Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Garden Lovers' San Francisco

Garden lovers will definitely want to visit Golden Gate Park. This man-made park shows how dedicated gardeners can transform the landscape. In addition to enjoying the full park, gardeners will want to visit three sights that are within easy walks of each other: the Japanese Tea Garden, Botanical Garden and Arboretum, and Conservatory of Flowers.

The Japanese Tea Garden was founded in 1894 as part of San Francisco's Midwinter Fair and is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States. Visitors will enjoy a leisurely stroll through the garden. If you visit at the right time in the spring, you will see the cherry trees in bloom. You can also stop at the tea house for green tea, Japanese crackers, and fortune cookies. The Tea Garden opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 5:00 p.m. from November to February and at 6:00 p.m. during the balance of the year. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors age 65 and over and youth between the ages of 12 and 17, and $1.50 for children between the ages of 5 and 11. Children under the age of 5 may enter for free.

The San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum is just across Martin Luther King Drive from the Japanese Tea Garden. The 55 acres of gardens feature plants from Mediterranean climates, mild-temperate climates, cloud forests, elsewhere. The Botanical Gardens are open daily and there is no charge for enjoying a walk among the diverse plants and flowers.

The Conservatory of Flowers is a ten-minute walk from the Japanese Tea Garden. This Victorian greenhouse opened in 1879 and is now North America's oldest public conservatory. The Conservatory closed in 1995 after suffering major damage during a severe windstorm. After extensive renovation, the Conservatory reopened in 2003. Today, the conservatory houses over 2,000 plants in its permanent collection. Special exhibits are displayed throughout the year. The Conservatory is open Tuesday - Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The last admission is at 4:30 p.m. Admission fees are the same as for the Japanese Tea Garden.

If you would like to take a private tour of San Francisco that includes a visit to one or more of these gardens, please phone me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fortune Cookies in San Francisco

There has been quite a bit of controversy over the origins of fortune cookies. Thanks to the research of Jennifer 8. Lee in her book "Fortune Cookie Chronicles," it appears that these cookies are Japanese in origin.

Most accounts say the cookies were introduced to America at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Dates vary from 1894, when the Tea Garden opened during the Midwinter Fair, to the first or second decade of the 20th century. A few accounts say they originated in Los Angeles. However, this cannot be true since fortune cookies are tasty and nothing good comes from Southern California!

While most fortune cookies are made by machine, you can see them made by hand at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory at 56 Ross Alley in San Francisco's Chinatown. Since 1962, fortunes have been hand packed into the cookies as soon as they come out of the oven. There is no charge to enter the factory and you are likely to be offered a free sample. There is a charge to take photos, but a better deal is to just buy some cookies!

The factory is open from 9:00 a.m. until the last tourists go home in the evening. Ross Alley runs between Washington and Jackson Streets, just east of Stockton Street.

If you would like to take a private tour of San Francisco that includes a visit to the Fortune Cookie Factory, please phone me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mail me by clicking here.