Japanese Tea Garden is a Must Visit in San Antonio

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

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio is one of at least eight tea gardens in the United States. The 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 the one in San Antonio. The Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio is dog friendly and free to visit.

Fish in the pond at 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 on 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.

The Location And Time

The Japanese Tea Garden is located right next to Brackenridge Park and the San Antonio Zoo. You can find free parking in several areas around the tea garden, which is also just east of HWY 281. The tea garden is open 12 hours per day from 7am – 7pm.

It’s best to get there early in order 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 in general 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 area. I ended up parking off Red Oak both times and hiking through Brackenridge Park.

The Tea Garden Pagoda.

Things To Do At Japanese Tea Garden

  • Dog friendly hiking
  • Bird watching
  • Taking pictures
  • Meditating
  • 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.

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 such a 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 even the driveway to the gate is an uphill battle.

The bridge leading to the old kiln.

History of The Japanese Tea Garden

Upon visiting the tea garden I was very curious to know how it was developed. The tea garden truly is an oasis. Back in the early 1800’s the space was 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 formed 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 war. 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 the garden. The name was changed back to the Japanese Tea Garden in the 1980’s.

Various plant life at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio.

Plant Life

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 the San Antonio 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 after both visits. 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.

Pond at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio.

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. However, I could not find any instance of this happening to anyone else, so you are most likely safe.


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 to hike with my dog and take pictures. 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? Time will only tell.

View of the waterfall from the pagoda.

Japanese Tea Garden history source from sanantonio.gov


I am a certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach. Places for Pups was created to catalog daily, dog friendly adventures. I hope you will share yours here as well.

The content and photos on this site belong to me, and may not be copied or used without permission.
This site contains some ads and affiliate links, from which I may receive a small commission to help further my adventuring.

Even though I discuss places, or things, and emerge from the woods unharmed, I am not at all responsible for you, your family, your friends, or your pets. You are solely responsible for following in my footsteps and trying things described on this site.

I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.

Latest posts by DavidE (see all)

Leave a Reply

Notify of