15 Parks & Recreation Departments You Should Know About

By: Jessica Hair | jessica.hair@activecities.com

Parks and recreation offerings are something many people pay attention to when visiting or moving to an area. From public spaces to community programs, there is a heavy reliance on cities and municipalities to provide opportunities that keep us entertained and active. Local offerings such as movies in the park, sports leagues, and community events are often taken for granted. And so, to give some credit where credit is due, here is a list of 15 parks & recreation departments you should know about.

1) Bloomington, IN

Noteworthy Program: Bloomington Pumpkin Launch—Competing to achieve the highest accuracy and distance, launcher teams send pumpkins soaring into the air with the use of their own homemade launching devices in the annual Pumpkin Launch. The Launch has become a full-blown event, with live music, a variety of food vendors, and plenty of other family activities. Bring a lawn chair!  bloomington.in.gov

2) Cheney, WA

Noteworthy Program: Slightly West of Spokane Artists’ Studio Tour—Free to the public, this event lets residents visit seven different locations on a self-guided tour around the Medical Lake-Cheney area and features 16 different artists. The artwork contains mediums of all types, including pottery, oil painting, digital design, stained glass, photography, polymer clay, and much, much more!  cityofcheney.org

3) San Antonio, TX

Noteworthy Program: Fit Pass 2.0—This “Passport to Fitness” features dozens of fitness activities and events around the San Antonio area, and participants are encouraged to complete as many as possible. For each event or activity you attend, your passport is stamped to earn credit for that event. Activities include 5Ks, Fitness in the Park classes, Cycle-In Cinemas and more! The passport even allows participants to go viral with their experience, earning points for sharing videos of their events with others. Those with the most points by the end of the period receive fun prizes!  sanantonio.gov

4) Rochester, NY

Noteworthy Program: Recreation on the Move—Can’t make it down to the Parks & Recreation department in Rochester? Thanks to Recreation on the Move, the benefits of city recreation departments are taken right to the city neighborhoods! The mobile units go directly to these neighborhoods to offer arts, music, environmental education, fresh food, homework help, and much more.  cityofrochester.gov

5) Liberty, MO

Noteworthy Program: Bark 4 Our Park—5K events are just about the most standard programs offered by parks & recreation departments, but how many 5Ks invite your dog to come along, too? Bark 4 Our Park raises money for Liberty Dog Park, a shining example of how dog parks can be flawlessly incorporated into regular parks.  ci.liberty.mo.us

6) Brunswick, MA

Noteworthy Program: Father-Daughter Valentine Ball—Usually held on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day each year, the Ball features a live DJ and a teddy bear door prize raffle, punch, cakes, candy, and a chocolate heart and rose for each daughter.  brunswickme.org

7) Asheville, NC

Noteworthy Program: Camps, Camps, Camps—Whether you’re a parent looking to get rid of your kid for the summer or a kid begging to get out on your own, Asheville is the summer destination for you! Asheville thrives in its camp offerings, which greatly outnumber any of the others on our list. Options include: Adventure Camp, focused primarily on activities like swimming, hiking, camping, rafting, and caving; Eco-Explorers Camp, focusing on young environmental education; and Therapeutic Recreation Teen Summer Camp for teens with or without mild to moderate cognitive or development delays.  ashevillenc.gov

8) Yukon, OK

Noteworthy Program: Diaper Dash & Toddler Trot—Get your babies active from the get-go at this annual event. Adorable, diaper-clad babies are timed as they crawl a set distance, while little toddlers are timed to walk a little farther. All participants receive a photo of their babies competing!  cityofyukonok.gov

9) Bloomington, MN

Noteworthy Program: Vehicle Day—Ever wonder what it’s like to sit in the back of a cop car? Have a little nephew who’s crazy about fire trucks? Once a year, Bloomington’s parks and rec department offers families an up-close look at the service vehicles that we see from afar every day. Fire trucks, police cars, and other service vehicles are shown by operators, who are glad to answer all of your questions!  bloomingtonmn.gov

10) Boston, MA

Noteworthy Program: Watercolor Painting Workshops—Available at four different locations, local artists offer tips and techniques to aspiring Picassos of all skill levels. The picturesque Boston landscape provides inspiration for your own watercolor green-space masterpiece, and materials are provided.  cityofboston.gov

11) Pittsburgh, PA

Noteworthy Program: Alphabet Trail & Tales in Frick Park—interactive, hand-painted story sets featuring today’s popular children’s books line the Alphabet Trail as part of a literacy event for young children. Follow your favorite characters through the nation’s 3rd-largest inner-city park on the eastern seaboard while helping your favorite little ones learn to read!  pittsburghpa.gov

12) Columbus, OH

Noteworthy Program: Discover Boating program—At the O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, participants learn basic sailing and canoeing skills at this watercraft instruction camp. It’s a fairly pricey option at $85 a session, but basic nautical topics like terminology, boating safety, points of sail, knot-tying and capsize recovery are covered.  columbus.gov

13) Cape Girardeau, MO

Noteworthy Program: Fall Fresh Cooking Demo—Learn how to incorporate the many spices of the fall season into your kitchen! This $5 lesson, taught by Cape Girardeau’s Fitness and Wellness Coordinator, gives participants new and exciting recipes and ideas for fall cooking.  cityofcapegirardeau.org

14) New York, NY

Noteworthy Program: Dinosaur Safari: Mysteries Revealed—It’s not always true that a bigger city automatically means a more involved parks and recreation department, but this attraction is proof of the benefits of a livelier city. Every day from May to November, the Bronx Zoo take a ride through the two-acre zoo to see over 30 different animatronic dinosaurs, including one 40-foot tyrannosaurus rex! Visitors learn all about the different species of dinosaurs and their habitats, what prehistoric times may have really looked like, and how scientists study fossils.  nycgovparks.org

15) San Francisco, CA

Noteworthy Program: ASL Café—This scenic café offers a recurring weekly socializing opportunity for those interested in American Sign Language, whether you’re just learning or very practiced. The café has games, workshops, and activities for users, and there’s a weekly learner’s circle from 7-730 pm!  sfrecpark.org