Green spaces in cities are often hard to come by, but for many they are an integral part of life, forming a place of quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. But which cities should you go to if parks are what you want? Well, whether you’re looking for a great place for the kids or the best places to retire, there are obviously thousands of options, but we’ve found four cities whose parks stand out from the herd.
Plano is no stranger to accolades, frequently being selected as one of the best cities to live in or retire, and its parks system is a good reflection of it. For example, in recent years, their Parks and Recreation department has either won or nearly won the Gold Medal for Excellence in Parks and Recreation from the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) three times. The city also features 4321 acres of public parks, most of which are shaded by large trees, including one that is believed to be 500 years old. Its two main Open Space Preserves form an uninterrupted park larger than Central Park in New York City.
Minneapolis & St. Paul, Minnesota
These two cities have recently tied for the Trust for Public Land’s best city parks in America, and it’s pretty clear why: Ease of access for their park systems are through the roof, with 96% of people in St. Paul and 95% of those in Minneapolis living within a 10-minute walk of a park. This is the third year in a row Minneapolis has taken the top spot, and it’s the first time St. Paul has done the same—but only because St. Paul wasn’t considered until this year. As compared to St. Paul, Minneapolis had larger average parks sizes, whereas St. Paul had better facilities like playgrounds. Both cities, however, spent the maximum amount of money per resident on park maintenance and development in that category (more than $200 per person).
D.C.’s oldest municipal park dates back to 1791, but that doesn’t mean it’s in bad shape by any means. No, instead D.C. spends nearly $350 per resident on their 8,500 acres of parks, thereby making some of the best ones in the country. One that seems to especially stand out is Potomac Park, which weaves you through some of the most famous memorials in the country (like the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the FDR Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, for example) as you wander around the Tidal Basin. East Potomac Park is especially beautiful in the spring, when the cherry blossoms burst into bloom.
All in all, America is full of exemplary park systems—but some are better than others. Some are filled with history, others with pure natural beauty, and still others with accolades, but these four cities have most of these things in spades. You really could not go wrong with any one of them.