The Most Popular U.S. Parks and Landmarks

garden of the gods colorado springs
garden of the gods colorado springs

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is the favorite park among TripAdvisor users. (Photo: John Fowler/Flickr)

Urban escapes were a running theme among travelers in this year’s TripAdvisor rankings for best U.S. parks, with many of the winners located in big cities.

Garden of the Gods, in Colorado Springs, Colo., is No. 1 in the newly released rankings, with New York City getting three parks in the top 10. The Travelers Choice Awards also included the top U.S. landmarks, with the top three spots going to Gettysburg Park, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Golden Gate Bridge (scroll to the end of this story for the top 10 landmarks).

Here are the top 10 U.S. parks:

1. Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Flintstones would approve of TripAdvisor’s pick for top U.S. park. The red sandstone rock formations at Garden of the Gods make a bold statement, as do views of Pike’s Peak in the distance. Established in 1909 as a designated national landmark, there’s much to explore in the 1,319-acre park, with its 1.5 miles of paved trails and 15 miles of additional trails. Some features to check out — Rampart Reservoir, Woodland Park, Siamese Twins, and Balanced Rock. Those with high-clearance vehicles will want to embark on Rampart Range Road for breathtaking vistas of both the city and the park.

(See also: TripAdvisor users want more legroom on planes)

central park
central park

Central Park. (Courtesy: TripAdvisor)

2. Central Park, New York City

Ask any New Yorker what the best park on the planet is and they’ll reply, hands down, Central Park. Seems like much of the world’s population agrees, giving it second place. Truly part of the city, the 843-acre park stretches from 59th Street to 110th Street between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West (Eighth Avenue). Days can be whiled away discovering Central Park’s gems. These include myriad bridges, the Ancient Playground, Bethesda Fountain, the carousel, Strawberry Fields, Central Park Zoo … the choices are endless.

“Here, there are peaceful and quiet moments that aren’t always so easy to find in Manhattan,” said Brooke Ferencsik, TripAdvisor’s director of communications.

(See also: The “Ghostbusters” tour of New York)

millennium park chicago
millennium park chicago

Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. (Photo: Thinkstock)

3. Millennium Park, Chicago

Set in The Loop Neighborhood of downtown Chicago, this 25-acre park, which opened in 2004, rambles along the shores of Lake Michigan. “TripAdvisor travelers point to Millennium Park’s wonderful interactive art and gorgeous flowers,” says Ferencsik. “Other highlights include the Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate, known as the bean, which also placed sixth in our Top 10 U.S. Landmarks list.” Also be on the lookout for the Frank Gehry-designed The Pritzker Pavilion and BP Bridge, the Peristyle, and Lurie Garden.

high line new york
high line new york

The High Line. (Courtesy: TripAdvisor)

4. High Line, New York City

This public park transformed from an elevated railway runs through three major Manhattan neighborhoods: the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen. TripAdvisor travelers laud High Line’s garden beds and grassy areas for strolling or picnicking and spectacular vantage points of the city skyline.

boston public garden
boston public garden

Boston Public Garden. (Courtesy: TripAdvisor)

5. Boston Public Garden

Its 1837 opening made Boston Public Garden America’s first public botanical garden. Adjacent to Boston Common, Ferencsik says the 24-acre park is known for its gardens, bronze statues, serpentine pond and Swan Boat rides: “The TripAdvisor community likens it to an elegant green living room.”

golden gate park
golden gate park

Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park. (Photo: Thinkstock)

6. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

This institution often gets overlooked in lieu of the No. 3 landmark on TripAdvisor’s list: the Golden Gate Bridge. Spanning over 1,000 acres, it’s over 20% larger than Central Park and features gardens, playgrounds, lakes, trails and monuments. Other highlights not to miss: the Music Concourse, de Young Museum, Academy of Sciences, Conservatory of Flowers, and San Francisco Botanical Garden.

balboa park san diego
balboa park san diego

Balboa Park. (Photo: Thinkstock)

7. Balboa Park, San Diego

Located in Central San Diego, the 1868-established Balboa Park is the oldest place in the U.S. dedicated to public recreational use. “This is another great example of a huge U.S. park with great sub-attractions,” says Ferencsik. Beyond recreation and performing arts facilities, it’s also home to the San Diego Zoo, 15 museums, 16 gardens, and nine attractions.

bryant park new york
bryant park new york

Bryant Park in NYC (Photo: Thinkstock)

8. Bryant Park, New York City

Tucked behind the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan, Bryant Park is smaller than the other top parks. Named in 1884, renovated in the late 80s, and reopened in 1992, Ferencsik says it’s known for its lush grounds and beautiful promenade. Also worth catching – outdoor movie nights.

forsythe park savannah
forsythe park savannah

(Photo: Robert Newman/Flickr)

9. Forsyth Park, Savannah, Ga.

Set in the city’s Historic District, the 30-acre park has roots as far back as the 1730s. Prominent within the park is The Forsyth Park Fountain, modeled after the fountain in Paris’ Place de la Concorde. This European flavor mixes with landscape lush with Spanish moss-draped oaks and Cabbage Palms. Visitor favorites include Forsyth’s extensive walking paths, kid-friendly play areas, recreational areas, music events hosted for the public, and Fragrant Garden for the Blind.

(See also: Thursday Night in Savannah)

falls park on the reedy
falls park on the reedy

Falls Park on the Reedy. (Photo: Thinkstock)

10. Falls Park on the Reedy, Greenville, S.C.

At the heart of Greenville near both the Greenville Zoo and Swamp Rabbit Trail, is the 1967-founded Falls Park on the Reedy. Ferencsik immediately points to the park’s Liberty Bridge: “Its deck is curved and cantilevered towards the waterfall to enhance viewing.” Also eye-catchers: intricate stonework and commissioned sculptures found throughout the park.


Gettysburg National Military Park. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Here’s the entire top 10 for TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Top 10 U.S. Landmarks:

  1. Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Penn.

  2. Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool, Washington, D.C.

  3. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

  4. Alcatraz, San Francisco

  5. USS Arizona Memorial, Honolulu

  6. Cloud Gate, Chicago

  7. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.

  8. New York Public Library, New York City

  9. Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah, Ga.

  10. Korean War Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.

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