Best Cities 2010: 10 Best Cities for Recreation

by Lauren Passell

Best Cities 2010: 10 Best Cities for Recreation

We rank the spots with the best rec options, from parks to beaches. Plus, find out what cities ranked the worst in education, safety, and health

These 10 cities have dedicated themselves to providing residents with sprawling parks, sports facilities, and a myriad of outdoor activities. With thousands of acres of parklands and miles of hiking trails, it’s no wonder people living in these hot spots are able to get out to enjoy the great outdoors. We chose cities based upon the amount of acreage devoted to park space, and highlighted some of the best rec spots.

See our list of worst spots for recreation

#1: Jacksonville, FL
Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida, possibly due to the abundance of park space. (We’re talking 75,235 acres of pools, gardens, beaches, playgrounds sporting facilities and lakes.) Thanks to the year-round moderate climate, there’s plenty of time to take advantage of all the wonderful outdoor activities in this otherwise urban center.

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#2: Albuquerque, NM

Thrill seekers will be surprised to find everything from golfing, hiking and climbing, to balloon rides and skiing in this mountain city. With breathtaking views, and 31,286 acres of park space, it’s no wonder the locals spend time swimming, biking, rock climbing, camping, skateboarding, and playing sports.

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#3: Scottsdale, AZ

Scottsdale, which ranked 8th overall, offers lots of options for the active set. Look for parks located in the Indian Bend Wash, a greenbelt that provides lakes, golf courses, swimming pools, recreational facilities, a multi-use path for skating, biking, walking and running, and one of the country’s biggest flood-control projects.

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#4: Anchorage, AK

It’s hard to believe you could fit national parks, beaches, lakes, golf courses, ski resorts, paddling rivers, trails and marinas in one city, but with 11,600 acres of parkland, Anchorage is a great place to take advantage of everything the great outdoors offers.

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#5 Aurora, CO

Sports fanatics rejoice in this mountain city, which hosts 30 regional and national sports tournaments annually. Perhaps there’s something in the water — an impressive number of professional athletes (Scott Bentley, Louis Wright in football, Aaron Pitchkolan and Matt Jordan for soccer, and boxer DaVarryl Williamson to name a few) hail from Aurora.

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#6 Augusta, GA

Augusta isn’t just home to the Masters, but 6,789 acres of green space as well. The Augusta Canal, the only canal in the world still providing power to textile mills, is gorgeous, and a great historical site. And the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park is a wetlands park with paths and boardwalks for walking and biking.

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#7 San Diego, CA

There’s something for everyone in the 39,619 acres of San Diego park space — 4,600 acres make up Mission Bay, the largest manmade public aquatic recreational area in the world. Balboa Park is home to 14 specialty gardens, plus almost 100 arts, educations, recreational, social and sports organizations, museums, the world renowned San Diego Zoo and Old Globe Theater. Take a hike on one of the beautiful Mission Trails, for some of the most beautiful trails in California.

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#8 Little Rock, AR

Little Rock is getting greener every day with the progress of the River Trail, a plan that’s underway for 24 miles of walkable, bikeable track that connect to the 225-mkile Ouachita Wilderness Trail in the Pinnacle Mountain Park. When completed, it will make commuting, exercising, and enjoying beautiful Little Rock climate a breeze.

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#9 Louisville, KY

To make the most of Louisville’s plentiful free concerts and festivals, make your way to the Louisville Waterfront Park, on the banks of the Ohio River near downtown. It has lots to do, and there’s plenty of space for everyone.

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#10 Oklahoma City, OK

The Broadway musical was right — the land Oklahomans belong to is grand, with 14,684 acres of parks in the capitol alone. Residents love the Crystal Bridge at the Myriad Botanical Gardens, where you can enjoy Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, a tropical conservatory, and an amphitheater.

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