Golden Gate Park in San Francisco has SO many hidden gems. From Dutch windmills to a bison paddock to a Redwood grove, you can find a variety of things to do in the park. That includes the Japanese Tea Garden which is equipped with a small tea house inside!
The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest one in the United States. It was originally built in 1894 and over the years transformed into an impressive 5 acre garden with pagodas, a bridge a zen garden and koi ponds. It has a bit of a sad history – the founder and his family were forced into Japanese Internment Camps in 1942. Luckily, this garden survived the persecution of the Japanese during World War II and has since grown to be one of the most visited sites in San Francisco.
I highly recommend visiting and because it’s so popular, here are 5 tips for visiting the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco!
Psstt- read my full San Francisco travel guide here!
M/W/F free entry before 10am
The garden opens at 9am and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday weekly you can enter the garden for free if you arrive before 10am. The entrance fee is normally $9 for non-SF residents, so if you are visiting with a large group or family, avoiding the entrance fee on free mornings is a smart move. Because of the popularity of free mornings, I highly recommend arriving right at 9am to enjoy a bit of the garden before more people arrive. It can get crowded on free mornings!
Bring your ID if you live in San Francisco
As mentioned above, San Francisco residents get a discount on tickets! It’s normally $9, but if you bring your ID, you can enter for just $6.
Psst — the Botanical Garden across the street has free entry all the time for San Francisco residents!
Go to the Tea House first
The tea house is an incredibly popular spot for tourists and locals alike. They offer authentic Japanese tea and cuisines, and it’s right in the middle of the garden. It’s small, so the line quickly gets long and of course, all the best seats overlooking the koi pond fill quickly. If you are visiting the garden and really want to stop by the teahouse, I recommend arriving right at 9am when it opens and make a beeline to the tea house to grab your seat and avoid the crowds!
Wear flat shoes
The Japanese Tea Garden is the real deal – which means the paths are uneven and rocky at times. It also has a lot of steps and even a really cool arched bridge with incredibly narrow steps up. I wore heels to the garden and I found it a bit of a challenge to walk around. Do yourself a favor and wear flat shoes on your visit so you can navigate with ease!
Vist during cherry blossom season
During the Springtime in March and April, the entire city starts blooming. This is peak cherry blossom season! If you really want to get that classic Japan experience without the price tag of visiting Japan, head to the tea garden during cherry blossom season! There are many cherry trees throughout the garden to help create a sense of awe.
I hope this helps you plan your visit to the Japanese Tea Garden! If you have any questions at all, leave a comment below or DM me on Instagram @thewhimsysoul.