Minneapolis/St. Paul rank #1 for best parks

photo by Alvin Balemesa

Sure, sometimes us Minnesotans get the short end of the stick with our long, bleak, cold winters and the ceaseless summer road construction. But when it comes to parks, our state goes above and far beyond.

The Trust for Public Land recently ranked America’s Best Park Systems and out of the nation’s 100 largest cities, Minneapolis came out on top as #1 and St. Paul ranked #2 in the country. We just beat out Washington, D.C. in third and Arlington, Virginia coming in fourth. The worst park system was awarded to Charlotte, North Carolina.

The survey gave each city a score out of 100 and based its rankings on four components:

  • Acreage: This score is calculated on median park size and parkland as a percentage of city area.
  • Investment: How much the city invests in their parks based on the amount of spending per resident from public capital, non-profit spending, and the number of volunteer hours.
  • Amenities: Each city is awarded points based on the availability of six key park amenities: basketball hoops, dog parks, playgrounds, recreation and senior centers, restrooms, and splashpads or spraygrounds.
  • Access: Cities are scored based on how many people are within a ten minute walk (half-mile) from a public park.  

Based on these criteria, Minneapolis shines scoring with 84.2 points out of 100 and St. Paul comes in a close second with a score of 82.4 out of 100.

With such high scores, it’s probably time to get outside and explore one of our beautiful parks. Where should you go first? Here are a few Minneapolis and St. Paul gems to get you started.

Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Parks

This is the most visited park according to The Trust for Public Land survey and for good reason. The Chain of Lakes provides trails connecting the shorelines of Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, and Lake Harriet. This park also provides countless amenities including boating, gardens, picnic areas, playgrounds, volleyball courts, walking and bike paths, beaches, and so much more.

Minnehaha Regional Park

One of Minneapolis’ oldest parks, you can come and enjoy the stunning 53-foot waterfall, limestone bluffs, and the Longfellow Gardens. Come here to play some disc golf, go for a walk or bike ride, head to the dog park, or rest and refuel at the delicious Sea Salt Eatery restaurant.

Nokomis-Hiawatha Regional Park

This park covers 660 acres right next to beautiful Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha. You can relax with a day on the beach, play a game of horseshoe, or head out on the water canoeing, sailing, or kayaking without leaving the city.

Como Regional Park

Como Park has been around for over 100 years and provides the community with endless outdoor activities and enjoyment. This park resides next to Como Lake and provides 2.3 miles of paved trails, barbecue grills, fire rings, and a fishing pier. Close by is Como Zoo, Como Town Amusement Park, Como 18 Hole Golf Course, and the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory.

Hidden Falls Regional Park

Located right along the beautiful Mississippi River bluffs, this scenic park has 6.7 miles of paved trails passing by shady, wooded areas that are perfect for a walk, run, or bike ride. Spend the afternoon fishing, bird-watching, barbecuing, or kayaking down the river. And throughout the summer, Hidden Falls also participates in Fitness in the Parks, a free outdoor exercise program for you to enjoy nature while also getting in your workout.

Parks are not only beautiful places to retreat and spend an afternoon with friends and family, but are an essential component for a thriving community. Parks provide the perfect opportunity for exercise, to get outside in the sunshine, and to explore in nature which is imperative for our mental well-being and physical health. And according to The Trust for Public Land, many studies have shown “that parks can encourage physical activity, reduce crime, revitalize local economies, and help bring neighborhoods together.”

Explore more Minneapolis and St. Paul parks and see what all the fuss is about. Now go out and find your perfect park!

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