The U.S. Cities With The Best Parks

The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore rankings look at the quality and quantity of parks in the 50 largest U.S. cities. Some of the results might surprise you.

If you want to live somewhere with plentiful, accessible, well-maintained parks, what’s the best big city for you to settle in? According to land-conservation nonprofit The Trust for Public Land: Minneapolis and New York, in that order, followed by San Francisco, Sacramento, and Boston, which tied for third. (So, there’s something for people who prefer the East Coast, the West Coast, and the interior.) And the worst cities for parks? Indianapolis, Louisville, and Fresno.


The organization revealed the 2013 rankings on the ParkScore website, where it houses an index to compare the quality and quantity of parks in the 50 largest American cities. Three factors contributed equally to the index: acreage, which looks at both the size of the parks and what percentage of the city is parkland; “service and investment,” a mix of how many playgrounds per resident there are and dollars spent per resident; and access, defined as the percentage of the population who can walk to a park in 10 minutes (read more specifics about the methodology here) .

Minneapolis and New York may comes as no surprise. Known for its progressive urban planning, Minneapolis consistently gets high marks in different livable city markers while anyone who’s visited New York has probably experienced the glory that is Central Park and Prospect Park (not to mention all the smaller neighborhoods parks). But this is the first time Minneapolis showed up on the ranking–not because it radically improved its park system but because it cracked the list of top 50 cities for size.

“You can’t have a great city without great parks,” Adrian Benepe, senior vice president and director of city park development at The Trust for Public Land, said in a statement. “Parks bring neighbors together and help create a sense of community. They give kids and adults a place to play, walk around, and just relax and experience nature. That’s why we believe that cities with great park systems tend to be healthier and have lower rates of obesity.”

While the data doesn’t directly bear out that last point, it’s possible that he’s on to something. According to this year’s Gallup-Healthways report on the least obese cities, the only three top 50 cities to make the list–Denver, Colorado Springs, and San Francisco–all fall within ParkScore’s top 20.

About the author

Zak Stone is a Los Angeles-based writer and a contributing editor of Playboy Digital. His writing has appeared in,, Los Angeles, The Utne Reader, GOOD, and elsewhere.