When travelers grow weary of navigating an ocean of tall buildings and heavy traffic, it may be time to set sail for the sea of tranquility, an oasis in a concrete jungle. Public parks are just the ticket. Located in the downtown areas of major cities, their greenness is a delight to the senses. Tall green trees abound; there are flowering shrubs, ponds or a waterfront and trails made for strolling or jogging, with maybe even a zoo or aquarium nearby. Sounds of the city are muted.
Visiting Golden Gate Park ranks high on visitor’s must-do list, along with riding a cable car, when they come to San Francisco. This urban park, once just sand dunes, has something for everyone: trails, gardens, playgrounds, picnic areas, statues, museums, a golf course, Dutch windmill and outstanding scenery, to name a few features. The park also is an event venue as well. It’s no wonder 13 million people visit the park every year.
Parc Guëll in Barcelona is a thinking person’s park. The area was originally meant to be a residential property development with Gaudi doing much of the planning and landscape design. Only two houses were built and the land was later sold to the city of Barcelona and turned into a park. It is home to the famous Salamander sculpture, as well as other buildings and structures designed by the architect. With stunning views of the city, this is a magical experience.
San Diego’s Balboa Park isn’t just another park. It has plenty of green space, flora and fauna, naturally, but it also contain 15 museums, a carousel, miniature railroad, the renowned San Diego Zoo and the historic Old Globe Theatre, among other attractions. The list of museums include a couple of art museums while others are devoted to natural history, air and space, science and the famous Museum of Man. Numerous gardens are devoted to native plants, roses, cactus, a veterans memorial and a children’s garden.
Lumphini Park is more than just an oasis of nature in bustling Bangkok. Originally designed to house Thai crafts and flowers, it is a serene place where people can stroll paths, take a paddle boat ride or just sit and relax and watch others do their morning and evening exercises. Visitors who stroll along the pond may even come across a water monitor lizard, a crocodile-like reptile. Free outdoor concerts take place on Sunday afternoons.
The Englischer Garten in Munich got its name because it’s a little bit of England in Germany; it was patterned after a traditional English garden in 1786. Over the centuries, however, a Japanese teahouse, soccer fields, Chinese pagoda, a 7,000-seat beer garden and many miles of biking and jogging trails have been added. Located on the Isar River, it is one of the world’s biggest urban parks. City views from the top of Monopteros are spectacular.
No visit to London is complete without a visit to Hyde Park, one of the city’s largest and most famous parks. It’s famous for demonstrations and the Speaker’s Corner at one end of the park, and the elegantly simple memorial fountain for Princess Diana at the other. In between, visitors will find paths for walking, jogging or horseback riding, tennis courts, open water swimming, statues and monuments, and boating on the Serpentine on either a pedal boat or the solar shuttle.
Stanley Park has been delighting generations of Vancouverites since 1888, with its trails through the old-growth forests and along the seawall of Vancouver Harbor. Others stand in awe of the tall totem poles built to honor the indigenous First Nations, who lived on the land long before it became a park. Over the years, restaurants and an aquarium have been added, but the most-loved park remains otherwise relatively unchanged. Be on the lookout for ducks, chipmunks, beaver and maybe even a deer.
Looking at Ueno Park today, it is hard to imagine that it is built on the site of a magnificent temple that was destroyed by warring factions inside Japan in the 19th century. Today, this urban park sits prettily and serenely in central Tokyo. It is home to several museum’s and Japan’s first zoo. The best time to visit it, however, is in March and April when the park’s more than 1,000 cherry trees are in bloom.
Known in English as the Luxembourg Gardens, this public park is the second largest in Paris. Visitors here can picnic or stroll leisurely among beautiful lawns, formal gardens and fruit orchards that feature many artistic statues and fountains. For fun and sport, there are jogging paths, tennis courts and fitness equipment. Children can play in the huge playground, ride ponies, watch a puppet show and sail model boats in a pond.
When viewing New York City from the air, Central Park stands out like a sore, or, rather, green thumb. This huge green rectangle in the center of Manhattan, filled with massive trees, lakes and buildings, is surrounded by monotonously colored skyscrapers. Dating back to the 19th century, it is the nation’s first public park, drawing 40 million visitors annually. The park’s features are mind-boggling; statues, memorials, fountains, lakes for boating, bridges to cross, a castle, walking paths, gorgeous landscaping and more.