The newest city park on our list, Klyde Warren opened in 2012, providing the big D with a green space “out of thin air” — it literally sits on a man-made shelf above a downtown freeway. Taking inspiration from New York City’s High Line, which was constructed on a disused elevated rail line, landscape architect James Burnett created a five-acre park complete with jogging trails, fountains, a dog park, lawn, and that new prerequisite: food trucks. Everything really is bigger in Texas. Bonus: Klyde Warren is hosting Naked Juice’s Day in the Park this Sunday, featuring bubble soccer, relay races, a yoga class, tug-of-war, and tons of prizes.
New York City: Governors Island
You thought we were gonna say Central Park, didn’t you? Olmsted’s Manhattan expanse remains a classic, but we love an underdog — especially one as eclectic and fun as Governors Island. The former Army and Coast Guard base has found new life as an artist colony and seasonal park (you can only access the island by public ferry May-September). Every summer, new large-scale public art installations go up, celebrated by the FIGMENT fest. Whimsical new construction (30 new acres!) is bringing a series of slides (yes, slides) and hammocks to one side of the island (perfect for picnics), while concerts continue to dominate the other. The island is 100% car-free, and boasts free bike rentals on summer mornings, Monday-Friday, but feel free to bring your own over on the ferry.
San Francisco: Marina Green
Another underdog! Look, we’ll always hold Golden Gate Park in our hearts. But Marina Green actually has better vistas — both of SF landmarks like the Golden Gate and Alcatraz, and inordinately attractive locals. Built on top of rubble from the 1906 earthquake (which filled in a tidal marsh), Marina Green is a magnet for active SFers and picnic pros. Adjacent markets make it super easy to stock up on snacks to bring over; the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon and SF Wanderlust Festival bring fitness fans from around the Bay Area each year — as does Naked Juice’s Day in the Park. Come by this Sunday for yoga, games, and more.
New Orleans: Audubon Park
We couldn’t very well leave Olmsted off this list entirely, could we? Although this park is actually designed by Frederick Law’s nephew (and adopted son), John Charles Olmsted. A quick Google image search confirms that this is one of the most picturesque parks on our list, with ancient oak trees dripping in Spanish moss (including the “Tree of Life,” a particularly statuesque oak with a 35-foot circumference), meandering bike paths, and befitting its namesake, birds (mostly found on Oschner Island’s rookery). Additional perks: a public pool, a zoo, and golf course.
Portland: Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square is often called “Portland’s living room,” and with its prodigious cultural programming, we can see why. Besides being home to the wildly popular cinema series Flicks on the Bricks, the Square also hosts an annual offbeat holiday concert called Tuba Christmas, starring 200 tuba and euphonium players. Come summertime, live music can be heard almost daily, with free concerts ranging from samba to rock, interspersed with farmers markets, mouthwatering cultural festivals (lookin’ at you Festa Italiana and India Festival), a flower show, and the NW Book Festival. Ranked as the world’s fourth-best public square — presumably by people who’d know — it’s also the perfect Portland spot for Naked Juice’s Day in the Park this Sunday.
Chicago: Grant Park
Internationally known for hosting Lollapalooza each summer, Grant Park has plenty of other points of interest to recommend it for the intrepid explorer. Foodies flock for The Taste, the world’s largest food festival, while culture vultures head to the Shedd Aquarium, the Chicago Art Institute, and the Field Museum of Natural History, all on-site. Perhaps the most photographed portion of the park is Millennium Park, which includes Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate — aka “the bean.” The park also hosts fitness classes, a summer film series, weekly concerts, and Naked Juice’s Day in the Park. Lolla who?
Denver: City Park
The biggest draw (or flashiest, anyway) of Denver’s City Park is the Electric Prismatic Fountain and its LED light shows. Bringing a bit of Bellagio to the Mile High City each summer, light shows start every evening starting at dusk, with water patterns changing every five minutes. Free City Park Jazz concerts dominate the summer schedule on Sunday evenings, while daytime perks include the Denver Zoo and Natural History Museum, and paddle boat rentals. The wide expanse of lawn and lanes means there’s space for just about everyone and everything.
Philadelphia: Eakins Oval Park
This previously unused public space in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (aka the Rocky steps) has been recently revitalized to host a number of city activities and cultural events. New to the Oval: food trucks (duh), PHAIR — a three-day artisan market featuring live music and local vendors, summer concerts, and a man-made beach, complete with trucked-in sand, large-format games of chess and Twister, and yes: Naked Juice’s Day in the Park, kicking off the summer season this Sunday with a free bootcamp class, games, and prizes.