Some well-known public parks in major global cities have matured into classics of greenery, rest and recreation like Regent’s Park in London and New York’s Central Park. In this category, we like 400-hectare King’s Park in Perth, Australia, which is a serene and scenic mixture of landscaped parkland, fascinating botanical gardens and wild, untamed natural bushland. Gorgeous views of the Swan River and glistening city skyline add to the charm of one of the largest inner-city parks in the world.
Other public parks have become iconic for the people and programmes that bring a unique buzz of zing and zest! Our favourite in this category is Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park on weekends, when an amazing number of subcultures and countercultures manifest in different parts of the park. From classic-car buffs and proud owners of dressed-up dogs to Elvis impersonators and sinister-looking Goths, to small chamber orchestras, bopping break-dancers and hyperactive clowns, people transform Yoyogi into a must-see destination.
Our choice of the World’s Best Public Park, however, is one of its newest and probably most unlikely in location. This is the Gathering Place Community Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A daring vision, coupled with years of planning, generous donations and active input from the local community have transformed 100 acres of scenic waterfront along the lovely Arkansas River into an innovative, unconventional and thoroughly delightful interactive environment.
Opened in September 2018, the Gathering Place is fast-becoming a magnet far beyond the immediate vicinity of Tulsa. We predict that this stunning and ever-evolving experience will become a major tourism attraction, transforming the image of this unprepossessing city – which, by the way, also has some of the most fascinating, educational and child-friendly museums/libraries/interpretive-centres in the world.
Friends with children tell us that their offspring have gleefully reported no less than eleven different slides in various parts of the park as well as an amazing mirror-maze, “old-looking holes in walls you can climb through and real musical-instruments hanging in the air”(sic), plus details of a fantastical Fairyland Forest that kept them talking excitedly for weeks afterwards. They ain’t seen nothing yet! The reality at the Gathering Place actually transcends imagination – seriously.
The Land Of The River Giants, Spiral Connector, Chapman Adventure Playground, Skywalk Forest, Volcanoville, Ramble Sensory Garden, Cottonwood Lawn, Charlie’s Water-Mountain, Picnic Grove, Oneok Boathouse, Williams Lodge, Yvette’s Global Rainbow, Peggy’s Pond and The Reading Tree are just come of the wonderful attractions, all entirely free!
What ‘sealed the deal’ for us are the caring touches for the less fortunate. Visitors with disabilities are delighted to discover thoughtful features that include dedicated parking-lots and toilets, Ultra ADA Pads, braille signs, wheelchair-accessible dining counters and specially-designed seating throughout the Gathering Place. All park entrances, pathways, bridges, lawns and gardens as well as some drinking-fountains are disabled-accessible. The food-items sold here include vegan and allergy-friendly options. The Management also invites guests on the autism spectrum to use spaces provided in the Gathering Place to overcome sensory anxieties.
Foodies and hungry guests find “exciting eating opportunities” at The Patio, Redbud Café, Vista@The Boathouse, and a constantly-changing array of food-trucks, kiosks and food-carts. Add the pretty scenery around the Gathering Place, top up everything with a regular stream of imaginative and absorbing events and activities, and you have a really outstanding destination that we believe is the World’s Best Public Park!
Photographs: ©Alex S. Maclean, ©Shane Bevel Photography, ©Gathering Place