These Cities Have the Best Public Park Systems in the Country
Do you live within a 10 minute walk of a park? The answer is yes for nearly all residents of Minneapolis and St. Paul, helping to place Minnesota’s twin cities atop The Trust for Public Land’s ranking of America’s best park systems within the 100 most populous cities. Next up are Washington, D.C. and neighboring Arlington, Va., which boast high investment in parks and easy access for 98 percent of residents. Chicago jumped eight spots in the ranking over two years by converting schoolyards and playgrounds into public parks on the weekends, improving park access and overall acreage.
Still, one in every three Americans lacks easy access to a park, including 28 million children. “We know that parks make the city healthier in just about every way,” says Diane Regas, President and CEO of the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that helps communities improve and preserve public land. “Park access increases physical activity among kids and adults, so you can touch health issues like obesity.”
In addition to park access, the Trust’s researchers considered park size, investment and amenities to create the ranking. “The list highlights successful park systems, and describes in detail why they work,” Regas says.
Click on the buttons below to see how each city ranks in terms of their overall “ParkScore,” as calculated by the Trust, as well as in metrics like park coverage, spending, and density of amenities like dog parks.
Despite having the largest median park size, Charlotte, N.C. ranks last overall in ParkScore due to poor access — just 28 percent of residents live within a 10 minute walk to a park — and low park spending, at $47 per capita. San Francisco invests the most per person, at $279, and ranks in fifth overall. Combined, the 100 largest cities spent $7.5 billion on parks in 2018, a year-over-year increase of $429 million.
ParkScore only analyzes data for the 100 most populous cities, representing 65 million Americans. But data is available for 13,913 cities in total at ParkServe.
Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, Ind. did not participate and Gilbert, Ariz. was not ranked because the necessary data was unavailable. Read more about the ParkScore methodology here.