Things to Do

The Japanese Tea Garden is a Free Must-See Destination in San Antonio

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Tony Maples Photography


The Japanese Tea Garden is a lesser-known spot in the middle of the bustling, tourism-driven city of San Antonio. The tea garden, located in Brackenridge Park, near downtown San Antonio is operated by the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Parks Foundation. The site of a former rock quarry, the Japanese Tea Garden today is one of the most loved, educational and cultural resources in San Antonio.

A Former Rock Quarry

Japanese Tea Garden

Photo: Flickr/Amy the Nurse

The Japanese Tea Garden was developed on land donated to the city in 1899 by George Washington Brackenridge, president of the San Antonio Water Works Company. The ground was first broken around 1840 by German masons, who used the readily accessible limestone to supply the construction market. Many San Antonio buildings, including the Menger Hotel, were built with the stone from this quarry on the Rock Quarry Road.

The Japanese Tea Garden project, which was spearheaded by City Parks commissioner, Ray Lambert in 1917, was completed using prison labor to shape the quarry into a complex that included walkways, stone arch bridges, an island, and a Japanese pagoda.

Briefly Renamed During WWII

renamed during WWII

Photo: Flickr/Allison Meier

The garden was renamed the Chinese Tea Garden during World War II, to prevent the razing and vandalism of the tea garden during the war, as many other cities’ Japanese tea gardens were being vandalized due to the anti-Japanese sentiment sweeping the nation. In 1984, under the direction of Mayor Henry Cisneros, the city restored the original “Japanese Tea Garden” designation in a ceremony.

Restored to its Original Luster

Japanese Tea Garden

Photo: Flickr/Amy the Nurse

The tea garden sat in neglect and disrepair for years in the 1990s, becoming a target of graffiti and vandalism. Due to limited funding, the city threatened to close the garden, but the community and parks supporters rallied and lobbied to keep the park open. Renovations on the once-abandoned tea garden began in 2005 and restored the tea garden to its luster, including spaces for celebrations, dining and quiet introspection.

Admission to the Japanese Tea Garden is free of charge and the park is open every day of the year, from sunrise until sunset. To learn more about the San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden and to plan your visit, check out the website for the San Antonio Parks Foundation.