The Japanese Tea Garden located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is the oldest in the United States and a top Golden Gate Park attraction, especially if you’re visiting in the Spring. Like many other buildings in Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Garden was developed for the 1894 California Winter Exhibition. Under the tutelage of Makoto Hagiwara, what started out as a 1-acre garden grew to the current 5 acre Japanese Tea Garden we see today.
This Garden was created by Mr. Hagiwara to reflect traditional Japanese gardens. You’ll find stone pathways, a zen garden, pagodas, koi, and of course, Cherry Blossoms.
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Cherry Blossoms in the Japanese Tea Garden
Like the Cherry Blossoms in Japan, the Cherry Blossoms here bloom March through April.
There are trees throughout the Garden starting from the entrance! You’ll see the Cherry Blossoms blooming over the entrance as you wait in line for tickets.
Follow the path immediately to the left and continue following it to the left. You’ll come to a “grove” of Cherry Blossom trees near the red pagoda.
Here you’ll be able to imagine witnessing the bloom in Japan, without having to leave San Francisco. A perk during these pandemic times.
I visited on the last weekend in March, and it looked like the bloom was just starting! Until I can get to Japan to see the full bloom, the beauties here will be just fine!
Japanese Tea Garden Tea House
Would it be a Japanese Tea Garden without a tea house? Of course not!
This open-air tea house is so relaxing, especially on a warm San Francisco day.
On the menu is a variety of traditional Japanese snacks and teas, including my favorite, Matcha. I could not resist ordering my first traditional match, not in latte form, here.
It came with a small sweet treat. Unfortunately, I can not remember the name of it, and Google has been no help, but the lady said the sweetness would counteract the bitterness of the matcha.
I didn’t tell her that I like bitter things 🙂
That being said, it was quite a nice treat. You take a bite of the treat, sip the matcha and repeat until it’s all gone!
All while looking over the beautiful landscape of the garden with the sound of a nearby waterfall.
Other Things to See in the Japanese Tea Garden
To see everything in the Japanese Tea Garden, simply follow the stone paths!
To start, follow the path to the left of the entrance you’ll pass by the arched drum bridge which you can climb to the top of (hello photo opportunity).
This path will wind around ponds of varying sizes until you reach the famous red pagoda. There also is one behind it, however, it was under construction when I visited.
Pass by the blooming cherry blossoms and walk underneath the pagoda. Don’t forget to look up. The ceiling is adorned with Japanese artwork!
Keep walking to the left and you’ll pass a Zen Garden under the shade of trees. There is another bridge you can cross which will lead you to the Buddha Statue and the Zen Garden.
There is also a gift shop here that carries beautiful teacups and pots along with other traditional Japanese goods.
At this point, you can exit through the entrance or walk back and exit the turnstile.
How Much Time to Spend in the Japanese Tea Garden
While you can walk all of the paths at a leisurely pace in about 30 minutes, you may want to linger longer.
I spent about 1.5 hours walking around the garden and enjoying my matcha.
I encourage you to take your time, enjoy the relaxing ambiance, sit on a bench for a few minutes, sip your tea leisurely. What’s the rush?
The Details: How to Visit the Japanese Tea Garden
Now that you have an idea of what to expect during your visit, let’s talk about the practical information about how to visit the Japanese Tea Gardens.
Address: Golden Gate Park75 Hagiwara Tea Garden DrSan Francisco, CA, 94122
The Japanese Tea Garden is located at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr Drive and Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, just down the street from the Botanical Gardens and de Young Museum.
There is one main entrance, however, there is a turnstile exit towards the back of the gardens,
Hours of Operation
The Japanese Tea Garden is open daily.
- Winter (11/1-2/28): 9:00 am – 4:45 pm
- Summer (3/1-10/31): 9:00 am – 5:45 pm
Cost of Tickets
There are different ticket prices for SF Residents and Non-Residents. If you’re a resident bring your ID or a photo of your utility bill with your address on it. This website has the most up-to-date information on the cost of tickets.
- Non-Resident Adults: $10 (winter)/$12 (summer)
- Resident Adults: $7 year around
- Non-Resident Youth & Seniors (12-17 & 65+): $7
- Resident Youth & Seniors (12-17 & 65+): $4
- Children (5-11): $3
- Toddlers: Free
Japanese Tea Garden Parking
There is limited, free parking in Golden Gate Park. However, there are strict time limits. Plus, on weekends these spots go very quickly!
Alternatively, you could park at the Music Concourse Garage. It costs $5.25/hour during the week and $6.25 on weekends.
Public Transport Options
There are many routes (N Judah Streetcar, 44, 28, 29, 7, 6, and 43) that serve Golden Gate Park, and therefore, the Japanese Tea Garden.
The frequency may be affected by COVID so be sure to check schedule updates.
Golden Gate Park Shuttle
Spending the day exploring all that Golden Gate Park has to offer? You can take the free Golden Gate Park shuttle to the Japanese Tea Garden. The closest stop is in front of the deYoung Museum on JFK Drive, which is right next to the Tea Gardens!