Every year, there is a cherry blossom watch and a countdown to their peak blooming season in High Park. I've been wanting to go for years but somehow always seem to miss it. This year, I decided enough is enough and did everything in my power to finally make the trip.
The first thing that struck me was the flow of people armed with cameras (and quite oblivious to whose walking trajectory they kept stumbling into) stretching all the way back to the subway. There was literally a stream of people surging into the park. I think that's what a pilgrimage might look like, minus the frilly clothes and high-tech camera equipment. And forget about trying to drive through or, god forbid, find parking! The car traffic was crawling (when not fully stopped) and there wasn't a single parking spot in sight.
The next surprise was the number of cherry trees High Park actually has! I always thought it was just a small cluster of cherry trees near the Grenadier Pond, but there are a lot more than that and they stretch all the way up the hill. You truly are walking on an avenue lined with cherry trees in full bloom. Had it not been for the massive swarm of people buzzing beneath the trees, it would have been quite magical. But it's a very popular event, so good luck catching the space without the crowds. Still it's quite lovely and definitely worth checking out. Just pack your patience and don't expect to get anywhere fast (or expect to get pictures without a bright background of other people).
The funniest part for me was observing the multitude of (largely) Asian people in their Sunday best trying to climb the trees and posing for brooding and romantic shots in from of the blossoms. They take this very seriously. There was lighting equipment and everything! I did not see that coming. If you make it out to High Park and manage to find a spot to park yourself under a tree somewhere, the people watching is just as good as the blossom watching. Give it a try.
WHAT: Cherry Blossoms in High Park
WHERE: High Park, west side near Grenadier Pond
WHEN: Early May - at their prime this week
INSIDER TIPS: The trees closest to the Bloor entrance to the park are the busiest (and there is hardly any grass left under them). If you are looking to find a picnic spot that it's too overcrowded, check the smaller cluster of trees by the pond closest to the Lakeshore entrance. There'll still be tons of people there, to be sure, but they won't be sitting on top of your heard and it's easier to find a spot to spread your blanket. Also be sure you bring a blanket!