If it's serenity you're looking for, you probably won't find it here. These meticulously designed gardens, orginally built for the 1904 Mid-Winter Fair, are very popular and draw crowds. But quiet isn't necessarily first on a child's wish list anyway. They'll probably get a kick out of the little pathways wending past the bonsai trees and pagodas. And attracting the koi when they stop to look into the pond. After you've strolled through the garden, which is in Golden Gate Park, sit down in the little cafe there and have a pot of tea, juice, and some delicious sesame almond cookies. Even if you don't leave feeling serene, you're at least likely to feel soothed by the experience.
Combine a trip to the Japanese Garden with a visit to Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens across the street. After the sedate pace of the Garden, your children will look forward to letting loose a bit in the Arboretum, where there's plenty of space to run around.
The tea garden lies between JFK Dr. and Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. across from the music concourse and next to M.H. de Young museum. Metered parking rings the concourse. If you're visiting during the week or early on weekends, you can find a nearby parking space in the park. To reach the Garden from downtown or the Civic Center, take Bus 5, 71, or the N Judah streetcar.
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