Japanese Tea Garden is a Magical Place for Children

Our son likes the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park so much he insisted that he go back “with Daddy. No Mommy. You can stay home. I’m going with Daddy.”

I think the garden works for children because every part of it just seems like magic.

So many choices! Little paths run here and there, lined with with child-sized bushes and trees. Big dramatic gates somehow seem small and cozy. Details beg to be noticed — things like dragon faces on the ends of roof timber.

During a prior visit (where I was allowed to be around!), we played “find the koi.” Once we located these supersized goldfish, we talked about what they might be thinking. Most of the koi were slow and contemplative, but one was surprisingly frisky.

The traditional Japanese rock garden got a thumbs up from our son. In fact, he wished it was even larger, with even more little islands surrounded by a gravel sea. He did wish he could walk all around it to see the backsides of the islands.

The signature Drum Bridge is a key element of the garden and also one of the best climbing structures I’ve ever seen. Japanese shrine-master Shinshichi Nakatani was commissioned by the Japanese government to build the bridge for the 1894 San Francisco Mid-Winter Fair, and it’s one of the most beloved and historic elements of the Japanese Tea Garden. But for our son, it’s something he would love to have in the middle of a playground.

The Basics

• The Japanese Tea Garden is at 7 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Open daily from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. (March-October), closing at 4:45 p.m. in winter. Admission for non-San Francisco residents is $7 for adults; $5 for ages 65+ and 12-17; $2 for ages 5-11; free for ages 4 and under. If you enter before 10 a.m. on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, admission is free for all.

• Get driving directions and parking tips from the Japanese Tea Garden website. There is very easy four-hour free parking weekdays on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, with a  walk of a few blocks to the garden (often full on the weekend).

• No picnics inside the garden. Simple snacks are available at the Tea House.

• The gift shop has many child-appropriate items, including “fork-sticks,” a combination of chopsticks and forks which our son enjoyed.

Article source: http://losaltos.patch.com/articles/japanese-tea-garden

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