Top City Parks on the US West Coast

As a passionate nature lover I try to seek out parks and green spaces in every city I visit for a daily dose of greenery, fresh air, serenity and the sweet sounds of birds chirruping.  On my visit to the US West Coast I was amazed by some of its big city parks – not only by the sheer size of them but also by their richness in flora and attractions.

Botanical Building and lily pond

Balboa Park – San Diego, California

By far one of the best parks I’ve EVER explored, Balboa Park, located in San Diego, California, is a cultural park with so much to offer.  Balboa Park is set on 1,200 acres of gorgeous landscape in the heart of the city and is home to the World famous San Diego Zoo as well as numerous museums – many of which are in some of the most amazing buildings I’ve seen outside of Europe.  Other highlights include; Old Globe Theatre, Spreckles Organ Pavilion, Spanish Village Art Center and even FREE Wi-Fi.  Yes, you read that right, Balboa Park offers free Wi-Fi throughout the park. (Great for travellers!)  But it’s Balboa Park’s variety of gardens that really make it a great escape.  The park’s gardens include; a desert, rose and California native plant gardens as well as a Japanese Garden and Palm Canyon that covers 2 acres and home to 450 palms.  One of the park’s main attractions is the Moreton Bay Fig Tree that has called the park home for 100 years and reaches 120′ across.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park – San Francisco, California

If there is one park that springs to everyone’s mind when it comes to the West Coast its San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  Amazingly this sprawling, over 1000 acres, park was once sand dunes but is now the third most visited park in the US and home to some amazing attractions like the Botanical Gardens, Japanese Tea Garden, a few museums and so much more.  What else might you find in the park?  The Golden Gate Park is home to buffalo, windmills, a golf course, waterfalls and at its western edge – the Pacific Ocean.  But it’s most amazing features are its endless trails, lush, dense flora and picturesque ponds and lakes.  Golden Gate Park is a marvelous place to escape the city life for a stroll, a picnic, a hike or to simply explore.

Washington Park

Washington Park – Portland, Oregon

Located in the heart of Portland you’ll find Washington Park, covering over 400 acres and has one of the most varying terrains of any city park I’ve explored, with rolling hills, steep inclines and drop-offs and full of dense forest.  Home to the outstanding Oregon Zoo, the Portland Japanese Garden, a rose garden and a vast system of trails, Washington Park offers something for every nature enthusiast.  The park is awesome for an outing or picnic and definitely a great place to explore and hike.  You certainly couldn’t feel any further removed from the city, as soon as you enter its wondrous embrace you are surrounded by lush, dense greenery, massive trees and only the sound of the great outdoors.

Other Notables:

Woodland Park – Seattle, Washington
At almost 100 acres the park is home to the world renown Woodland Park Zoo and a rose test garden.

Shoreline Park – Santa Barbara, California
A 14 acre coastal park with sweeping vistas of the Pacific Ocean, the city and the Santa Ynez Mountains.

No matter what big city you visit on the West Coast, if it’s an escape from the sounds of horns, fumes from cars and the rush of city life then head to one of these top city parks for a breath of fresh air, to revel in the peace and tranquility and be rejuvenated.

What’s your favourite park on the West Coast?


I'm a Canadian gal with a passion for wildlife, the great outdoors and travel and hope to inspire others to feel the same way! Travelling mostly solo I love to explore Ontario Gems in my own backyard as well as exotic cities around the world.

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4 Responses

  1. Anda says:

    Out of the three parks you talk about here it’s only Washington Park in Oregon that I haven’t seen. It looks great and I’ll add it to my list. In fact my son will be moving to Oregon soon so I’ll get to visit the park for sure.

  2. Rob Taylor says:

    This is a nice short list and is spot on… except you’re missing Volunteer Park in Seattle. Woodland Park is great for runners, frisbee folk, and going to the zoo, but Volunteer Park is home to the best view of Seattle, the Asian Art Museum, the Water Tower (includes maps and stories of the park and its construction) and the Conservatory. It’s such a gem and is very large, especially if you include the Interlaken/ravine portion. Next time you’re in Seattle, ping us and we’ll go exploring with you!

    • Stephanie says:

      Thanks for the tip on Volunteer Park Rob!! I’m sorry I missed it, guess I’ll have to make another visit to Seattle!

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