This is the fourth post in the "My 5 Favorite" series: My 5 Favorite Parks Around the World.
I love parks, and by parks I don't mean national ones like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. Those are great for obvious reasons. What I'm referring to are the parks that are down the street from your house, the ones that are ideal for everyone: kids can play games with one another, older people can sit and enjoy the scenery and teenagers can hang out without being told they're disruptive (assuming they're not being disruptive). Parks are lush and green during the summer, a blend of yellows and reds in the fall, beautifully brittle during the winter and blooming with color in the springtime. It's basically a year-round sanctuary for anyone who wants to enjoy a little nature in their lives.
In writing this blog post, I thought about my favorite parks around the world and quickly realized they are all in big metropolises. This is when I appreciate parks the most — when I can step away from the hustle and bustle of a city and embrace the calm of a park. I have never gone to a park and left without feeling a deeper sense of tranquility and peace; they are amazingly therapeutic. But anyway, enough about my feelings of tranquility. It's time I discuss my five favorite parks around the world:
Why I Love It: Central Park is a no-brainer for me. Located right in the middle of Manhattan, it's an oasis of trees, lakes, fields, waterfalls and so much more in one of the busiest cities in the world. One could visit Central Park every day and always discover something new. For me, there's nothing better than when winter thaws and the first warm days of spring arrive. The park is overflowing with both people and beauty. I also love that the park is surrounded by the skyscrapers that are so much a part of New York City.
Why It's Worth Visiting: From boat rides to Belvedere Castle to Sheep Meadow, there is so much to do in Central Park. It's a chance to wander and relax, whether you're a tourist or you've been living in the city for 50 years.
Why I Love It: First of all, I could talk about London's parks all day. That city knows how to do parks, and Victoria Park happens to be my favorite of them all. I discovered Victoria Park during the latter half of my year in the UK while staying with a woman who lived on Cadogan Terrace on the eastern perimeter. Her flat had huge living room windows that would open up to the park, where I would often see runners, children playing and couples strolling at dusk. It was and still is one of my favorite views.
Why It's Worth Visiting: Once known as the "People's Park," it's become more recently acquainted with outdoor music festivals like Lovebox and the Citadel Festival. Beyond its live performances, it's the perfect place to walk along the canals, enjoy a picnic, play a soccer (football) match with friends or just sit and observe everything happening around you.
LE JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG
Why I Love It: Though this literally translates to "The Luxembourg Garden," I can consider this a park, right? Right. Just like most things in France, Le Jardin du Luxembourg has a refined dignity about it that I mostly attribute to its meticulous flower beds, romantic statues and a little thing called the Luxembourg Palace. It's an exceptionally beautiful park in an exceptionally beautiful neighborhood in an exceptionally beautiful city. So, a lot of exceptional beauty happening here.
Why It's Worth Visiting: Beyond it being exceptionally beautiful, its central location near the Sorbonne in the sixth arrondissement means it's a meeting place for students, working professionals, tourists, families and everything in between. In other words, everyone is welcome!
Why I Love It: I don't know if others feel this way, but to me Hyde Park feels like the London equivalent of New York's Central Park, which is partially why I love it. It's another oasis dropped right in the middle of the busiest area of one of the busiest cities in the world. I particularly love the Serpentine, Hyde Park's resident lake.
Why It's Worth Visiting: You can walk around, hear some interesting monologues at the Speakers' Corner, dine al fresco at the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen or head over to the nearby Kensington Gardens.
GANTRY PLAZA STATE PARK
Why I Love It: I have a deep love for Gantry Plaza State Park, mainly because it's in my own borough of Queens, New York. Also, it's gorgeous. Also, I'm biased, but if I were to be unbiased I would still think it's gorgeous. Situated on the East River with amazing views of Manhattan, Gantry Plaza State Park has recreational facilities, an amazing dog park that makes me want to get a dog ASAP, numerous activities for families and a huge Pepsi-Cola sign, in case you were looking for one.
Why It's Worth Visiting: Unlike the other parks on the list, Gantry Plaza State Park is still a bit off the beaten path, mainly because the borough of Queens is usually not on the list of places to visit for tourists. Trust me when I say you won't regret visiting this park. It's more than worth the journey from Manhattan.
I love so many other parks, but my honorable mentions have to be Hampstead Heath in London, Astoria Park in Queens and Griffith Park in Los Angeles. I love you all!
Next up in the series: my five favorite airports around the world!