Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival and New Jersey Gardens

There isn’t a better way to tell that spring has officially arrived than seeing the cherry blossom trees start to bloom. And in New Jersey there isn’t a better place to enjoy these beautiful trees than during the Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival at Branch Brook Park in Newark. The festivities will take place April 5-13, 2014 with a full roster of events.
 
The park has more than 4,300 cherry trees, and actually boasts the largest collection of cherry blossoms in the U.S. (yes, even more than Washington, D.C.) Plus, the park itself is a must-visit location as it s listed on both the National and New Jersey State Registers of Historic Places.
 
Highlights of the Festival include Bloomfest to take place on April 13. The free family fun day includes kid-friendly activities, live music, a craft marketplace, Japanese cultural demonstrations and plenty of food.
 
For active types, the Cherry Blossom Challenge: Annual Bike Race takes place on April 5 followed by the Cherry Blossom 10K Run on April 6. The One Mile Fun Run/Walk on April 12 is a great run/walk to do with your kids and will receive a commemorative T-shirt.
 
Beyond Branch Brook Park, the gardens of New Jersey are filled with flowers, plants and trees coming alive again after the winter. A walk through any of them will include chances to see nature’s beauty. Skylands New Jersey Botanical Garden in Ringwood offers miles of marked trails to explore among its 96-acres of specialty gardens surrounded by 1,000 acres of woodlands.
 
At the 2,740-acre Duke Farms in Hillsborough, there are 18 miles of trails and pathways for hikes through a variety of terrains and habitats. If you want to choose a garden to visit based on your own affinity to a certain type of flower, Duke Farms’ Tropical Orchid House features some of the 1,500 orchids grown on site.
 
If it's irises that are your favorites, head for the historic Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Upper Montclair to be awed by the magnificent display of thousands of iris varieties from around the world.
 
Feel like taking a bit of spring home with you? Go to the garden plant sale at the Rutgers Gardens Spring Flower Fair in New Brunswick on May 9 -11, 2014. Purchase your favorites to jump-start your home gardens.

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