Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Japanese Tea Gardens, Golden Gate Park

To cap off our long holiday weekend, we headed over to San Francisco for a morning in Golden Gate Park. With over 1,000 acres to explore it's hard to know where to begin! Our first stop was the Japanese Tea Garden. The Garden was first created back in 1894 for the World's Fair, and is now the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States. The paths meander through the 5 acres of beautifully maintained gardens which feature traditional elements such as the arched drum bridge, stepping stone paths, pagodas, stone lanterns and several koi ponds.

The arched drum bridge was part of the original design for the gardens in 1894 and was built in Japan and then dismantled and brought to San Francisco. The design allows for boats to pass under the bridge, while taking up minimal space on the anchoring foundations.
Our 3 year old loved the climb to the top

At one point, a number of koi fish approached the kids, MUCH to their delight!

After the Tea Garden, we thought it would be fun to explore the park on bike. Since the kids are too small to ride their own bikes, we rented a Surrey that would carry the entire family. The kids loved the novelty of the bike and having us pedal them through the park, but I have to say that from the perspective of the person doing the peddling, it was sort of a disastrous choice. It was almost comical how difficult it was to pedal the bike. I suppose on a perfectly flat surface, it could almost be manageable, but Golden Gate Park is not flat, and even the slightest incline would elicit a sigh of "oh no...look at this huge hill we have to go up!" The kids loved it, and didn't seem to mind the parts where we actually had to get out and push them up the "hills" because we couldn't pedal up the inclines (all very funny in retrospect...even a little humorous at the time). We rode the Surrey from the Tea Garden, up to Stow Lake and down pass the man-made waterfall at Strawberry Hill. If I were to do it all over again, I would have rented a paddle boat at Stow Lake instead.

Both kids were very excited about the helmets!

Chinese pagoda at Stow Lake

Waterfall at Stow Lake
After our leisurely strenuous bike ride, we headed to the Koret Children's Quarter. This park is the San Francisco equivalent of the Dennis the Menace Park that we recently visited on our trip to Monterey, and has everything a child could want, including a Carousel, a cement slide that runs down the hillside and multiple climbing structures.

What are your favorite spots in Golden Gate Park?

The details: Golden Gate Park is located in San Francisco, about 30-45 minutes from Berkeley.  There is free 4 hour parking in Golden Gate Park, and is relatively easy to find if you arrive before 10am. The Koret Children's Quarter is pretty crowded with kids, so it might not be for everyone.

The facts: Gas/Toll: $8, The Japanese Tea Garden is $8 for adults, $2 for kids (ages 4 and under are free). If you arrive between the hours of 9 and 10am on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays, then admission is FREE! This is what we did, and I HIGHLY recommend finding a time to visit when admission is free. Surrey Bike Rental was $25 for an hour (but not recommended). Koret Children's Quarter is free, and the Carousel is $2 for kids 12 and over, $1 for younger kids.


  1. Its a great pleasure reading your post.Its full of information I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work.

    1. Hi Fazal,
      Thanks so much for you kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the post!