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Golden Gate Park: Japanese Tea Garden, Museums, Something for Everyone!

California is a state full of natural wonders, including many state and national parks. See interesting sites in San Francisco and beyond.

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

San Francisco Park

Often when people think of visiting San Francisco, certain things come to mind. The steep hills and cable cars were made famous by the old Rice-a-Roni ads on television. "Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat!" Remember those advertisements? Perhaps some of you even have that food product on your pantry shelves.

And then of course is the famous Golden Gate Bridge of iconic fame. It is a structural beauty connecting part of San Francisco to Marin County and the route that many people take when going to parts of California's Wine Country such as the Napa Valley.

Alcatraz Island where hardened criminals used to be held in captivity, surrounded by the cold waters of San Francisco Bay, has certainly been made famous through the years because of movies. The Bird Man of Alcatraz readily comes to mind.

Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown draw more than their fair share of tourists, and rightfully so.

Remember the television series Hotel? The Fairmont Hotel which was utilized as the setting for that series is on Nob Hill which is just one of many premier hotels in San Francisco.

"I left my heart, in San Francisco" wonder that song has been such a hit. I can almost hear Frank Sinatra singing that right now as I am thinking about that eclectic and vibrant city.

I could go on and on mentioning things of interest for visitors to that "City by the Bay" but one place not to be missed is the Golden Gate Park. It is not just another ho-hum city park. Far from it!

It has a spectacular Japanese Tea Garden, museums, horticultural collections from all around the world and one of the most serene and beautiful settings for nature lovers that I can imagine and even more. It literally has something for everyone!

Japanese Tea Garden

This is the oldest of such gardens in the United States. It dates back to the year 1894 when its three acres were constructed to be a part of the Midwinter International Exposition which drew about two and a half million visitors to Golden Gate Park during the six months the Exposition was operational.

It is beautifully landscaped with not only a tea house but bridges, water features including waterfalls, rocks, tiered temples, stone lanterns, various types of appropriate plants and gardens, and even a bronzed statue of a Buddha.

After the devastating 1906 earthquake, thousands of refugees who had lost their homes lived temporarily in the confines of the tea garden.

During World War II, the Japanese family by the name of Makoto Hagiwara who lived in the Japanese Tea Garden managing it and running the Tea House were summarily shipped off to internment camps along with so many others just because of their country of origin. It is a dark moment in American history!

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, suspicions against Japanese Americans ran high. Over 100,000 people (mostly on the west coast) were placed in these "camps" against their will and held there until the war-time hysteria ceased. Many years later monetary reparations were made to those held captive or their heirs, but that hardly made up for this egregious conduct authorized by the U.S. government.

Thousands of people of German and Italian descent were also held in various places around the United States.

Since this country is primarily made up of immigrants and it is such a melting pot of people whose countries of origin come from everywhere around the globe, along with their customs, ideas, and faiths this will hopefully never again happen in today's age and time.

M.H. de Young Museum

This museum contains not only a huge Asian art collection (the largest my husband or I have ever personally seen in one place) but also art coming from ancient times and up to the present. Over 300 cultures are represented and just about every type of art ranging from paintings to silver, furniture to tapestries, sculptures and more can be found here.

It bears the name of Michael H. de Young who was the publisher of the San Francisco newspaper and who was the museums' first major benefactor.

There were some fabulous Bierstadt paintings that my husband and I particularly liked on the day of our visit and represent his work over the course of his entire career.

M.H. de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park

M.H. de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park

The location of this museum is adjacent to the Japanese Tea Gardens and it was also built for the 1894 Midwinter Exposition. It has been remodeled since that time.

We took time out of our day to have some lunch in their open air courtyard and enjoyed tuna fish sandwiches on dill bread. The resident blue jay birds were eagerly hoping for some crumbs to fall in their direction.

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M.H. de Young Museum courtyard where we enjoyed lunch one day.

M.H. de Young Museum courtyard where we enjoyed lunch one day.

It is well worth spending some time in this fabulous museum if one is any type of an art lover.

We purchased a number of postcards to remind us of some of some of the art that we particularly admired to be put into our photo album as a memory of our visit there.

Strybing Arboretum

This area of the Golden Gate Park is expansive covering about 55 acres.

There are expanses of lawn where people can spread out their blankets and enjoy picnics, whisper sweet nothings into a lover's ear, sunbathe or simply decompress from a busy day's work and enjoy the sights and sounds of people at play.

It is now more commonly known as the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Plant species from around the world are featured in various ways. Some are clustered together as to country of origin. Others may be organized by fragrance or by type. Thousands of them are labeled in the Strybing Arboretum so that one can learn about how to grow them in your own landscape, if desired.

Wildlife also shares these spaces with visitors to the park. The glittering scales of fish can be seen swimming in the water. Ducks, geese, pigeons, sparrows and other birds are often nearby to the delight of bird watchers.

Between the fluttering butterflies and other insects, the swishing tails of those ever industrious squirrels and the 200 plus other forms of wildlife, there is much to see and enjoy on the grounds of the Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park.

Rhododendron Dell

At the end of April one year when my husband and I were visiting Golden Gate Park, the rhododendrons were in full bloom. What a sight to behold!

The Conservatory

This is nicknamed the "crystal palace" and that is exactly how it appears as this structure comprised of lots of glass and wood glitters on sunlit days in the park.

It functions as a greenhouse and the conservatory houses tropical and exotic specimen plants which can be enjoyed year round in the appropriately temperature and humidity controlled rooms.

It replicates the design and look of a hothouse in Kew Gardens located in London, England.

Located there since 1878, it is the oldest building in Golden Gate Park.

Golden Gate Park

This amazing city park was built out onto what started out primarily as a collection of sand dunes which stretched for approximately 4 miles by less than a mile in width. It was acquired by the city of San Francisco from a Spanish land claim back in the year 1870.

The first young man who oversaw the development of what would become the 3rd most visited park in all of the United States was a man by the name of William Hammond Hall.

It was quite an undertaking! Plans were made and loads of topsoil had to be hauled in and grasses planted to help stabilize the sand dunes. The first of thousands of trees were planted.

A long time superintendent of the park was a Scotsman by the name of John McLaren. He devoted much of his life to the further development of Golden Gate Park from the years 1887 to 1943.

One could spend countless hours and numerous days trying to see and enjoy all that this spectacular park has to offer. We have visited Golden Gate Park on two occasions. One time we visited it for a full day and during two different vacations to the west coast we have yet to see it all.

People who live in or nearby San Francisco can take full advantage of the sports fields made available and let their children enjoy the playground built especially for them including an old fashioned carousel. Then there are the lakes where one can rent a paddle boat or sail some model boats.

Perhaps next time we will get to enjoy the California Academy of Sciences which is a natural history museum including the Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium, a tropical rain forest exhibit and more. It sounds like a full day could be spent in that one spot!

There is even an area of the park that has buffalo!

My husband and I would love to return and see more of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park someday. This is one stellar attraction in California that should be added to everyone's bucket list of places to see in my opinion.

Golden Gate Park