Attention Nature Lovers: These Are America’s Favorite City Parks, Ranked
There’s no doubt about it: New York City’s Central Park is impressive. An 840-acre slab of green space, right in the heart of Manhattan. But while Central Park may be the most famous of urban parks, that doesn’t mean it’s the only one worth visiting.
From San Francisco to Boston, some of the United States’ most metropolitan areas are also home to some of the country’s most breathtaking bits of nature. Excluding the all-too-obvious Central Park, these are America’s favorite city parks.
31. Dolores Park, San Francisco, California
Located in the Mission District’s sunny microclimate, just two blocks from the iconic Mission Dolores, this San Francisco park is a long-standing favorite amongst Bay Area locals. In recent years, foot traffic has bloomed with roughly 7,000 to 10,000 people flocking to Dolores Park on a sunny weekend day.
30. Mill Ends Park, Portland, Oregon
Okay, so this park doesn’t involve any hiking — nor can you sunbathe or fire up a grill. Instead, Mill Ends Park in Portland, Oregon, is one of those bucket list-type attractions. And why’s that? Well, at two feet across — with a total area of 452 square inches — this little circle of a spot is the smallest park in the world.
29. Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.
Located in the northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., this park dates back to 1890. In fact, Rock Creek Park was just the third national park established by the United States government, following in the footsteps of Yellowstone and Mackinac National Park. In autumn, the valley puts on a stunning foliage show — all within miles of the National Mall.
28. World’s End, Hingham, Massachusetts
Okay, so admittedly some people might consider this one a bit of a stretch. Technically, the ominously named World’s End isn’t located in Boston proper. Instead, it lies just across Boston Harbor in Hingham, Massachusetts. That means this park offers some of the best views of the Boston skyline and Emerald Necklace.
27. Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia
Occupying 30 acres of Savannah, Georgia’s, historic district, Forsyth Park is perhaps best known for its fountain in the park’s north end. Added in 1858, the fountain is similar to the one located in Paris’ Place de la Concorde — probably because Parisian urban planning was all the rage at the time of the park’s construction.
26. LeBauer City Park, Greensboro, North Carolina
Although Greensboro’s LeBauer City Park is a mere four acres, it cost a whopping $10 million — a gift from the will of the late Carolyn LeBauer, for whom the park is named. The park’s project coordinator remarked that the new space, located near the city’s cultural center, history museum and public library, would serve as "an anchor for the cultural campus."
25. Scioto Audubon Metro Park, The Metro Parks, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio’s, Metro Parks are made up of 19 sprawling urban parks in and around the city. In total, the Parks encompass a staggering 27,500 acres of both land and water and touch over seven counties in Central Ohio. Chock full of trails, educational facilities and land for resource management and recreational activities, the parks system is diverse.
24. Container Park, Las Vegas, Nevada
Located in Downtown Las Vegas — the old Vegas — this park is part of the city’s ongoing effort to revitalize some off-the-Strip locales. Built using around 30 shipping containers and 41 modular cubes, the park is filled with kid-friendly play areas and 39 boutique shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.
23. The Lawn on D, Boston, Massachusetts
Located on the city’s thriving waterfront, Boston’s Lawn on D bills itself as "an unforgettable venue that’s full of life." In a sense, the Lawn has rebranded itself — more of a gathering place than your typical park. The outdoor venue boasts a pavilion, tons of green space and quite a few innovative features.
22. Maggie Daley Park, Chicago, Illinois
This 20-acre park is located near the shores of Lake Michigan in northeastern Grant Park and connects to Chicago’s Millennium Park via a pedestrian footbridge. Named after the city’s former first lady, the park was built where the Daley Bicentennial Plaza once stood.
21. White River State Park, Indianapolis, Indiana
Covering 250 acres of Indianapolis, White River State Park is also in one of the city’s seven cultural districts. The park boasts the Indiana State Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Indianapolis Zoo, beautiful gardens, sports and entertainment venues and even an IMAX Theater.
20. Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Featuring public art and historic homes, Fairmount Park is split into two sections — the oh-so-creatively named East Park and West Park. The Schuylkill River bisects the two sections, which together compose an area totaling a whopping 2,052 acres. As Philadelphia’s first park, Fairmount is also rich in history.
19. Queen Kapi’olani Regional Park, Honolulu, Hawaii
Known as the largest and second-oldest park in Hawaii, Queen Kapi’olani Regional Park is located in Honolulu near Kuhio Beach Park. Named after the Queen consort of King David Kalākaua, the park contains everything from soccer fields to archery ranges and hosts international rugby and lacrosse tournaments annually.
18. Falls Park on the Reedy, Greenville, South Carolina
In downtown Greenville’s historic West End district, outdoor enthusiasts will find themselves mesmerized by Falls Park on the Reedy, so named for its location on the Reedy River. Known as the birthplace of Greenville, the park was officially founded in 1967 when a local garden club reclaimed 26 acres of green space that’d previously been used by textile mills.
17. City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans’ 1,300-acre public park is reportedly the 20th-most-visited urban public park in the country. To put its size in perspective, City Park is roughly 50% larger than Central Park. Other stats? Well, the park is the 48th oldest in the United States, dating back to 1854 — although some of its residents are even older.
16. Theodore Wirth Regional Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Shared by the city of Minneapolis and the suburb Golden Valley, Theodore Wirth Regional Park is the city’s largest green space. The park was named after the former superintendent of Minneapolis parks, who served in his position for 30 years. Although Minnesota is the land of a thousand lakes, Theodore Wirth Regional Park contains just one lake, Wirth Lake, and one pond.
15. Zilker Park, Austin, Texas
Situated at the juncture of the Colorado River and Barton Creek, Zilker Park is made up of roughly 350 acres of green space that were donated to the city of Austin by a wealthy benefactor in 1917. The park’s size makes it a fitting venue for large-scale events like the ever-popular Austin City Limits Music Festival.
14. Lands End, San Francisco, California
After the Gold Rush in California, entrepreneurs designed the Cliff House — a resort for the wealthy — on the very edge of San Francisco. Every Sunday, a horse-drawn stagecoach carried visitors from downtown San Francisco to the Pacific’s shores at Lands End. Eventually, millionaire Adolph Sutro built a steam train to transport guests and constructed an enormous bathhouse on the beach.
13. Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s Lincoln Park takes up an impressive 1,200 acres, bordered by Lake Michigan as well as quite a few of the city’s neighborhoods — Edgewater, Uptown, Gold Coast, Lakeview, Streeterville and, of course, Lincoln Park. The park’s Lakefront Trail offers up a scenic 18-mile-long stretch that’s perfect for joggers, strollers and cyclists alike.
12. Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California
Located in Los Angeles, Griffith Park is an impressive 4,310 acres, which means it’s one of the largest urban parks in North America and the second-largest urban park in the state after San Diego’s Mission Trails Preserve. Although it’s more rugged than Central Park, Griffith Park is almost as iconic, especially when it comes to filming locales.
11. Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri
Although it opened in 1876, Forest Park hosted two of its most significant events in its history in 1904 — the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the Summer Olympics. At 1,326 acres, locals have dubbed the park the "Heart of St. Louis" and, as such, it features quite a few big-name attractions, including the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum and the St. Louis Science Center.
10. The Gathering Place, Tulsa, Oklahoma
The Gathering Place stretches over 100 of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s, precious acres. Thanks to the George Kaiser Family Foundation and 80 other private contributors, the largest private donation — a whopping $465 million — to a public park in America’s history was made to this unique green space. According to Thrillist, the chairs at The Gathering Place cost a whopping $5,500 apiece.
9. Balboa Park, San Diego, California
Home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park covers 1,200 acres of open spaces, gardens, paths, museums, restaurants and theaters. Dating back to 1835, the site of the present-day park is one of the oldest areas in the country to be dedicated solely to public recreational use. But that’s not where its rich history stops.
8. South Mountain Park, Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix’s South Mountain Park wins the title of largest municipal park in the country — and it nabs a spot on the list as one of the largest urban parks in the world. Encompassing a truly astounding 16,283 acres, the mountainous park is chock full of desert vegetation and the native chuckwalla, a large lizard that loves arid climates.
7. Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York
As we’ve previously noted, Central Park is great and all, but, if you find yourself on the other side of the river, we highly recommend Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Situated near quite a few popular neighborhoods, including Park Slope, Flatbush and Prospect Heights, the park encompasses an impressive 526 acres, making it the borough’s second-largest public park behind Marine Park.
6. Forest Park, Portland, Oregon
If you still have time to kill after checking out Portland’s oh-so-tiny Mill Ends Park, we highly recommend Forest Park, which stretches an impressive eight miles across the city’s hillsides. Unsurprisingly, this scenic stretch offers quite the view of the Willamette River and makes the park one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves.
5. Falls Park, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
While South Dakota is certainly known for national parks and your typical natural sprawl, folks don’t always associate city life with the state. However, Sioux Falls proves that the area is more than just The Mount Rushmore State. As the name suggests, the park is centered around a beautiful splay of falls on the Big Sioux River.
4. Gas Works Park, Seattle, Washington
With just 19 acres under its belt, Seattle’s Gas Works Park may not be as large a green space as some of the other public parks on our list, but it has a lot of personality. And by that we mean it would play really well on your Flickr account. Home to the Seattle Gas Light Company’s old coal gasification plant, the park brings urban decay right to the shores of Lake Union.
3. Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan
Located in the Detroit River, this 982-acre island park is owned by the city of Detroit — though it’s situated quite close to our Canadian neighbors. After Grosse Ile and Fighting Island, Belle Isle is the third-largest island in the river — and it’s the largest city-owned island park in the United States. Both a cool and very specific feat.
2. High Line, Manhattan, New York
Built on a disused section of the New York Central Railroad line known as the West Side Line, the High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated park that runs from the Meatpacking District (a few blocks below 14th Street) through Chelsea and to the West Side Yard on 34th Street. In the old days, freight trains got into so many collisions with traffic on 10th and 11th Avenues that the area was nicknamed "Death Avenue."
1. The Presidio, San Francisco, California
In 1776, Spain gained a foothold in California and set up a military base — or presidio — right on the San Francisco Bay. Later on, the United States used the area as an army base, building barracks, hospitals and weapons stores. In 1989, Congress voted to end the Presidio’s status as an active military installation, and by 1994 the National Park Service took over the land.