Ones that ticks off a lot of “boxes” for whatever you consider to be a “park”?
For me, the most well-rounded I’ve come across is Hampstead Heath in London. It has:
– Places of natural interest (stands of mature woodland)
– Places of natural recreational interest, i.e. places mainly suited for walking, picnicing, and generally enjoying nature regardless of its environmental or geographic notability, kind of like what I think of when I hear “regional park” as an American or what I imagine a British “Country Park” would be by only having read about them on Wikipedia
– Places for organized sport and swimming
– A small bandstand for events
– Historical buildings, one with a museum
– A playground
The only things I can think of that it doesn’t have are a lot of theme park style activities such as a miniature train, crazy golf, or a carousel (although the former would detract from the view), and camping.
You’d think that it would be impossible for a park to have it all, as camping and theme park style activities would seem to be mutually exclusive, but there is a campground at Disney World which seems amazing given the penchant for Floridian rain.
Can anyone else think of some more well-rounded parks? I might actually want to go to some of them, since while I am not as much interested in the organized sports aspect of the parks, just including it on the list of for completeness purposes, whenever I go to a city, I try to go to its parks if I have a chance, and going to one that is open space for its own sake, and naturally notable, and historic is better than one that is just the former.
Lyon has a lovely “English park” called Parc de la Tête d’Or.
It’s not massive but they seem to have packed in everything you’d expect from a park. It even has a quite decent free zoo; plus a rose garden, cafes, rowing boats, wild deer, bikes to hire, statues, beautiful landscaped areas, an art museum, mini golf, playgrounds and puppet shows. I remember being quite struck by how complete it was.
Mind you, it doesn’t have a planetarium in it like Greenwich Park in London does.
Griffith Park has an observatory/planetarium, a zoo, a train ride, merry go round, horseback riding, bike trails hiking, camping, at least one museum, and even a large concert venue (Greek Theater) on its periphery. But its greatest appeal is the magnificent view of Los Angeles.
I was really surprised by Stone Mountain Park outside of Atlanta. I went to see The largest bas-relief sculpture in the world and to hike to the top of the mountain. I didn’t realize how big the park was and how many recreational opportunities there were there.
Hampstead Heath has views of central London, and I’m also reminded of Cahokia Mounds, from where you can have good views of St Louis. When I visited it, the largest mound turned out to be a guilty pleasure because its crowning aspect of awesome are its stairs which make it look like an Aztec pyramid, but which were actually installed in the 20th century to prevent erosion.
The California Academy of Sciences, a science museum which houses a planetarium and an aquarium, among other exibits.
The De Young Museum – fine arts and culture
A Japanese tea garden
A band shell for musical performances
The Beach Chalet at the far western end of the park with a restaurant and 1930s era murals. Technically the park doesn’t include the beach itself, but Ocean Beach is right across the Great Highway.
Lakes and boat rentals
Natural areas, an arboretum and botanical garden
Areas for picnicking and barbecuing
A bison paddock (which is like a zoo that only houses one species)
Numerous statues and monuments
Sports and recreation: tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, baseball fields, lawn bowling fields, an angling and casting club, a disc golf course, horseshoe pits, an archery range, the polo field, and Kezar Stadium (where the 49ers played in the very early days of the NFL).
Central Park in New York City is a marvelous place. It fits most of the criteria:
Parts of it are forested, especially at the north end
There is a lot of interesting geology, and walking trails through among the rocks
There are ball fields and open spaces for sports
There are concerts and spaces for theatre including a famous Shakespeare presentation
There are several playgrounds, and a zoo
There aren’t any museums in the park, but several world-class ones are nearby.
St. Louis also has Forest Park, which has:
~A planetarium (inside the Science Center)
~A boating pond/lake/whatever with rentals
~A restaurant (The Boathouse)
~An amphitheater where they do musicals. They also do Shakespeare in the Park, but it’s in a different location. I’m not clear on whether/how often/what kind of music concerts they have there, but I would be surprised if there aren’t any.
~An ice skating rink
~Golf courses and tennis courts
~Loads of walking paths
Pretty much all of it can be done for free, too. Even the shows at the Muny have free seats in the back. The zoo and museums, all free.
Basically, if you come to St. Louis and you ask anyone what there is to do, virtually everyone will mention at least one thing in Forest Park, if not Forest Park itself.
I’ve not got time to look up all the features, but I recall that Volunteer Park in Seattle has a lot of “well rounded” features. Other parks in the area, such as Discovery Park, are more “natural” and wild, while others like Volunteer park have more buildings and “urban” infrastructure.
Among the Forest Park’s notable year-round attractions are the Forest Park Zoo, which features large cats, monkeys, birds, and a number of other “exotic and indigenous animals”; several playgrounds; Porter Lake; an ice hockey and ice-skating rink, Cyr Arena; several baseball diamonds and a grandstand; a rose garden; a bocce court; a lawn bowling court; basketball and tennis courts; an aquatic garden (in the Asian style); numerous promenades; a beach volleyball court; several wooded groves; picnic areas; America’s first public swimming pool (1899); ponds with various waterfowl; an exhibit of ancient dinosaur tracks, and an eternal flame that burns 24 hours a day honoring President John F. Kennedy.
Peninsula Sate Park in Wisconsin has quite a few features:
Beach with kayak rentals and concession stand
Amphitheater with live shows
Lighthouse with tours (of the historic house, actual light is automated)
Observation tower (recently rebuild and now wheelchair accessible)
Bike trails (mountain and non)
Of course the normal camp sites, picnic areas, and hiking trails
Richmond Park, on the outskirts of London, most definitely meets those criteria.
Places of natural interest - Extensive woodlands, wild deer, most of it’s a site of SSI;
– Places of natural recreational interest - tons of open lawns, smaller woodlands, walled flower gardens, etc
– Places for organized sport and swimming - horse riding, fishing, a golf course, rugby pitches (I’m not sure about marked areas for other sports like football, cricket and tennis, but most much smaller parks have those, so I’d be shocked if this one didn’t)
– A small bandstand for events - loads of them
– Cafes - a few plus a couple of nice restaurants
– Historical buildings, one with a museum - several historical buildings, one of which is called a community centre that apparently isn’t officially a museum, but it has exhibits and events for casual visitors, so it is a museum really
– A playground - loads of them. But then I take it as read that any reasonably-sized park will have at least one of those.
There are lots of other London parks I can think of that have everything except the “places of natural interest,” which is unusual in a city park. It’s the only thing lacking from Central Park and Griffith Park, which are otherwise fantastic. Depends what you consider a “place of natural interest,” I guess. I mean neither of them or most London parks apart from Richmond and Hampstead Heath have woodlands that are over a couple hundred years old, or younger but ecologically significant in some way, and aren’t really all that wild in the way they feel.
I personally also wouldn’t a park that’s not enclosed, because otherwise Lee Valley Park in East London has everything, including a proper forest, camp ground, extensive riding stables and an ice rink, plus the usual stuff, but it’s really several separate areas rather than one proper “park.”
Central Park almost counts, as there is an outcrop of Manhattan Schist there that you can climb upon, but it definitely doesn’t have an interpretive sign next to it, and probably doesn’t have a numbered post for a paper interpretive guide or a QR code for an interpretive website. When I saw the geologically-interesting outcrop there in my last visit, I had to sit next to it and google for its geological significance.