By: Jiyi Zheng, Program Intern 

Spring, a time of renewal and growth. The cycle of life starts again. With the arrival of spring, the enchanting cherry blossom trees begin to bloom. As fleeting as the spring season, the cherry blossom’s life is very short.  

Japan is well-known for the cherry blossom as there are many wonderful sites to see them in full bloom. With this post, I am going to introduce you to some of the most cherry blossom sites in Japan! 

The most symbolic site is “The Three Great Cherry Blossom Trees of Japan.” These are the three oldest, ancient cherry blossom trees and were assigned as the nature memorial of the country. 


  1. Jindai-zakura

Jindai-zakura and its neighbor (Photo credit: Skyseeker) 

This is the oldest cherry blossom tree in Japan. It is more than 2,000 years old and is said to have been planted by the ancient hero, Prince Yamato Takeru. 

Location: Hokuto, Yamanashi 

The best time to view: late-March to mid-April 


  1. Usuzumi-zakura

Usuzumi-zakura (Photo credit: Toshihiro Gamo)

It has more than 1,500 years of history. What’s unique about this tree is that the initial color of the flower is light pink, turning white at full bloom stage, and changes to pale grey right before the flowers drop. 

Location: Motos, Gifu 

The best time to view: early to mid-April 


  1. MiharuTaki-zakura

MiharuTaki-zakura (Photo credit: Ayu Oshimi)

This 1,000 year-old tree is 12 meters high. The flowers point face down and look like a pink waterfall when it’s fully bloomed. 

Location: Miharu, Fukushima 

The best time to view: middle to late April 


Cherry blossoms are also beautiful at night. Night cherry blossom viewing is called “Yozakura” in Japanese. Many places hold light-up events and festivals. It feels very different at night! 

Here are some of the best night cherry blossom views you don’t want to miss! 


  1. Takada Castle

(Photo credit: annintofu)

This site is one of the “Night View Heritage of Japan”, with over 4,000 cherry blossom trees and 3,000 lights. 

Location: Niigata Prefecture 


  1. Chidorigafuchi

(Photo credit: Ryouhei Saita)

Beautiful lake view. Boating in the lake would be fun!

Location: Ina, Nagano


  1. Heian-Jingu Shrine

(Photo credit: Eddy Chang)

This is the biggest festival in Kyoto. Night views are also incredible, especially combined with a live music concert.

Location: Kyoto


If you ever have a chance to go to Japan during spring, don’t miss the beautiful cherry blossom views! Get more information online about the location, transportation, and the details of various events. 

The final post in this 3-part series of “Lessons from Youth Outdoor Leaders” – stories, reflections and memories shared by the most recent youth leadership graduates from Manchester Academic Charter Middle School on the Northside. 



My name is Amere. I go to Manchester Academic Charter School (MACS). I am in the Venture Outdoors program at MACS. The Venture Outdoors program is one of my electives. I think you have to be kind and respectful and help others to be in this program. My most memorable moment at Venture Outdoors was going fishing. When I went fishing, it was my first time going. I didn’t catch any fish but I didn’t get upset because I was having so much fun. As I get older, I want to get outside more. I will be in the NFL so I will be outside a lot and I will make a park for other kids so they can go outside and have fun.



My name is Bryant and I am 12 years old. I go to Manchester Academic Charter School and I’m in 7th grade. I’ve been going here since 2nd grade and I love sports – # D1Bound! Outdoor Leadership basically means to have more fun outdoors and experience new things outdoors. I am involved with Venture Outdoors because I’m in the elective class. My most memorable Venture Outdoors experience is the hiking trip from last year because when we went hiking it was a very fun experience. I knew all the basics but they taught me a lot more about hiking. As I get older, I want play in the NFL and make a park with the money.



My name is Christa and I am 12 years old. I attend Manchester Academic Charter School and I am in 7th grade. Building fires and making s’mores with the fires that we built was my favorite activity with Venture Outdoors. It was my favorite because we got to eat s’mores and I love to eat. I chose the Venture Outdoors leadership program because it was an elective choice at my school. Outdoor leadership is if everyone is not following the outdoor rules you may be the only person following them by showing leadership skills.

Christa enjoying her time (maybe?) learning about air quality in Pittsburgh by examining a real set of pig’s lungs with Group Against Smog & Pollution (GASP)


Hello! I’m John. I’m 12 and I love to be active outside. I attend MACS and it helps me get involved with Venture Outdoors leadership. I think that outdoor leadership is a leader who helps nature and outdoors. When I was younger, I went kayaking with my dad in a man-made pond. It was different from kayaking in the river because the water in the pond was cleaner. I didn’t think that I would like kayaking in the river, but when we went kayaking down the river it was comfortable and fun. As I get older, I will need to know how to keep the outdoors safe while doing what I want to do as a dream (building skyscrapers and houses).

John geocaching in Allegheny Commons in search of hidden treasure


Hi! My name is Robert and I’m 12 years. My favorite memory of Venture Outdoors is when I went on a field trip to a camp to do a high ropes course and it was fun. It was my first time doing that and I wanted to complete every part of the course. Outdoor leadership is helping others if they get hurt or lost.

Robert geocaching with his team leader and classmates


Hi! My name is Matthew and I am in a leader ship class in my school at MACS. The best thing I did as part of this leadership course was go snowtubing because it was fun and I had never done that before.

Matthew completing the high ropes course at Camp Guyasuta

Makiyah and Kashmere

Our names are Makiyah and Kashmere and we are 12 year old girls who are sisters. We attend Manchester Academic Charter School and the school is good fit for us both. When we first got to middle school it was a different change from when we were in elementary school. We also thought the electives were fun – it was awesome meeting our new teachers and also some new friends. But when got to Venture Outdoor Leadership elective, we thought it was fun because we got to go outside and get some fresh air and do outdoor activities with our friends. We went kayaking, we went on hikes and more! Two memories that were our favorite: making s’mores and making fire buildings. The reason why we like making s’mores so much is because we both live s’mores a lot! And the reason why we both liked building fire houses is because we were allowed to make it anything we wanted.




My name is Darryl and I am 12 years old. I play a lot of sports and like trying new things. We go on field trips and do fun and special activities. We would always go on the trail every week. I think outdoor leadership is making the right choice and sticking up for the community. I want to play football when I get older. When my mom first heard about venture outdoors, she asked me if I wanted to participate and I said I didn’t want to do it. But, when I tried it, it was fun!

Welcome to our second post featuring insights and lessons learned, written by the middle school outdoor leadership students at Manchester Academic Charter School! The middle school is located in the newly renovated Museum Lab located in Allegheny Commons – an excellent location to get kids outside during the school day to bike, hike, kayak, fish, and more! Participating students reflected on their leadership course at the end of the semester and their responses are shared below.



My name is Julian. I am 14 years old. I like biking, swimming, drawing, and hanging out with my friends. Venture Outdoors is a class that I like because it makes it easier to go outside and show people what you know when it comes to outdoor activities. Usually I get involved in Venture Outdoors by showing some of the other kids how and what to do if they’re confused. One of my most memorable moments in Venture Outdoors is when I first had my Venture Outdoors class in 4th grade I had a bunch of friends who I went kayaking with and we always raced against each other. We always went through this tunnel at the lake and it was really cool. Hopefully, when I get older, I can do something that will get me outside more than usual, like biking or going to the pool to swim and socialize with others.

Fun fact about Julian: He is currently one of the longest-tenured regular participants of Venture Outdoors youth programs, beginning with his after-school site at Providence Connections in 4th  grade – now he is in 8th grade at MACS and still participating!

Julian, an 8th grader at MACS, has participated on Venture Outdoors youth programs since 4th grade!


My name is Romele. I go to Manchester Academic Charter and I’m 13 years old. I have been with Venture Outdoors for  2 years in a row. Venture Outdoors Leadership looks like you telling and showing everybody on task and showing them how to do an activity. I mostly have fun in every class. My favorite activity is biking because that’s just what I like to do when I go outside. I feel great whenever I’m riding a bike. As I get older I would like to bike around the city to get outside.

My most memorable moments in Venture Outdoors were when we went bike riding and one of the students got attacked by a goose. There are many things about me that are great. For starters, I am friendly to many other people, my friends are very funny, and they like me. I think that a leader for Venture Outdoors is a person who takes care of their group members.

Romele fishing along the North Shore during weekly leadership class


Hello! My name is Jordyn and I am thirteen years old. I go to Manchester Academic Charter school, and I am now an 8th grade student. I love math and I do other things to keep me entertained outside of school. This is my second year of MACS so I been in Venture Outdoors for 2 years. In previous years, when I went to camp during the summer, there were activities that Venture Outdoors did with us. Now at my last year at MACS, I am taking a leadership class with Venture Outdoors. We do things like biking, kayaking, fishing, and hiking. The most memorable moment I had with Venture Outdoors would have to be kayaking because it was my first experience with the kayaking, it’s really fun to do, and I love water. This can improve my leadership skills because they teach us how to fix things. I can use these skills to help others in the future. I appreciate that Venture Outdoors is doing this different activities with me but I don’t know how I am going to stay doing outdoors things in the future. I wish I can attend it again next year.

“The most memorable moment I had with Venture Outdoors was kayaking.”



My name is Xavier and I’m 13 years old. I attend Manchester Academic Charter School. I enjoy Venture Outdoors because I like being outside and I like the people who work with us. I love to participate in the activities even if I think I won’t like it. I think that being a leader is that you are calm and confident, you are a listener and a loudspeaker. My favorite activity was when we built fires. I liked building fires because they reminded me of survival games and shows and when I build fires I feel like I’m in the game or show. In the future, I will get myself outside by going camping and running 5K and 10Ks.

Group photo on a college hike.

How to Get Outdoors When You Are a Busy College Student

By: Alyssa Miele

College is hard. Period.

You’re juggling classes, homework, extracurriculars, internships, jobs and more all while trying to maintain your health and maybe get a few hours of sleep each night. In the midst of all the craziness college brings, it’s hard to find time to get outdoors. Here are just a few easy ways to do just that!

1. Eat your Lunch Outside

Order from a takeout place on campus– or bring your own– and sit outside on the grass or at an outdoor table. Doing so gives your body a break from the stale, recycled indoor air and harsh fluorescent lights of classrooms while also providing you with some much-needed Vitamin D.

2. Skip the Bus

This is my favorite tip. If you have time between classes, walk to class instead of taking the bus or driving! In addition to being outside, you’re up and moving which increases the blood flow to your whole body and helps your cognitive abilities. Walking to class may help you perform better in that class!

Consider biking to class too. Have you tried Pittsburgh’s bike share system, Healthy Ride?

3. Do Homework Outside

If your assignment doesn’t require an internet connection to complete, consider completing it outside! Reading multiple chapters of an Intro to Ethics book may seem like a bummer, but doing so surrounded by the trees on campus may make it a little more rewarding. The fresh air is also great for refreshing your mind!

4. Join an Outdoors Club

Spend your weekends outside! Most colleges have outdoors-centered clubs that students can join that range from hiking, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, and more. Some of those clubs even offer discounted or free events! Get outdoors while also meeting new friends with your same interests by signing up.

5. Do your Workout Outside

Skip the gym and opt for an outdoor workout! Take a jog, or if you’re like me and hate running, do some bodyweight strength training or yoga in your backyard or at a nearby park. Some parks around Pittsburgh even offer small outdoor exercise stations that use your body weight as resistance. Check out this article for more information on the exercise stations.

6. Get an Outdoor Internship

Here’s our shameless plug, as a Venture Outdoors intern you’ll have plenty of opportunity to get outdoors while you’re learning. We always have positions available outdoor photographers, communications interns, and youth educators. If you love to get outside and want to share that with others, apply this semester.

It might seem downright impossible to make time for the outdoors with such a busy college schedule, but these unconventional methods are sure to get you out of the classroom and into the fresh air!

Student Discount

Students get $5 off at Kayak Pittsburgh locations. Try kayaking, stand up paddleboards, or canoes.

By: Alyssa Miele

For years I tried to make a huge list of New Year’s Resolutions. I’d sit down a few days before the apple dropped, conjure up a list of 10 to 20 items, as excited as every prior year. Waking up on January 1, I’d feel ready to take on the new year, keep my resolutions, and accomplish waaaay more than the year before. But then something would come up—a birthday party, where I wanted to eat the cake my resolution restricted. Or I couldn’t find the perfect book to read, so I’d think, “How am I going to meet my ‘read 20 books’ resolution if I can’t find ONE book to read?!’”

Then I found it. The. Perfect. Resolution. Get outside more. Simple, yet beneficial. Nothing over-the-top, but still something a lot of people struggle with. I’ve made it my top resolution for the past two years, and it’ll stay at the top of the list for 2019—I can always improve. Here’s why it should be your top resolution, too.

The best thing about making getting outside your #1 resolution is that you can mix in all your other resolutions. Want to work out more? Take a hike or bike ride! Want to eat healthier? Visit your local outdoor farmer’s market for local fresh fruits, veggies, and more. Want to spend more time with your family? Take a walk around the neighborhood with them. The point is, while working toward the resolution to venture outdoors more, you can multitask by adding another resolution to the mix. Talk about productivity! Try it with any of your resolutions—they can all be done in the fresh, outdoor air!

January 2017. One of my 2017 resolutions was to explore Arizona while I lived there. I was living about an hour from The Grand Canyon, so what better way to get outside AND see Arizona than to visit the big hole in the ground? (disclaimer: it’s NOT just a hole. It’s beautiful. Like, happy-cry beautiful.)

Another thing that makes getting outdoors the most important of your resolutions is there’s no downside to it. Some other resolutions require you to give something up in place of the resolution. Think of the top two resolutions made every year: 1. eat healthier, and 2. get more exercise. By eating healthier, you may be giving up cookies and pizza, which you love. Getting more exercise, although wonderful, ultimately cuts into your Netflix time. But what are you losing by venturing outdoors more? The only thing I can think that you’d be giving up is the smell of the stale, recycled air coming through the vents in your house. Most would not consider that a loss.

Getting outside doesn’t necessarily mean doing something physical. My friend Samantha and I were antsy from spending so much time in the library during finals week, we decided to get out and take some pictures up at Arizona Snowbowl.

The final reason I’ll address is venturing outdoors doesn’t cost muchThings like hiking or spending time at a park cost a whole $0. If anything, all you’ll be paying for is a new pair of hiking boots or kayak rentals—a small price to pay for a ton of outdoor fun, and even those things cost less than your average gym membership. 

Sedona, Arizona (May 2018) Total cost for this outdoor adventure: $20 for parking, split between my three friends and me. Not too shabby, if you ask me.

See, it’s simple. Just spend more time outside. You can mix it in with your other resolutions, there’s nothing to lose, and there’s little to no cost. Join me and make venturing outdoors more your top resolution for 2019.