I’ve long desired a big expanse of space, snuggled with numerous copses of trees and calm lakes, in the heart of Orlando. But while we don’t have that massive, thousand-acre park in The City Beautiful, I’ve had to settle for visiting other parks recently. It’s been a bit of a binge, really. So, judge away if you need to.
The criteria is as follows:
–I have to have personally spent time in the park.
–It has to be larger than 100 acres.
–It has to have green space as well as trees and/or lakes.
Here we go with the first 5 parks:
Piedmont Park (Atlanta, Georgia)
This green haven is a whooping 189 acres in the midst of downtown Atlanta and boasts myriad options for connecting with others and with nature. There are fields and trails, sports happening everywhere, venues for concerts, lakes to take strolls around, a community garden, various dog parks, and contains Atlanta Botanical Gardens, amongst much else. Once, I had a layover in Atlanta and made my way to the park for some pickup soccer, ultimate frisbee, and a long hike before it was time for me to depart.
Belle Isle Park (Detroit, Michigan)
If you think Detroit sucks, you are sadly mistaken. And besides the massive revitalization project, this park is one of the biggest reasons why. The park is a massive 982 acres, and is housed solely on an island in the Detroit River, with the Michigan coast to the west and the Windsor, Ontario coast to the east. On the island, you’ll find an aquarium, massive expanses of green, forest, 800 meters of swimmable beach (with the Detroit skyline beautifully in the distance), and so much more. It is a delight.
Central Park (New York, New York)
This was one of the first parks I got lost in. I remember, on a trip to New York, I entered the park on the south side and planned on walking north until I got to the northern boundary of the park. I was naïve. I walked and explored for what seemed like ages. I kept going, though I was tiring. Finally, I saw a little castle and told myself that when I got to that castle, I’d certainly be able to see the end of the park. The truth is, when I got there, I saw only more park. Later, I learned that I’d only been a third of the across the incredible park. Over 150 years ago, New Yorkers were smart enough to set aside 778 acres in the middle of what would become one of the biggest, busiest cities in the world. It is undoubtedly the lifeblood for many in the metropolis area.
Golden Gate Park (San Francisco, California)
3 miles long and encompassing more than 1,000 acres, Golden Gate Park is the grand-daddy of massive city parks in the U.S. Want to get lost in a gardens that has plants from all over the world? They’ve got that. A science center that acts as a mini-Smithsonian? That, too. Looking for an American bison or two? You guessed it. Golden Gate has just about everything and it is the lynchpin that connects downtown San Francisco to Ocean Beach. Not to mention, it’s hella close to the “painted ladies” that 90’s sitcom Full House was modeled after; ultimate bonus points for that.
Volunteer Park (Seattle, Washington)
Although the park is just a hair over 43 acres, it gets the nod because—besides the conservatory and green space to enjoy—within the park is a water tower that houses the history of Seattle parks, which talks about how the prudence of a few men helped changed the face of Seattle forever. Now, they have delicious parks scattered throughout the city—more as features than afterthoughts. Included in them are Washington Park Arboretum, which is hundreds of acres of beauty, and Green Lake Park, a 259-acre Pacific Northwest version of Lake Eola Park (in Orlando), only bigger and with much more to do.
What about you? Where do you go to be in touch with nature in your city? If you haven’t ventured out too much yet, I’d challenge you to. Happy exploring, or resting, or whatever it is you need to do when you get there.