6 Best Parks in St. Paul: Popular Parks & Playgrounds Locals Love

The city of St. Paul—the capital of Minnesota and the second-largest city in the state—earned the distinction of being named number two in the country on the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore Index. According to the ParkScore Index, which is considered the national gold standard for public park metrics, St. Paul has more than 270 parks, and 99% of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a city park. With a population of 3.5 million and a beautiful location at a bend in the Mississippi River, the city has so much to offer residents, visitors, and anyone interested in moving to St. Paul. Learning about the tremendous parks throughout the city is the first step in falling in love with it.

Crosby Farm Regional Park

Crosby Farm Regional Park is located in a wooded area adjacent to the Mississippi River and just south of the Highland Park neighborhood. The park is maintained by the city of St. Paul and is home to over 6.7 miles of paved hiking and biking trails that offer views of the river, Crosby Marsh Lake, and nearby wetlands.

Besides pedestrian and bicycle activities, Crosby Farm Regional Park also offers opportunities for fishing, bird watching, and half-day or full-day boat rentals. The park also has several large picnic areas, some with barbecue grills.

For large groups or special events with up to 50 guests, Crosby Farm Regional Park also has a pavilion that can be rented. The pavilion includes a fire pit, barbecue grill, drinking fountain, and access to the Watergate Marina and fishing in the Mississippi River and Upper and Crosby Lakes.

Fort Snelling State Park

Enjoy Fort Snelling State Park

Located where the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers meet, Fort Snelling State Park is one of the most popular parks in Minnesota, with over 400,000 annual visitors. Named for a former military post established in 1820, Fort Snelling covers over 2,000 acres in the heart of the Twin Cities.

The park includes the original fort, well-maintained today as a historic building, 18 miles of multi-use trails, multiple lakes, a beach area, a golf course, playgrounds, and much more. Snelling Lake offers fishing and swimming, while visitors can fish or take a boat out on the Minnesota River. The Thomas C. Savage Visitor Center rents fishing poles, birding kits, and GPS locators. Visitors should note that while Minnesota residents don’t need a fishing license, non-residents will need to purchase one.

Open year-round, hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing are popular activities at Fort Snelling State Park. Visitors enjoy easy access to nearby popular parks and trail systems, including Minnehaha Park, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and the 53-mile-long Grand Rounds Scenic Bikeway.

Daily rates for visiting Fort Snelling State Park are $7 per vehicle, or a Minnesota State Parks annual permit is also available for $35.

Rice Park

Rice Park is located in the midst of downtown St. Paul and near several of the city’s most iconic landmarks dating back to the early 1900s. This includes the Landmark Center (built in 1902), the Saint Paul Hotel (1910), and the George Latimer Central Library (1917).

Rice Park, named for former Minnesota Senator Henry Mower Rice, is an urban park featuring a grand European-style fountain and bandstand. The park’s most unique characteristic is arguably its sculptures of beloved Peanuts characters, including Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Linus. Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz grew up in St. Paul, and the city’s pride surrounding him is evident.

Established in the mid-1800s, Rice Park is a beloved community cornerstone and a true urban oasis. Residents and visitors enjoy walking and biking the park’s trails, ice skating in the winter, multiple shaded areas and tables for relaxing or picnicking, and sports and gaming facilities. Rice Park also hosts several community festivals and other special events, including the St. Paul Winter Carnival in selected years.

Harriet Island Regional Park

While on the small side in comparison to many other parks in St. Paul, Harriet Island Regional Park is a picturesque, tranquil oasis directly on the Mississippi River and close to many beautiful bungalow-style homes for sale in West Side.

An award-winning and popular park, Harriet Island has walking paths, playgrounds, and several picnic areas with barbecue grills (you’ll need to bring charcoal), all with a lovely riverfront view. Visitors can enjoy sweeping views of St. Paul and the wooded cliffs adjacent to the river.

Harriet Island Park’s most significant amenity is the Clarence W. Wigington Pavilion. This 5,000-square-foot facility hosts concerts and other live performances and can be reserved for weddings, parties, and special events. The pavilion is registered as a national historic site and is open year-round. Padelford River Cruises excursions also launch from Harriet Island Park.

Como Regional Park

Enjoy Como Regional Park

Como Regional Park has been a popular outdoor recreation destination for Minnesotans for over a century. Como Regional Park, located in the Energy Park neighborhood, was created based on designs by noted American landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland, who set out to create an outdoor haven in the city’s heart, specifically with free and reasonably-priced services and amenities.

To that end, Como Regional Park offers several amenities for locals and visitors, including:

  • Como Lake: 2.3 miles of walking and biking trails, a fishing pier, and boating
  • Como Lakeside Pavilion: Dock & Paddle restaurant (seasonal), Lakeside Treats ice cream parlor (seasonal), outdoor concerts, and bike and watercraft rentals
  • Como Park Zoo & Conservatory: A free zoo, 100-year-old conservatory and Japanese gardens, an amusement park, carousel, golf course, and pool

Como Regional Park is free to enjoy, but visitors are encouraged to donate $4.00 per adult and $2.00 per child to visit the zoo and conservatory.

Lilydale Regional Park

Part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, Lilydale Regional Park is located in the forested floodplain areas alongside the river adjacent to the Mendota Heights neighborhood. This 636-acre park takes its name from a former village nearby, which was named for the abundance of lilypads on Pickerel Lake during the warmer months. Lilydale Park offers hiking and biking trails, shelters for picnics, baseball and softball diamonds, playgrounds, football and soccer fields, riverboat cruises, and even a unique kayak-sharing program.

Visitors can fish for bluegills, crappie, northern pike, and bass or enjoy tranquil bird watching. Visitors can also apply for permits for fossil hunting and ice climbing at Lilydale when available seasonally.

Parkland Fun in St. Paul

While St. Paul is best known as one of the Twin Cities and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the midwestern United States, it’s also an excellent place for people who enjoy spending time outdoors. Beautiful parks dot the city and each and every one of the best neighborhoods in St. Paul.

From historic downtown urban parks to expansive regional parks with multi-use trails and fishing and skiing areas, St. Paul’s network of over 270 parks has something for everyone all year. Enjoy ice skating and cross-country skiing during the snowy winters, fishing and boating in the warmer months, and hiking and biking in any season. There’s no doubt about it: if high-quality city parks are a priority for you, St. Paul is the place to be!

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