One recent sunny spring day, the bambino and I took in a leisurely stroll in Golden Gate Park and on a whim we stopped in at the Japanese Tea Garden. With the wisteria in full bloom and purple irises dotting the pond it was nothing short of spectacular. Of course we made a pit stop at the tea house to enjoy the view and refresh ourselves with a cup of genmaicha tea (green tea with toasty brown rice) and a few bites of mochi.
There are certain places that bring me straight back to my childhood and this is one of them. I have vivid memories of scrambling over the drum bridge, looking for koi, and pretending the miniature bonsais and replica temples were my personal dominion. And it was always a treat when my parents would stop for tea and buy me and my brother a little bowl of rice crackers to snack on. It feels like coming full circle to bring my little ones here.
The Tea Garden is just one of our favorite stops along this section of Golden Gate Park and you can easily while away the better part of the day without visiting the usual attractions (the de Young Museum and California Academy of Sciences). A “secret” stairway to the west of the Tea Garden connects it to Stow Lake. Because parking is usually better around Stow Lake, it’s a good place to start an adventure. Stow Lake is the perfect destination for little bicycle riders, stroller walks, squirrel spotting, feeding the ducks (or seagulls depending on your luck) and snacking on some delightfully dreadful Pink Popcorn.
To the east of the Tea Garden, the De Young’s sculpture garden and observation tower are totally fab freebies (no museum entrance is required for either) and the Museum Cafe is an absolute godsend when mom or dad needs a little caffine. While you’re in the neighborhood, we always make sure throw a penny or two into one of the fountains in the middle of the music concourse and make a few echoes in one of the tunnels on the east end of the concourse (one tunnel leads to the Academy of Sciences and the other leads to the “blue playground” at 8th and Fulton). And if serendipity truly favors you, you just might find the Twirl and Dip ice cream truck somewhere in the vicinity. (Try their toffee, we hear it’s to die for!)
The Japanese Tea Garden is free on Monday, Wednesday and Friday before 10am (always free for kids 4 and under). You might just see this furry ticket taker while you’re there.