San Antonio River Walk – San Antonio, Texas
Many travelers will be familiar with the San Antonio River Walk – one of the United States’ oldest and most admired urban parks. Recently, the city has made the addition of the Museum and Mission Reach sections – adding over 15 miles of new riverwalk to explore or cycle. Head north to the San Antonio Museum of Art and the hip Pearl District, or south to the Blue Star Art Complex and the UNESCO World Heritage site, the National Historical Park, which preserves five Spanish Missions.
The sprawling Zilker Park is situated just minutes from the Texas Capital Building and the famous nightlife district known as 6th Street. But you might as well be deep in the Texas Hill Country where you visit gems such as the Barton Springs Pool or explore the nature trails. In addition, Zilker hosts world class events such as the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the South by Southwest finale. The park is also home to numerous cultural institutions such as the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum.
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco, California
The most visited park on the list, Golden Gate City Park in San Francisco is the West Coast’s answer to New York’s Central Park—a 1,017-acre, rectangular oasis sculpted out of barren dunes by engineers over 100 years ago. The sheer variety of attraction and activities oriented towards locals and tourists alike make this one of the best parks in the country to find your chill. Explore all the way to the Pacific Ocean, for a West Coast sunset in the U.S. is hard to beat.
Gas Works Park – Seattle, Washington
For a uniquely post–industrial urban experience, head to Gas Works Park in Seattle. As the name implies, the park is home to a decommissioned coal gasification plant just minutes from downtown. After the land was purchased by the city in the 1960s, the plant was preserved in all its rusty, industrial glory. Now visitors can explore the labyrinthian pipes and passages of the plant, or simply enjoy the sweeping views of Seattle across Lake Union.
Forest Park Conservancy– Portland, Oregon
If you’re in the Pacific Northwest and looking for a truly wild park that’s just minutes from a world class city, look no further than the Tualatin Mountains west of downtown Portland. Easily the largest park area on the list, this densely forested area with Douglas firs, including some majestic, old-growth sections. The park is a runner or hiker’s dream, with nearly 100 miles of well-maintained trails to explore.
The High Line – New York, New York
The breakout success of The High Line on the West Side of Manhattan has inspired numerous imitations around the world. Not dissimilar to The Gasworks Park in Seattle, NYC has preserved a disused elevated rail line and transformed it into a 1.45-mile, post-industrial oasis above the hustle of Chelsea. Beautifully landscaped and entertaining for people-watching, the High Line is a must when visiting the Big Apple.
Confluence Park – Denver, Colorado
One of the newest urban parks on our list is Denver’s Confluence Park, aptly situated at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River in the capital’s LoDo District. Just a few blocks from the newly renovated Union Railroad Station and downtown Denver, Confluence Park has become a popular hangout spot for a diverse crowd. On a sunny day, you can take a brisk dip in the crystal-clear snowmelt while watching kayakers test their skills on the rushing rapids.
Forest Park – St. Louis, Missouri
Not to be confused with Forest Park in Portland, St. Louis has it’s own Forest Park that spans over 1400 acres on the city’s west side. By far the oldest park on our list, Forest Park is similar to Golden Gate City Park in its role as a rectangular venue for a wide variety of programs and cultural institutions. Extensive renovations have recently restored much of the natural habitat while upgrading the existing amenities of the park, making it more attractive to wildlife and visitors alike.