape Fear Garden Club's Azalea Tour,which opens private residences ranging from fanciful cottages to stately antebellum mansions.
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Royal Azalea Festival
Sobaeksan, one of the 12 Sobaek Mountains skirting the border between Chungbuk Province and Gyeongbuk in South Korea, comprises a national park famed for its biodiversity, yew trees, wildflowers and royal azaleas. By late May, its peaks like Birobong, often compared to the Swiss Alps, seem to don a pale pinkjeogori(traditional Korean jacket). Noted Confucian scholar Toegye Yi Hwang says it’s like "walking through a colorful silk curtain as if I've arrived at an extravagant party." Various musical performances, activities, and artisanal workshops celebrate the energetic qualities of the azalea.Late May-Early June
Insider Tip: The more adventuresome can enjoy the rugged region's highs (ridge hikes between Birobong and Yeonhwabong peaks or down riverbeds, where you'll pass breathtaking temples and waterfalls) and lows (subterranean spelunking amid the crystal gardens of Gosu Cave).
For the rest of the most gorgeous spring blossom festivals around the world, like the Mardi Gras-like Flower Festival in Madeira, Portugal, visitFodor's.