America’s cities wouldn’t be complete without their urban parks, from the centuries-old Boston Common to Millennium Park’s modern architecture. Learn more about exceptional city parks from each region of the country.
This year, Boston placed third in the Trust for Public Land’s annual rankings of America’s most park-friendly cities. The oldest urban park in the nation, Boston Common holds a place in American history, serving as a home base for British troops during the Revolutionary War before they decamped to fight the monumental Battle of Lexington and Concord. Today, Boston Common is the city’s most visited park.
See this next: Another essential Boston park is Post Office Square, a 1.5-acre mini-park that brings a hint of green to the city’s financial district.
NYC is a haven for urban parks, also home to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Governor’s Island off the southern tip of the city. However, no list of city forests would be complete without Central Park, an 840-acre behemoth that hosts over thirty million visitors each year on its 9,000 benches.
Another must-see: Hosting the wacky Kinetic Sculpture Race (think 25-ft caterpillar robots) and the dog-centric BARCtoberfest, Patterson Park in Baltimore brings the city together for eclectic events and outdoor recreation, including a 12-mile bike route along the city waterfront.
The city’s major green space, Piedmont Park is a hub for city events, hosting an annual jazz festival, concerts and more. Called the “Central Park of Atlanta,” the 185-acre area infuses nature into the city’s urban sprawl, home to the city’s botanic garden and the yearly Dogwood Festival.
Go here next: An enchanting oasis in the Big Easy, New Orleans’ City Park hosts the country’s largest collection of mature live oaks, in addition to the New Orleans Botanical Garden and an amusement park of antique rides.
The northern corner of the city’s larger Grant Park, Millennium Park is a haven for architecture lovers, featuring a Frank Gehry-designed pavilion and its famous reflective bean statue. Opened in 2004 to celebrate the new millennium (hence its name), the park converted old parking lots and rail yards into an award-winning area for sustainable design The park also hosts tens of thousands of music fans every summer for music fest Lollapolooza.
Next up: St. Louis’ Forest Park is home to many of the city’s cultural institutions, including a planetarium and art museum.
The winner of America’s best city park makeover is Houston’s Discovery Green Park. Once a urban wasteland of parking lots, Discovery Green Park opened in 2008 and has since reimagined the city’s downtown into a green space. Home to fine dining restaurants, public art and acres of green lawns, the 12 acres of the LEED-certified park have drawn over 3 million visitors since opening.
Visit this next: Composed of ancient rock formations, Phoenix’s Papago Park is also home to the Phoenix Zoo and collections of cacti in its Desert Botanical Garden.
From San Diego’s Balboa Park through Vancouver’s Stanley Park, the Pacific Northwest boasts arguably the best parks in the nation. Stretching through the city to the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is one of the region’s best. The park has served as a cultural touchstone for decades, from playing home base to the Summer of Love in 1967 to its newly-renovated De Young Museum and California Academy of Sciences today.
Next, check out: In a city known for its exceptional parks, Portland’s 410-acre Washington Park includes a zoo, children’s museum, arboretum and more.