Guest contributor Angie Cronin* wrote today’s guest post and took all accompanying photographs. You can find Angie blogging at Kimchi Mamas.
This time of year is an especially great time to explore the gardens of San Antonio! “But I’ve already been to most of the gardens in town,” you think to yourself. But have you taken a tour of the Asian Gardens of San Antonio?
As a Korean immigrant, I am always on the lookout for the Asian-centric, family-friendly events or locales San Antonio has to offer my family: the Institute of Texan Cultures’ Asian Fest, Diwali, any visiting Asian art exhibits at the San Antonio Museum of Art. But every day, right under our noses, gardens inspired by Asia abound in San Antonio!
1. Start your tour with a little dim sum at the Golden Wok near the Medical Center.
They serve a “traditional” dim sum cart lunch from 11 am – 2 pm on Sundays, but the same dim sum is available all week long using the dim sum menu. Waiting for a table at the locally famous restaurant isn’t a problem with children when you’re greeted with the sounds of running water and some of the biggest koi fish in town. There are multiple levels of waterfalls, stone lanterns, and a beautifully blended grouping of trees and the birds that live in them. Prices for dim sum are moderate.
2. After lunch, head over to the Korean Scholar’s Pavilion at Denman Estate Park.
The pavilion is a replica of historical pavilions found all over South Korea. There is a replica of a traditional Korean gate entrance off the side walk that leads to the pavilion. The grounds are home to a herd of geese and ducks that spend most of their time waddling among the cypress trees near the pond in front of the pavilion. As an added bonus, there is a half-mile walking trail and a meditative labyrinth grown from boxwood shrubs kids find hard to resist! The pavilion was dedicated in 2010 from our sister city, Gwangju, Republic of (South) Korea.
3. A drive closer to the heart of San Antonio takes you into Alamo Heights and to the McNay Art Museum.
There is a small Japanese-inspired garden at the McNay, near the main water fountain. A small pond, koi, and a small gazebo structure in the faux bois style are some of the highlights of this Asian garden. (Remember the faux bois style because you’ll see it again in some of the other Asian gardens and throughout San Antonio…) There are bridges, peninsulas, and islands typical of Asian gardens and several stone lanterns tucked away among the trees. Walking and exploring the grounds of the McNay is free.
4. Just a short drive down N. New Braunfels from the McNay is the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
The SA Botanical Garden has a “formal” tea garden dedicated in the 1980s from our sister city, Kumomoto, Japan. This garden features a resting/meditation pavilion, a variety of non-native trees, stone lanterns, water features, miniature rolling hills, a small rock garden, and is an example of what most people think of when they think about a “typical” Japanese garden. Think Mr. Miyagi’s garden from the first Karate Kid. There is an entry fee, but I recommend buying a family membership and going to the many awesome programs and exhibits throughout the year.
5. Finally, there is the Japanese Tea Garden near the zoo/in Brackenridge Park.
Formerly a limestone quarry, the Japanese Tea Garden has an almost 90 year history! The Japanese torii gate at the entrance to the tea garden is one of the most famous faux bois works of Dionicio Rodriguez. The Jinju House Café is located at the top of the hill, across from the famous pagoda and serves snacks and drinks. Take your time to explore all of the nooks and crannies in this garden. The garden has over 10+ acres of water features, ponds, fish, wildlife, flowers, natural landscaping, wildflowers, bridges, and a 60 foot tall waterfall! There is no admission fee to enter the garden, but donations are appreciated.
The best part about taking an Asian Garden Tour of San Antonio is that it’s available all year round and every day of the week. Take a stroll with younger kids and count the number of stone lanterns you can find. With older kids be sure to take phones and take photos or keep track of what’s similar and different at each garden. Teens can learn more about the history of these gardens and the places that inspired them before and after. But most of all: VISIT!
Angie Cronin lives in San Antonio with her husband, two teenagers, and too many animals to count. She wants you to know she is barely surviving the teenage years and the laundry that comes with it. She blogs at kimchimamas.typepad.com and can usually be found at a tennis court or soccer field…watching; not playing.
* San Antonio Mom Blogs occasionally invites guest contributors to write for our site about topics of interest to our readers. All contributors are financially compensated (or a donation is made to a local nonprofit in the writer’s name). For more information, contact San Antonio Mom Blogs.
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