The 8 U.S. Capital Cities with the Absolute Best City Parks

Atlanta, ga
© CarlPfranger/ via Getty Images

Written by Joyce Nash

Published: December 8, 2023

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Across the United States, capital cities are typically known for their busy downtown districts, restaurants, and night life. However, many capital cities also take pride in their public parks and greenspaces, offering visitors a myriad of options for outdoor exercise and recreation. Keep reading to discover the eight U.S. capital cities with the best city parks.

8. Lincoln

Lincoln - Nebraska, Nebraska, Urban Skyline, City, USA

Lincoln is home to over 130 public parks.

© Boomsma

In Lincoln, almost all homes – over 98% – are less than one mile from a public trail, and over 80% of homes are less than a half mile from a park. While Lincoln residents can choose from over 130 parks and numerous dog parks, recreation centers, and playgrounds, the city’s Wilderness Park is a top destination for reconnecting with nature.

Wilderness Park is also Lincoln’s largest city park, encompassing over 1,400 acres in the Salt Creek floodplain. In addition, the park is a conservation area that provides a habitat for a variety of flora and fauna. Visitors can hike on the park’s extensive trail network which includes over 30 miles for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. The trails in Wilderness Park are well-marked, and many include water crossings and historical features that date back to the early 1900s.

7. Denver

Denver downtown

Located near Downtown Denver, City Park has plenty of options for outdoor recreation.

©photoquest7/iStock via Getty Images

The capital of Colorado is home to around 20,000 acres of parks, greenspaces, and trails. Among these options, Denver’s City Park shines for its activities and amenities. City Park features two lakes as well as fountains that are available in the summer for interactive play.

The park also houses the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Natural Science. A large golf course is located in the northern section of the park, in addition to tennis courts and fields for soccer, baseball, and basketball. City Park features two playgrounds and several historical monuments, including a memorial honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

6. Topeka

The Reinisch Rose Garden in Gage Park features 4,500 roses.

©Marion Doss / CC BY-SA 2.0 - Original / License

The City of Topeka manages over 100 public parks, trails, fishing areas, and sports fields. One of the city’s most popular public spaces is Gage Park, which stretches for 160 acres in northern Topeka.

Gage Park is packed with family-friendly activities like a vintage carousel built in 1908 and a mini-train that takes riders on a mile-long scenic journey through the park. Near the center of the park the Blaisdell Family Aquatic Center is a popular spot for swimming. When the weather isn’t conducive to outdoor activities, the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center offers interactive exhibits and educational programs.

The park also houses the Topeka Zoo and the historic Reinisch Rose Garden. Created in 1930, this garden includes 180 different types of roses, including unique and unusual rose varieties.

5. Indianapolis

Beautiful view of the reservoir in Eagle Creek Park, Indiana, USA

The lakes and rivers at Eagle Creek Park provide an ideal habitat for bald eagles.

©Oleksandr Koretskyi/

With over 200 parks, 130 playgrounds, and 23 recreation centers, Indianapolis has a wide variety of green spaces and activities for all ages to enjoy. Among these options, Eagle Creek Park stands out as one of the city’s best outdoor recreation areas.

The park includes almost 4,000 acres of forest and an additional 1,400 acres of lakes, rivers, and streams where visitors can swim and fish. Eagle Creek Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the country and provides an important habitat for bald eagles and other species of birds.

Eagle Creek Park boasts six main trails, including a fitness trail with 20 unique exercise stations. The park’s Peace Learning Center, Ornithology Center, and Earth Discovery Center each offer programs, activities, and events that connect visitors with nature and the larger community. In addition, the park features a golf course, soccer complex, and a dog park.

4. Austin

Aerial Over Austin Texas spring time colors with Railroad Tracks crossing Lady bird lake at Zilker Park and Auditorium Shores with Skyline Cityscape and downtown in the background North of the River

Zilker Park features Barton Spring Pool, a popular spot for swimming.

©Roschetzky Photography/

Established in 1934, Austin’s Zilker Park encompasses over 350 acres along the banks of the Lady Bird Lake and Barton Creek. The park joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 due to its cultural, architectural, and historical significance.

Zilker Park is a bustling outdoor space with amenities and activities for year-round fun. The park includes a disc golf course, five volleyball courts, a dog park, and several trails for hiking and biking. Among Zilker Park’s most popular features is Barton Spring Pool, which maintains a year-round water temperature of 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors can swim, sun bathe, and splash in depths that range from 0-18 feet. In addition, Barton Spring Pool for Barton Springs Salamanders, which are an endangered species.

The park also includes the Zilker Botanical Gardens and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. Several events take place at the park throughout the year, including the ABC Kite Festival and concerts at the Zilker Hillside Theatre.

3. Atlanta

Atlanta, ga

The area that is now Piedmont Park was formerly used as a farm and then a fairgrounds before becoming a city park.

© CarlPfranger/ via Getty Images

Piedmont Park got its start as a public gathering place in the late 1800s, when it was the site of several regional fairs and events, including the Piedmont Exhibition in 1887. The City of Atlanta purchased the fairgrounds in 1904 and began making plans to redevelop the site into a municipal park.

Over the next century, the city built bathhouses, tennis courts, walking paths, and open green spaces. Today, the park stretches for 200 acres near Midtown, featuring Lake Clara Meer and several athletic fields and courts. In addition, the park houses the 30-acre Atlanta Botanical Garden. 

There are a multitude of events, activities and classes for visitors to enjoy. The Piedmont Park Conservancy hosts regular walking clubs, trivia nights, drawing sessions, and history tours. The Conservancy also hosts a weekly farmer’s market and gar dening classes.

2. Phoenix

South Mountain Park Preserve Phoenix, AZ

The South Mountain Park and Preserve in Phoenix is the country’s largest city park.


The City of Phoenix boasts over 180 city parks and 30 recreation centers. However, one park stands out for its size, amenities, and unique features. Stretching for over 16,000 acres in southern Phoenix, South Mountain Park and Preserve is the largest city park in the country. 

The park encompasses the Guadalupe, Gila, and Ma Ha Tauk Mountains, which visitors can explore via the park’s network of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. South Mountain Park has designated the fourth Sunday of each month as “Silent Sunday,” a time when the park’s main road is closed to vehicles, allowing visitors more space for hiking and biking.

The park also features the South Mountain Environmental Education Center, which hosts activities and events throughout the year. In addition to these modern features, the park includes evidence of the area’s history. There are thousands of petroglyphs throughout the park that were created many years ago by the Hohokam, who were the original inhabitants of the area.

1. Boston

Boston Common, Boston - Massachusetts, Public Park, Boston Public Garden, Springtime

Boston Common was established in 1634, making it the country’s first municipal park.

© Marino

The capital of Massachusetts contains over 200 city parks, but only one of them has the distinction of being the country’s oldest park. For nearly 400 years, Boston Common has been a place for people to meet, gather, and enjoy the outdoors. 

Since it was first established in 1634, the Common has played many important roles in the city’s history. During the American Revolution, British troops occupied the site for eight years, and later, the park was a site for abolitionists to meet during the Civil War. The park held victory gardens during WWI, and then during WWII, the park donated its iron fencing for the war effort.

The park is adjacent to Boston Public Garden, the country’s oldest public botanical garden. Boston Common and the Public Garden offer beautiful walking paths, a frog pond, a bandstand, as well as a baseball field and tennis court. 

Summary of U.S. Capital Cities With the Best City Parks

RankCityBest Park
#1Boston, MassachusettsBoston Common
#2Phoenix, ArizonaSouth Mountain Park and Preserve
#3Atlanta, GeorgiaPiedmont Park
#4Austin, TexasZilker Park
#5Indianapolis, IndianaEagle Creek Park
#6Topeka, KansasGage Park
#7Denver, ColoradoCity Park
#8Lincoln, NebraskaWilderness Park

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About the Author

Joyce Nash is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering travel and geography. She has almost a decade of writing experience. Her background ranges from journalism to farm animal rescues and spans the East Coast to the West. She is based in North Carolina, and in her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her husband and two cats.

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