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

6. A Euro-style plaza: Director Park, Portland OR

Before its completion in 2010, Director Park was a parking lot. Now, it's a European-style piazza, a square-block expanse of honey-hued granite, a bosque of yellow-wood trees, a burbling fountain, sculpted benches, and a 1,000-square-foot glass canopy that hovers far above, shielding the downtown lunch crowd from April showers. You gotta try the justifiable famous burger at the square's Violetta ($; 503/233-3663), an ambitious slow-food luncheon-ette in a glass cube. S.W.Yamhill St. at S.W. Park Ave.; directorpark.org

7. Floating farmers' market: Lake Union Park, Seattle WA

You might be surprised by what you can find just north of downtown Seattle: Six-month-old Lake Union Park has beach access and other water-centered fun. Our favorite is the floating farmers' market, where you can select fresh-off-the-boat produce from the Virginia V steamship. There's a model-boat pond, a 300-foot fountain with water arches, and dragon boat paddling. Farmers' market (farmboat.org) 11-3 Thu; 860 Terry Ave. N.; atlakeunionpark.org

8. A sanctuary with bocce ball: La Playa Park, San Francisco, CA

The Pacific may be calling from across the street, but trust us, it's worth stopping at the median that neighbors have transformed into La Playa Park. The patchwork of gardens includes succulents galore, a shaded meditation path, and edibles that withstand the Outer Sunset neighborhood's soupy fog. In May, the park's two new bocce courts are slated to open. Judah St. at La Playa St.; laplayapark.info

9. The graffiti art gallery: La Tierra de la Culebra, Los Angeles, CA

The steep, three-level La Tierra de la Culebra looks a bit scraggly from the street, but hidden among its 2 acres are a 450-foot stone serpent, a graffiti yard, and a ziggurat--that's right, a pyramid-shaped temple. The art park, shaded by olive and huge oak trees has a DIY feel. Sometimes open during the day, the coffeehouse buzzes with bands on weekends. There's more music and art at NELAart's monthly Second Saturday Gallery Night (next even Apr 9). 240 South Ave. 57; 323/474-6905.

10. Free balloon ride: Orange County Great Park, Irvine, CA

Someday, Orange County Great Park will be one of the biggies--think Golden Gate Park or Vancouver's Stanley Park. Its 1,347 acres will be a web of lakes, trails, botanical gardens, even museums and an amphitheater. But not yet. Right now, bulldozers rumble around parts of the former El Toro Marine base. Get in on the early excitement by launching 400 feet into the air on a tethered orange helium balloon. Or hop on the carousel, with illustrations from vintage O.C. citrus crates. And at the Farm and Food Lab, Master Gardeners teach free classes on growing tomatoes, planting natives, and , for small spaces, 1-square-foot gardening. Carousel and balloon rides: Thu-Sun; free. Off I-5 or I-405 at Sand Canyon Ave.; ocgp.org

 

 

 

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