Take a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun without ever leaving our own sunny city! Though often passed by in favor of the more popular Balboa Park attractions, the Japanese Friendship Garden of San Diego is a beautiful, authentic garden and a gem of an outing with the kiddos. You’ll have the chance to enjoy the peaceful and natural setting, learn a thing or two about Japanese history, and maybe even take part in a craft or observe a tea ceremony.
When to go: Anytime—but keep in mind that summertime visitors enjoy longer weekday admission hours.
Approximate travel time: The Japanese Friendship Garden is located within Balboa Park, just minutes from downtown San Diego.
What to see and do: The koi pond will immediately attract your little ones, who will want to watch the colorful fish swim around and around. Your fam might even luck out and get to see a feeding! You can check out the traditional rock garden from the Exhibit House or take in whatever current exhibition is on display. You may want to engage one of the Garden’s knowledgeable and friendly docents—they’ll be more than happy to give you a kid-friendly tour. If you’re really inspired by your visit, the Garden also hosts classes like yoga, meditation, and kids karate lessons, and summer camps for kids. Be sure to check out their events calendar to find out what’s coming up.
Where to snack and sip tea: The Japanese Friendship Garden’s Tea Pavilion serves traditional tea, sushi, noodles, rice bowls, salads, and snacks. They have 42 different varieties, and if you find one you like be sure to pick up some in bulk to take home. We highly recommend their Japanese Cherry Sakura tea (hot or iced) and the Blood Orange Tea (iced).
Need to know: Parking near Balboa Park can be tricky. Avoid grown up headaches and pint-sized whining by checking the park’s Traffic Alert page. There is no entrance fee to the Japanese Friendship Garden for children 6 and under. The adult fee is $4, seniors $3.
Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego
2215 Pan American Road. E,
San Diego, Ca 92101
— Abigail Matsumoto