I drove through Branch Brook Park today on my morning commute to see the cherry blossoms. I’ve written about them before, in “The Forest for the Trees” (collected in STEEL HEART) and in the Denny the Dent stories. They only bloom a few weeks a year. They were a gift from the Bamberger family, and Newark/Belleville’s park has the largest stand of them in America; over 4300. Washington, D.C. has 3020, a gift from Japan in 1912.
Branch Brook was designed by Frederick Olmstead, who designed Central Park, and hundreds more. It’s nice for a walk or drive, and Nanina’s restaurant is one of the best Italian eateries in the state. If you can get in; it’s often booked years in advance for weddings. More my speed is Luis’s Red Hots, a hot dog truck at the Belleville end, on Union Ave. They make a great potato dog- thin sliced white potatoes with paprika and spices on a snappy frankfurter. At the other end by Heller Parkway is another famous hot dog truck, John’s, who make fine chili cheese dogs.
You’ve got a week before the petals drop. Best bet is to visit on a weekday, the weekends are packed, but it’s a beautiful place to visit this time of year.