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BEST PUBLIC PARK Minneapolis 2008 - Lebanon Hills Regional Park

It's nearing midday on a sparkling summer morning, and for three hours you've been hiking dirt trails through lovely, dense woods of oak and maple. In all that time you've hardly seen a soul, though earlier you startled a deer in a sun-dappled glen. Now, as you round a bend in the trail, you stumble across a placid, hidden pond nestled among the trees. The sunlight glistening on the water beckons you to rest, and as you unpack your lunch, you are serenaded by the birdsong of chickadee and finch, and the rap of a downy woodpecker on the far shore. Where are you? A state park in the north woods? Nope. Eagan. It is scenes like this that make Lebanon Hills our choice for best park over perennial winner Como. For all of Como's charms—the zoo, conservatory, and even kiddie rides—Lebanon Hills offers something essential that Como never will: real nature, a sense of wildness, and genuine adventure. Lebanon Hills is more like a preserve than a public park, and with nearly 2,000 acres and more than 14 miles of trails, you can hike all day and never retrace your steps. Factor in activities like mountain biking, canoe and kayak rentals, a cute little family beach at Schulze Lake, superb cross-country skiing, and even campgrounds, and this dramatically underutilized park can't be beat.

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