America's Greenest Cities
The Spring Equinox is behind us and the days of lazy picnics in the park are nearly here. The good news is that summer doesn’t have to mean leaving the city in search of serenity. In fact, parks are one of Booking.com’s seven top-rated endorsements for making American travelers happy. And there are plenty of domestic outdoorsy destinations to help you reduce your carbon footprint by travelling closer to home, while also enjoying a refreshing break.
So in the spirit of sustainability as Earth Day approaches, Booking.com compiled a list of America’s top urban oases alongside the ideal accommodation in each destination*. If you fancy cycling and hiking, catching outdoor cultural performances or simply sunbathing on an inviting lawn, read on…
Straddling the Mississippi River, Minneapolis is an outdoorsy-type’s dream. The urban vista is characterized by an impressive network of green spaces that has earned it many green accolades in the past. The city boasts 770 square feet of parkland per resident, some of revered landscape architect Horace Cleveland’s finest work, public wildflower gardens and the 53-foot Minnehaha Falls. Minneapolis’ ample lakes are also a major draw in summer, fringed with picnic-perfect beaches.
A luxury hotel in downtown Minneapolis, the Renaissance is in close proximity to the lively Riverfront District. From here visitors can wander along the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail, featuring the only waterfall on the Mississippi, or any number of trails through the city’s tree-lined parks.
Head to the home of F Scott Fitzgerald for more of America’s best urban greenery. Minnesota’s state capital and Minneapolis’ twin city, St Paul is the smaller, quieter and more laid-back of the two. It has an abundance of riverside walking trails to explore, in addition to the many parks dotted around every neighborhood. Pretty Como Park is one of the most popular, with a year-round conservatory, Japanese gardens, zip-line, golf course and more.
This historic hotel overlooks the charming and dainty Rice Park but it’s also just three blocks from St Paul’s Harriet Island and all the green spaces along the Mississippi river. The island is used for festivals, events and performances in summer, with great city views forming the backdrop.
Washington’s spring cherry blossoms are breathtaking to behold, but this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the city’s green offering. DC has a multitude of scenic gardens, the most famous being the stretch of manicured lawns and pools between the Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial. Also of note are the tranquil 40-acre Franciscan Monastery Gardens and the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The latter is the only National Park site devoted to aquatic plants and is filled with more than 100,000 exotic water lilies, ferns and lotuses.
Just five minutes’ walk from the White House, this accommodation is perfectly placed to lap up the leafy surrounds of Washington’s city center. The area around the White House is definitely worth a visit, with Lafayette Square, Constitution Gardens and the National Mall. Think landscaped grounds with lakes and paths winding around oak, maple, elm and crabapple trees.
The bay and surrounding landscape make San Francisco a strikingly beautiful city but its bountiful parks are the icing on the cake. The Golden Gate Park is probably the most impressive, on account of it being larger than New York’s Central Park and home to a herd of bison. Plus, its vast Conservatory of Flowers is the oldest Victorian greenhouse in the US.
Sitting atop Pacific Heights with stunning views out over the city, Hotel Drisco is a luxurious hotel only five minutes’ walk from Presidio National Park. At the mouth of San Francisco Bay, the park used to be a military base but is now home to museums, food trucks, art and archeological sites, in a lovely open-air setting.
With Central Park being America’s most famous, New York is a strong contender for the best parks prize. Nearly 14% of the city is covered in a diverse array of green spaces, from woodland to waterfront esplanades.
The palatial Ritz-Carlton New York is a well-known establishment with horse carriages, doormen and a grand lobby but it’s the views of Central Park that merit it a place in this piece. Standing tall with 33 floors of a landmark 19th-century building, Manhattan’s green garden is on the doorstep and certain rooms enjoy panoramic views of the park as well as Sixth Avenue.
Portland is well-known as an outdoors-friendly city, surrounded by rolling hills covered in lush green trees and magnolias, cherry blossom and trilliums come spring. If you want wilderness, Forest Park offers over 5,000 acres of woodland filled with flora and fauna. Portland also happens to be home to Mill Ends Park – the world’s smallest at just 452 sq in – founded in 1948 by local newspaper columnist Dick Fagan. After a site that was meant for a light pole began sprouting weeds, Mr Fagan apparently grew tired of looking at it and planted flowers in the opening instead.
A short walk from the famous Mill Ends Park, Sentinel is a hotel in Portland’s downtown district, well-placed to explore both the city’s smaller park squares and the bigger, wilder green spaces further afield.
Over 15% of Cincinnati is taken up by parks, including a swathe of riverfront space dotted with playgrounds and flower gardens. Head to a hill-top park to check out the great views over the city, or to popular Eden Park for its Hinkle Magnolia Garden, Mirror Lake and charming gazebo.
The largest hotel in downtown Cincinnati, Millennium Hotel is a sleek, modern establishment in the heart of the city. Not far from Eden Park, it is also a good base from which to visit the Botanical Garden, Zoo and many other outdoor attractions.
Boston is one of the best cities in the US to enjoy a breath of fresh air in its ample peaceful parkland. Dating from 1634, the 50-acre Boston Common is the oldest city park in the US but still remains a popular public space, often hosting live music and theatrical performances. The Charles River Esplanade is perfect for a leisurely stroll and the lesser-known Piers Park offers a stellar view of the city skyline.
With the décor of an English stately home, the antique furniture and brocade fabric interior of the Taj Boston make it a serene enclave in the middle of the city. But its surroundings are no less so; the hotel overlooks the famous Boston Common and Public Gardens, with its pretty lakes lined by willow trees and blossom.
Thanks to a temperate, Southern Californian climate, San Diego’s parks are decorated with displays of colorful flowers. Balboa Park is the most famous, a sprawling urban cultural park with natural vegetation zones, museums, several theaters and of course the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Another Balboa highlight is its Botanical Building featuring a collection of over 2,000 plant species and adjacent koi and lily pond.
The US Grant Hotel has been a symbol of San Diego since 1910, with its palatial exterior and equally grand, marble-lined interior. And it’s just a short walk from Balboa Park, in a fine location near the marina and waterfront green spaces.
Seattle is home to a variety of scenic walking trails through its 6,541 acres of public park. The city’s largest, Discovery Park, boasts 11.8 miles including an exciting raised trail with boardwalks over the wetlands. It’s easy to feel far removed from city life in any of Seattle’s green spaces. Camp Long has rustic cabins if you want an overnight outdoors experience, Carkeek Park even has a salmon run and there are opportunities for biking and hiking everywhere. Not to mention some spectacular views of Puget Sound.
This elegant establishment can be found in Downtown Seattle and is well-placed to explore the city’s green spaces, including Discovery Park and the Botanic Gardens – both only a short drive away. The hotel itself features ornate upholstery, fireplaces and splendidly grand rooms with towering ceilings and chandeliers.
*Booking.com used ParkScore data, which measures and ranks the park systems of America’s 40 largest cities. http://parkscore.tpl.org/rankings.php