BEST PARK - 2010
If there's one thing Twin Cities residents like to brag about to out-of-towners, it's our parks. We have sprawling acres in the suburbs with miles of paths for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. We have small green spaces dotting every city neighborhood, complete with swings, slides, and kiddie pools. We have parks that include stunning scenery such as Minnehaha Falls. Many have traits that stand out among the crowd, but this year we honor the best truly urban park around, and that's Loring. Its location on the southwestern edge of downtown Minneapolis means it's right there in the hustle and bustle, neighbor to shops, restaurants, a college, and an art museum. And while downtown St. Paul has two parks even more centrally located (Mears and Rice), they are smaller and don't offer the amenities that Loring does: tennis and basketball courts, biking paths, a pond, and all-important restrooms. And Loring has many charms: the "Garden of the Seasons" with benches where you can sit and enjoy the blooms, the pedestrian bridge over Hennepin Avenue to the Walker's sculpture garden, mature trees including a bur oak estimated at 300 years old, and the beloved Dandelion Fountain. On any given day (at least in pleasant weather) the park hosts a cross-section of humanity, and special events such as the Pride Festival, a major art fair, and the Walker-sponsored music and movies series bring even more crowds and big-city feel to this urban oasis, which is also the oldest Minneapolis-owned park.