Japanese Tea Garden is a Must-Visit in San Antonio

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio is one of, at least, eight tea gardens in the United States. Tea gardens have an amazing history and are a breath of fresh air inside congested, urban areas. The only tea garden I have personally seen is this one. The Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio is dog friendly and free to visit.

Nature trail leading away from the upper section of the Japanese Tea Garden.
Hiking away from the Japanese Tea Garden

My pup, Abbey, and I have been to the tea garden twice so far, and each time has been a pleasant adventure. However, there has been an unpleasant side effect, which I will explain later in the article. If you are looking for free things to do in San Antonio, as well as dog friendly things to do, the Japanese Tea Garden is a must-visit.

Fish in the pond at Japanese Tea Garden.
Fish inside the Japanese Tea Garden

How to Get to the Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio, TX

Address: Mary’s, 3853 N St Mary’s St, San Antonio, TX 78212

Fees: The Japanese Tea Garden is free to visit

Hours of operation: 7am – 7pm

The Japanese Tea Garden is located right next to Brackenridge Park, and the San Antonio Zoo. You can find free parking in areas around the tea garden, which is just east of US-281. The tea garden is open 12 hours per day.

It’s best to get to the garden early to avoid the San Antonio heat, as well as the increase in foot traffic. 5pm seems to be the busiest time during the day. This area (Brackenridge Park) contains some of the best things to do in San Antonio. If you find it difficult to park near the tea garden, there are more options throughout the park. I always find parking along Red Oak and hike through Brackenridge Park.

The Tea Garden Pagoda.
The Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio, TX

Things to Do at the Japanese Tea Garden

  • Walk your dog
  • Watch for birds
  • Take beautiful photos
  • Meditate near the falls
  • Host a special event
  • Visit the kiln
  • Learn the history
  • Try the tea or sandwiches

These are some of the popular things to do at the tea garden. The space is frequently reserved for special events such as weddings. If the space becomes unavailable they will post a sign on the gate.

The primary wildlife you will find at the tea garden includes ducks, birds, fish and cats. The upper trail that leads out of the garden may contain cats. Luckily, Abbey did not seem to notice them as we were hiking because she loves to chase cats.

The bridge leading to the old kiln.
Visit the kiln

Things to Keep in Mind

Please be mindful of those around you at the tea garden. This is a popular tourist location and does receive a lot of foot traffic. Many people stop along the paths to take photos. Sometimes this annoys visitors who are forced to stop and wait. Some negative reviews are made due to this situation, which seems rather trivial, but try to be mindful nonetheless.

The tea garden is not a good place for strollers or wheelchairs. The tea garden is littered with stairs and the driveway to the gate is an uphill battle. The upper path provides an easy way to walk to, or from, the zoo.

Various plant life at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio.
A view of the falls in the distance

History of the Japanese Tea Garden

I was very curious to know how this tea garden was developed. It is truly an oasis in the city. Back in the early 1800’s the location was used as a rock quarry. Many of the buildings developed in San Antonio were made from the rocks in that quarry. In the early 1900’s the tea garden was built using prison labor.

The name was changed to, The Chinese Tea Garden, during the events of World War II because America and Japan were at odds. Japanese Tea Gardens in America were prone to vandalism after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Perhaps the name change prevented the destruction of the garden. You may find evidence of the name change overhead as you enter this beautiful place. The name was changed back to the, Japanese Tea Garden, in the 1980’s.

Pond at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio.
Plants and ponds inside the Japanese Tea Garden


Tea gardens typically include a variety of plant life such as bonsai, azaleas, maple, dwarf, bamboo, pine, magnolias and wisteria trees. I noticed palm trees, shrubs and flowers of various colors, but was unable to find an exact list of plant-life at this garden. There is, of course, a waterfall and pond filled with lilies and fish. If you find an exact list of plant-life, or recognize those at this tea garden, please let me know and I will update the article.

One final thing to note is something that happened to me after each visit. Two days after visiting I developed a very itchy rash that began in skin folds, and proceeded to spread all over my body. Although I did not touch anything at the tea garden, this happened on two separate trips. The visits were at opposite times of year and would rule out a seasonal allergy. Either a coincidence, or I am very allergic to a plant in the garden.

It has been very perplexing because the symptoms were similar to those one might get from a drug or food allergy. However, I do not take any pills, nor am I allergic to any foods, to my knowledge. I also ruled out an allergy to a substance such as soap, antiperspirant, etc. My skin is very allergic to various plant-life when contact is made, but this situation is unique. I could not find any instance of this happening to anyone else, so you are most likely safe.

View of the waterfall from the pagoda.

Visit the Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio

The Japanese Tea Garden is one of many dog friendly things to do in San Antonio. The garden is relaxing, beautiful and unique. The garden is free to visit and a “must see” opportunity. Even though there are several things to do at the garden, I prefer hiking in San Antonio with my dog.

I have not tried the tea because I prefer coffee. However, if you are a tea lover, I imagine the tea is rather good. The tea garden has a fascinating history and has been shaped into one of the most beautiful sights in San Antonio. Will I return? Only time will tell.

Japanese Tea Garden history source from sanantonio.gov

I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it. We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site. Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly.  I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.

David Earley


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