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NJ Cherry Blossoms

A VISIT TO BRANCH BROOK PARK, ESSEX COUNTY, NEW JERSEY

Article by Karen Kwong

Photography by Karen Kwong

When it comes to cherry blossom season, many in the United States, especially those who live on the East Coast, would first think of Washington, D.C. However, did you know that there are actually more cherry trees in Newark, New Jersey’s Branch Brook Park than there are in Washington, D.C.? [Source: Afar.com]

Branch Brook Park is the nation's first county park. It is located in the North Ward of Newark, NJ. A portion of the park is also located within the Township of Belleville. [Source: Essex County Park System ]

It has the largest and most varied collection of Japanese Flowering Cherry Blossom trees in the United States. [Source: Branch Brook Park Alliance]

Cherry blossoms usually peak around mid-April. The Branch Brook Park Alliance does an excellent job keeping people updated with latest bloom status. You can watch the trees bloom virtually on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on the website's live webcam.

This year, cherry blossoms peak at the park is predicted to be between April 10 through April 18. I visited the park on April 8 and many trees were already in bloom. The park is open everyday during the year from sunrise to 10 p.m. There is no admission. Parking can be found along the drive path. There are also some parking lots inside the park. The park could get very crowded during cherry blossoms peak season, especially on popular hours such as the weekends. Therefore, try to leave yourself enough time to find parking or research for paid parking facility nearby ahead of time. Or you can consider utilizing the Newark Light Rail.

The most scenic spot, in my opinion, would be by the Branch Brook Lake near the Prudential Concert Grove area. From there you get a spectacular view with the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in sight. There are also other areas where you can enjoy closeups of the cherry blossoms, such as the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center located in the north end of the park. If you have kids going with you, they will also enjoy the Children's Playground next to the center.

There are still time to capture this year's cherry blossoms. The park had been hosting a three-week-long Cherry Blossom Festival in April, but it was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19. This year there hasn't been announcement regarding the festival, but the annual Cherry Blossom 10K Run still takes place, although this year is with a virtual twist. It is important to know that even visiting the park is an outdoor activity, mask-wearing is still recommended and social distancing guideline should be followed.

Photos in this article were taken by Karen during her visit to Branch Brook Park on April 8, 2021.

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