Tucked away in a Texas city known for its vibrant Mexican-American culture, San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Garden offers a refreshing, peaceful space that gives visitors a glimpse into another cultural treasure. The gardens, large pagoda, koi pond, and 60-foot (18-meter) waterfall make for impressive photo backdrops for locals and visitors alike.
A stand-alone visit to the Japanese Tea Garden is free, but it is also a feature on several local tour itineraries, including some with stops at other must-see local cultural and historical attractions, such as the Alamo and the River Walk. The Japanese garden is a lovely addition to these tours, which take care of all the transportation and give you time to relax a little in the inviting space.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Japanese Tea Garden is a must-see for botanical garden enthusiasts, Japanophiles, families—kids especially enjoy checking out the koi in the fish pond—and those looking for a serene oasis in San Antonio.
- The garden is small and not much walking is required, so you can visit easily and at your own pace.
- An on-site café, the Jingu House, is perfect for a light snack or drink.
- The Pavilion, gardens, and café are all accessible to wheelchair users and strollers, but the waterfall platform area is not.
How to Get There
The garden is located on Alpine Street in the northern part of San Antonio, near Brackenridge Park and the San Antonio Zoo. You can get there off the McAllister Freeway (US 281), and there is a B-cycle (bike share) station nearby.
When to Get There
The Japanese Tea Garden is open sunrise to sunset every day of the year. The summer months (from about May to September) can be quite hot, so if you go to San Antonio during this time, it’s recommended to visit the garden early in the morning or later in the evening to escape the hours of peak heat.
Tranquility from a Rock Quarry
San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Garden was formerly a rock quarry. In 1918 prisoners constructed the space—which included stone bridges and walking paths, a Japanese pagoda, and lily ponds—for a cost of $7,000. At one point, the city invited a local Japanese-American artist to live on site. After his death, his family was evicted due to anti-Japanese sentiment during World War II. In the 1960s, it was called the Chinese Sunken Garden before being rededicated in 1984 as the Japanese Tea Garden.