Ensuring open space within busy urban environments, municipal parks lend an opportunity to kick a soccer ball, connect with nature, or simply enjoy being blissfully removed from the buzz of city life. From recreation to relaxation, the following parks provide welcome retreats that reflect their natural and historical settings.
Riverview Park in Mesa, Ariz.
Located next to the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs, Riverview Park encourages major league play. Both kids and adults scramble to the top of a 50-foot climbing tower—the largest one of its kind in the U.S.—while acrophobes can inch along a low-slung, mesh-rope caterpillar structure. A stocked lake has anglers hoping for trout and largemouth bass, and a mist-sprayed splash pad keeps things cool when temperatures rise. The newly opened leg of the Rio Salado Pathway, a shared-use trail that parallels the Salt River Bank, connects the park to Tempe Town Lake, Arizona’s second-most visited public attraction after the Grand Canyon.
History Park in San Jose, Calif.
History Park in San Jose lends a fun peek back in time before clicks and likes defined Silicon Valley. The charming park resembles a Hollywood backlot with a streetscape of 32 local historic structures—some relocated, others reconstructed—including an old-timey gas station and the grand Pacific Hotel. On weekends, catch a vintage streetcar, and order scoops from O’Brien's Ice Cream Parlor and Candy Shop, the first storefront to dish ice cream west of Detroit. A trio of landmark buildings, such as an ornate 19th century Chinese temple, house cultural museums that share the story of the region's Chinese, Portuguese, and Vietnamese immigrants.
Clark County Wetlands Park in Las Vegas, Nev.
Swap neon for nature at Clark County Wetlands Park, a tranquil oasis just 20 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. Centered around the gushing Las Vegas Wash wetlands, the park is home to lush riparian habitats that act as a natural filter for water flowing into Lake Mead, the primary water source for the Las Vegas Valley. Visitors can spy fragments of old, imploded casinos such as the Aladdin and Stardust repurposed as riprap, mitigating erosion from roughly 200 million gallons of water channeled through each day. A 13-mile loop trail encircles the park, but most visitors will be content to stroll the varied landscapes of a 210-acre nature preserve. Start at the contemporary nature center which features an interactive exhibit hall, orientation film, observation decks, and guided nature walks.
Wheeler Historic Farm in Murray, Utah
Despite its modern surroundings, the pastoral Wheeler Historic Farm remains much as it did in the early 1900s when Henry and Sariah Wheeler supplied neighbors with milk and blocks of ice chiseled from frozen ponds. The Guernsey cows are still there, along with other heritage breed farm animals and the Wheeler's 1898 Victorian home. Admission is free, but $1 offers a chance to milk a cow, and $3 buys a tractor-drawn wagon ride among the farm's garden, pond, and wooded forest. In summer months, a bustling Sunday morning farmers' market fills the grounds with 100 colorful vendor stands.
Bidwell Park in Chico, Calif.
A stand-in for Sherwood Forest in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, Bidwell Park flanks Big Chico Creek as it tumbles from the Sierra Nevada foothills into the center of town. One of the nation’s largest city parks, the creekside greenbelt sprawls 3,670 acres with two distinct sections. Softball games and family barbecues fill Lower Park where mature cottonwood and sycamore trees lend scenery to winding paths, a fairytale-themed children’s area, and the creek-fed Sycamore Pool. The more adventurous can seek out the many trails and idyllic swimming holes found amidst the rugged, volcanic-rock canyons of Upper Park. The majority of the park’s land was gifted to the city in 1905 by Annie Bidwell, whose historic family mansion can be toured at an adjacent state park.