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    16 Cities That Are Nailing This Whole City Park Thing

    Grass, trees, and even FAMILY-SIZE PORCH SWINGS.

    This may come as a bit of a shock, but if you live in a city (or any area with a lot of buildings and not a lot of trees), spending time in nature is really, really good for you.

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    All of that city noise and concrete has a measurable effect on stress and cortisol levels, which can take a toll on your well-being if you don't get away from it all on a regular basis. The good news? You don't have to drive hours to get to mountains or a forest to get in that good, good outdoor time. As Florence Williams writes in The Nature Fix, just 15–45 minutes in a city park is enough to improve mood, vitality, and feelings of restoration.

    With that in mind, here are a bunch of city parks around the world that are worth taking a detour to if you're in the area:

    1. Stanley Park, Vancouver

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    Some parks are carved out of a city's existing grid plan, but Stanley Park is as close to unadulterated nature as you can get. It covers more than 900 acres, and has more than 27-miles of walking trails, half a million trees, and 200 bird species. Not only is it a densely forested urban oasis with countless outdoorsy activities, it's also completely surrounded by water, letting you take in the beauty of Vancouver Harbor when you want to take a break from the greenery.

    2. Smale Park, Cincinnati

    Cincinnati Parks

    Situated right on the banks of the Ohio River, Smale Park makes sure that nothing gets in the way of anyone's view of the riverfront — the park brilliantly installed family-sized porch swings overlooking the water for visitors to rest on while gazing out at the water. Plus, the park has a labyrinth, which it calls "a walking meditation space" that lets users experience personal reflection, relaxation, and spiritual connectedness as they walk the winding path to the center.

    3. Parque de Los Pies Descalzos, Medellin, Colombia

    This park, which translates to Barefoot Park in English, was specifically designed to encourage mental and physical relaxation. It has shallow water pools for adults and children to splash around in, a zen garden filled with live bamboo, and sandy areas to give you that toes on the beach feeling right in the middle of the city.

    4. City Park, New Orleans

    Jaimie Tuchman / Getty Images

    If the mature live oaks (the largest grouping of them in the world, NBD) in this sprawling park could talk, they'd tell you how many people have laid beneath them to recharge and reconnect with their surroundings. This jewel of New Orleans is draped in moss canopies and features a botanical garden, a sculpture garden, and seemingly endless space to walk, bike, hike, or just chill out while feeling like you're literally surrounded by greenness.

    5. Hong Kong Park, Hong Kong

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    It's hard to imagine there being enough room for a park in Hong Kong's crowded skyline, but this park is right there in the thick of it, providing rushed city dwellers a chance to decompress amid its tai chi garden, greenhouse, and aviary. The aviary, which houses 80 birds in what's basically an urban rainforest, feels like a true escape, but one of the best things about the park is how it features flowing water — a sound that research shows can boost internal calm — through waterfalls, streams, ponds, and cliffs.

    6. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

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    The long, rectangular park in the City by the Bay consists of 1,017 acres of public grounds, making it 20% larger than Central Park. That means it has a lot more space for greenery and gardens, and it takes full advantage of that. Golden Gate Park has a Japanese tea garden, a tulip garden, a botanical garden, and a Shakespearean flower garden, in addition to lakes, wooded trails, and even a bison paddock. That's a lot of room to relax in a city defined by technology and development.

    7. Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo

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    If you want to get familiar with plants and animals, this enormous park in the heart of São Paulo is the place to do it. It's home to 218 different species of plants, 156 types of birds, and 35 kinds of butterflies. Thanks to all of that, as well as its leafy trees, running trails, benches, and lake, it's the perfect way to get a little break in Brazil's most populous city.

    8. Englischer Garten, Munich

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    If a good city park makes you feel like you're a million miles away from the bustle of urban life, then Englischer Garten is a great park. Sure, it has bucolic rolling hills, designated areas for nude sunbathing, and sheep pastures. But what really sets it apart from other city parks is the section of the Eisbach river that flows through it, where visitors can go surfing (?!) on the rollicking waves.

    9. Kings Park, Perth

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    Kings Park covers more than 1,000 acres, much of which overlooks the water. Even if it just had its extensive bushland, it would be a pretty great place to visit, but it also contains the Western Australian Botanic Garden, which has a dizzying array of flora and fauna. It features 3,000 species of plants, places of reflection, and a treetop walkway, among many other features that'll fill you with awe at Australia's natural beauty.

    10. LeBauer Park, Greensboro, NC

    LeBauer Park

    Amid LeBauer Park's four acres of vibrant green space, fountains, and gardens is the Peacehaven Community Farm Sensory Space, a sculptural wall designed for people who have sensory processing disorders. The space is in the children's area in the center of the park, and is an accessible way to feel a variety of textures, see bright colors, and generally enjoy a park setting in a comfortable manner.

    11. Shanghai Houtan Park, Shanghai

    Shanghai Houtan Park

    Shanghai Houtan Park occupies a narrow slice of land, but it makes the most of its limited area. It sits on what was once a steel factory and shipyard, and now is a thriving wetland habitat that lets people stroll through bamboo and Chinese redwood trees alongside the Huangpu River. Not only that, but it uses green technologies to treat polluted river water.

    12. Royal National City Park, Stockholm

    Flickr: dihib

    You can safely call this the mother of all city parks because it was the first national urban park in the world! Royal National City Park is situated right up next to forests, so naturally, you can encounter a wide variety of wildlife there, from deer and hares to foxes and moose. Plus, it contains one of Northern Europe's largest collections of giant oak trees, so it's an awe-inspiring place to get away from Stockholm's hustle and bustle.

    13. Phoenix Park, Dublin

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    Grassy, glimmering 354-year-old Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed public park in any European capital city. Inside its expansive perimeter walls lay sports fields, walking routes, verdant trees, and, most notably, a herd of free-ranging fallow deer that'll make you feel more like you're in a country meadow than the center of a huge city — and that's a very good thing.

    14. Mount Faber Park, Singapore

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    Set on a hill high above the densely populated city of Singapore, Mount Faber Park offers lots of ways to get in touch with mother nature. The whole park is covered by a secondary rainforest, which means you can go birdwatching and hiking, as well as spend time admiring the lush vegetation growing all around you.

    15. Chapultepec Park, Mexico City

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    This park is so important to Mexico City that it's often referred to as one of the city's "lungs." It's filled with gardens, green spaces, wooded trails, and hundreds of animal species. For the most populous city in North America, it's an essential spot for recreation and relaxation.

    16. Prospect Park, Brooklyn

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    Central Park is, well, very centrally located in New York City, and a beautiful diversion from all of the skyscrapers, but Prospect Park provides an even more rustic and removed-feeling retreat. When you walk along the expansive lake or through the 90-acre Long Meadow, buildings and city noise are so absent that it's easy to forget you're in the biggest city in the U.S., and that is maybe the most important aspect of a city park.

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