Top 10 urban parks
The next time you're looking for an arts escape, or a good burger, why not try a park? They're the cities' hippest hangouts
1. Art in open spaces: Jack Poole Plaza, Vancouver, B.C.
The surprise here is the life-size Digital Orca sculpture breaching vertically from the Jack Poole Plaza, a triangular slice on the waterfront. And no, the whale isn't fuzzy; it's pixelated into Lego-like blocks. Also on the plaza is the Olympic cauldron--where the flame burned during last year's Winter Games--now on display permanently. North end of Thurlow St.; 866/785-8232.
2. Lessons in gardening: Hayes Valley Farm, San Francisco, CA
Plunked down on what used to be a freeway off-ramp, Hayes Valley Farm is the urban equivalent of the back-to-the-earth experience you used to have to drive to. Just a block from a strip of boutiques, city farmers are growing kale, snap peas, and beets. Drop by to learn composting or take a yoga class. Free yoga; soil classes from $25; 450 Laguna St.; hayesvalleyfarm.com
3. High-design farmlandia: Civic Center Park, Denver, CO
The gold dome of the Colorado State Capitol makes for a classic photo op--except for one thing: the chard, basil, and tomatoes now growing in Civic Center Park where there were once ubiquitous petunias. Grow Local Colorado and Denver Parks & Rec teamed up to tend these highly designed plots of edibles and donate the harvest. Broadway at Colfax Ave.; denvergov.org/parks
4. Art, movies, and music alfresco: Civic Space Park, Phoenix, AZ
Potholed parking lots and shabby warehouses had to make way for Civic Space Park, a 3-acre green gem set among office buildings, Arizona State University's downtown campus, and a light-rail stop. Time your visit for freebies: yoga classes (8 a.m. Sat), movies (Apr 22), and concerts (Apr 1, 15). Or wander the art gallery in the park's England building. At night, the netlike sculpture floating overhead, fountain to splash in, and tall, cylindrical light sticks all have an otherworldly glow. N. Central Ave. at Polk St.; phoenix.gov/parks
5. A city safari: Thomas C. Wales Park, Seattle, WA
The amphitheater-shaped bowl cut into a steep hillside at Thomas C. Wales Park is no accident--this was once a gravel pit. Now, it's dominated by the Quarry Rings sculpture, five rock-filled doughnuts perched in midair. Peer closer to spy nesting boxes for songbirds and slots to house bats. 2401 Sixth Ave. N.; seattle.gov/parks