New York, New York — Fort Tryon Park and Riverside Park
Take a break from the bustle of the Big Apple in this 66-acre park stretching across Manhattan’s Hudson Heights and Inwood neighborhoods. Developed on land gifted to the city by John D. Rockefeller, Fort Tryon Park offers eight miles of pathways and scenic views of the Hudson River. Visitors can also admire the Heather Garden, dotted with more than 500 types of plants, trees, and shrubs. Just five miles to the south lies 267-acre Riverside Park, a waterfront wonderland on the Upper West Side, rife with walking and cycling paths, dog runs, and kid-friendly “tot lots.”
flickr.com via vinetv
Seattle, Washington — Gas Works Park
Seattle’s moniker “The Emerald City” stems from both its flourishing forests and vast parkland, most notably this 19.1-acre gem situated at the south end of the Wallingford neighborhood. On the site of a former coal gasification plant, Gas Works Park incorporates remnants of the old plant: The boiler house was converted to a picnic pavilion and an exhauster-compressor building became a children's play barn. If you still have some steam left in the tank after you've explored the park, hit the Burke-Gilman trail on foot or by bicycle for the 12.5-mile trip north to Log Boom Park on scenic Lake Washington.
San Francisco, California — Mission Dolores Park and Golden Gate Park
Mission Dolores Park is central to many of the events that define San Francisco today, from the city's Pride celebration to performances by the San Francisco Symphony. But residents also flock to the 16-acre park on the western edge of the Mission District to enjoy everyday pleasures like playing basketball, tennis, or soccer, or simply lolling about on the lawn beneath the palm trees. Crave a little more culture with your nature? Then head to the city’s other great green space, the 1,017-acre Golden Gate Park, between the Sunset and Richmond districts. Within the park you'll find the de Young Museum, a fine arts museum founded in 1895; the Academy of Sciences; 10 lakes; a Japanese tea garden; the Conservatory of Flowers; and plenty of beautiful spots to walk or bike through.
Detroit, Michigan — Belle Isle Park
The best spot for a day out on the lake in Detroit is undoubtedly this 987-acre island park situated in the Detroit River, a mere stone’s throw from the U.S.-Canada border. When you’re not picnicking on the lawn, wander 150 acres of woodland, lounge or swim along the half-mile beach, and then dry off indoors at the Belle Isle Aquarium, the Belle Isle Conservatory, or the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.
Chicago, Illinois — Lincoln Park and Palmisano Park
Believe it or not, beyond Chicago’s impressive architecture, restaurants, and stadiums lies a verdant expanse of parkland waiting to be explored. Continue past the brick row houses of the affluent Lincoln Park neighborhood to reach the lakefront trails, beaches, and free zoo at the eponymous 1,208-acre park on Chicago's North Side along Lake Michigan. To delve deeper into nature, head 10 miles south to the 26-acre Palmisano Park in the Bridgeport neighborhood, home to a tranquil fishing pond, interpretive wetlands, and 1.7 miles of paths.
Portland, Oregon — Forest Park
Portland is famous for its earthy reputation, lush landscape, and the eco-conscious lifestyles of its residents. But Forest Park stands apart from other local green spaces for its beauty and size. One of the largest urban forests in the country, the park sits west of downtown Portland along the Tualatin Mountains and boasts 5,200 acres of enchanting trails and forest roads. Themed, expert-led programs, from the Ferns and Fir-mentation hike in the summer to the 'Shroom Stroll in the fall, allow visitors to appreciate the park’s history and ecology, and have a little fun while they're at it.
flickr.com via drburtoni
Atlanta, Georgia — Chastain Memorial Park
The southern heat has never stopped Atlantans from flocking to Chastain Memorial Park in the Buckhead neighborhood for family-friendly fun. The 268-acre park encompasses a softball diamond, tennis court, golf course, picnic grounds, and even a horse park, and hosts events year-round ranging from Little League games to a Fourth of July parade. When a heat wave hits, cool off in the swimming pool or listen to live tunes in the amphitheater, a regular haunt for local pop and classical musicians.
Wikimedia Commons via blacklab2013
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — Wissahickon Valley Park
Wissahickon Valley Park in Northwest Philadelphia spans 2,042 acres, including 57 miles of trails, an 1,800-acre gorge, and dense forests. Hike or bike down Forbidden Drive along Wissahickon Creek, catch some trout from the glimmering waters, or go horseback riding. Round out your excursion with a snack or drink at the historic Valley Green Inn, a former roadside hotel.
Related: The 21 Wildest Places in America
flickr.com via undo_everything
Los Angeles, California — Runyon Canyon Park and Echo Park Lake
Although Tinseltown is teeming with paparazzi, celebrities and solitude-seeking tourists alike can duck and cover at 160-acre Runyon Canyon Park near West Hollywood at the eastern edge of the Santa Monica Mountains. The park is a popular hiking destination with three trails of varying difficulty, and it's unusually dog-friendly—you can let your pup walk off-leash on more than half of the park's acreage. Take time to admire the birds and beasts, and keep an eye out for coyotes. If your travels take you closer to East Hollywood, head to Echo Park Lake and its surrounding green space—a 29-acre oasis in the city—for a paddle boat excursion, or pay a visit to the "Lady of the Lake," a 14-foot statue created in the 1930s.
St. Louis, Missouri — Forest Park
In its 143-year history, Forest Park has hosted many historic events, including, in 1904, both the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (a.k.a. the St. Louis World's Fair) and the Summer Olympics. Today, the 1,371-acre park in western St. Louis tempts history and science buffs alike with the Missouri History Museum, the Saint Louis Zoo, and the Saint Louis Science Center. After you've had your fill of indoor attractions, check out the 75-foot Cascades waterfall, play a round at one of three nine-hole golf courses, or hike the trails of the sprawling Kennedy Forest.
Dallas, Texas — White Rock Lake Park
More than 1 million people each year descend on this 1,015-acre green space encircling man-made White Rock Lake for events ranging from marathons to boat races. Located five miles from downtown, the crown jewel of Dallas’s park system boasts nine miles of walking and biking trails, the White Rock Lake Museum, and picnicking and bird-watching areas. Boat ramps allow you to set sail on your own lake voyage.
flickr.com via davehensley
Boston, Massachusetts — Castle Island
Despite its name, this 20-acre park is now technically a peninsula that connects to the mainland and juts into the harbor, where it shields the aptly named Pleasure Bay, a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing. Park-goers can also munch on fried clams at Sully’s, a local favorite, or soak up the region’s rich history at Fort Independence, which was constructed between 1833 and 1851 and is the eighth fort to have been built on this strategic spit of land.
Miami, Florida — Morningside Park
On scorching summer days, Miami locals seek the shade of the banyan trees that dot this waterfront park in the city’s historic Morningside neighborhood. The 42-acre park spanning five blocks along Biscayne Bay has a baseball field and tennis and basketball courts for the sporty set as well as a municipal pool. You'll also find a playground and a paved loop trail overlooking the glittering Atlantic.
Wikimedia Commons via Pietro
Baltimore, Maryland — Patterson Park
From summer concerts by the 60-foot Victorian-era pagoda to the Halloween lantern parade, the fun never stops at Patterson Park, Baltimore’s first city park. The 137-acre green space in southeast Baltimore features a lake, a swimming pool, and an ice skating rink. Your four-legged friends can even let loose in the fenced-in dog park.
Houston, Texas — Buffalo Bayou Park
With gardens, hiking and biking trails, and awe-inspiring public art installations, this 160-acre park that covers 2.3 miles of the Houston bayou is a hub for outdoor enthusiasts and creative types alike. Kids can join in on the fun, thanks to a nature play area complete with climbing-friendly wooden logs, a slide, and a trilevel treehouse. As you make your way into or out of the park, be sure to stop at The Water Works, an elevated lawn and pavilion offering primo views of the Houston skyline.
Get the help you need for the home you want—sign up for the Bob Vila newsletter today!