America's prettiest parks
(Photo: Getty Images)
New York City's Central Park may be the nation's best-known urban playground, but the country abounds with others that are equally as pretty. So we went in search of the loveliest parks in the United States, eliminating the nation's uber-popular national parks – which host an estimated 275 million visitors a year – in favor of homegrown local parks.
Our favorites vary in size and represent all parts of the nation, from Alaska to the north to Savannah, Ga., in the South. Many of the finest were established in the 19th century; all are cherished parts of their communities. As summer fades into fall, they’ll be wonderful places to see autumn color.
With the economic crash came tightened belts at many of the nation’s parks. Not so at The Huntington, a non-profit institution that just spent $6.8 million renovating its century-old Japanese Garden.
The Southern California landmark, which had been closed for a year, reopened in April to enthusiastic reviews and long lines of park fans.
The Huntington, founded by railroad and real estate tycoon Henry E. Huntington in 1919, consists of a library, art collections and botanical gardens that cover 120 acres.
In addition to the Japanese Garden, there are desert, rose, jungle, herb and palm gardens, all offering visitors tranquil beauty in the midst of the Los Angeles megalopolis.
During the renovation project, the Japanese Garden, which has attracted more than 20 million visitors since opening to the public in 1928, was expanded, new features were added and the centerpiece Japanese House, built in Japan in 1904, was restored.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Golden Gate Park
Visitors find a home where the buffalo roam at Golden Gate Park, a 1,000-acre oasis that ranks as one of the United States' most popular parks with 13 million visitors annually.
The buffalo herd is among many surprises here: you can play disc golf, admire tulips blooming beside Netherlands-style windmills, take swing dance lessons, hang out with butterflies in a rainforest dome or search for the park's resident ghost, which is said to haunt Stow Lake.
Of course, there are also gardens, museums, art, flowers, trees, lakes, birds and wildlife. While the park is free during the day, popular attractions charge admission, including the de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences and the Conservatory of Flowers.