The 12 Best Parks in St. Paul to Fall in Love in with Nature (In the City!)

9 years ago, I made the jump from the Minneapolis side of the river to St. Paul. Nearly a decade later, St. Paul’s parks are still one of my highlights of living here.

While Minneapolis tends to get most of the credit, in my opinion, St. Paul’s parks are just as amazing. (And usually less crowded, too!)

If you’re looking to spend some time in nature, here are my choices for the 10 best parks in St. Paul.

My Map of the Best Parks in St. Paul

The most impressive: Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Did you know that the Twin Cities legally protected 72 miles of the Mississippi River (the full length as it runs through Minneapolis and St. Paul) from development?

This means that all throughout St. Paul, nature lovers can walk right up to the river with endless hiking, biking, and even kayaking routes.

In my opinion, it’s by far one of the most amazing features of our great city.

Technically, this “park” includes many of the other parks on this list. (As well as our best parks in Minneapolis list) Still, it has to be mentioned for the endless options it offers.

My personal favorite section is the Upper Landing Park and Lower Landing Park around downtown St. Paul; these pathways along the river mix urban living and scenic beauty… St. Paul in a nutshell.

The most popular: Como Regional Park

Como Park is legendary for a few reasons:

  1. Como Zoo & Conservatory: Where else can you find a completely free zoo located inside a city park?
  2. Lake Como: One of the most beautiful lakes in the Twin Cities.
  3. Como Picnic: One of the best picnic spots in the city to eat some lunch under the shade of gigantic oak trees.
  4. Como Park Golf Course: Very popular among the golfers.

Como Park has it all, and it’s one of the city’s most cherished gems for a reason.

The most underrated: Crosby Farm

Another park located along the preserved Mississippi River Recreation Area, you might have passed this park as you drive across the 35E Bridge over the river.

This park is buried near the river, which creates a really secluded feeling despite being so close to a major highway. You’ll feel like you were transported into a remote forest as you hike under the shade of the park’s massive trees.

Best view of St. Paul: Indian Mounds

These ancient Indian burial grounds double as one of the most beautiful parks in the city. Located in East St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood, this park hovers over the city and gives what I find to be the most amazing skyline views of downtown St. Paul.

In order to get the full experience, be sure to wander the paths by the giant Airway Beacon, which was restored to its former glory in 1995. Oh, and don’t miss views of the often-forgotten St. Paul Airport!

For a front-row seat to the city: Harriet Island

harriet island park

In my opinion, the only place that can challenge the city views at Indian Mounds would be Harriet Island Regional Park. This huge grassy area is located on the southern banks of the Mississippi River, which means you get an up-close, front-row seat looking directly up at downtown St. Paul’s towering skyscrapers.

To really kick things up a notch, consider hopping aboard one of the Padelford Riverboats for one of the best boat tours in the Twin Cities.

Best urban park in downtown St. Paul: Rice Park

No park in St. Paul screams urban vibes quite like Rice Park. Located across the street from the Ordway Performing Arts Center and the historic St. Paul Public Library, this urban retreat is nestled between beautiful architecture and the hustle-and-bustle of downtown action.

During the workweek, it’s a popular spot for food trucks and professionals grabbing some fresh air. But Rice Park is probably best known for its winter season, when the park installs a massive Christmas tree, a seasonal ice rink, and more twinkly lights than the newest Hallmark movie. (It’s one of our favorite things to do in the winter.)

  • Address: 109 W 4th St, St Paul, MN 55102
  • Website: Rice Park

Best garden in downtown: Mears Park

No discussion of downtown St. Paul parks is complete without a nod to Mears Park in the Lowertown neighborhood. It offers the most impressive volunteer-maintained garden in town, including a cute little stream that runs the entire length.

Maybe not worthy of a stop by itself, but definitely worth checking out after a trip to the St. Paul Farmers’ Market or when you’ve spent enough time downtown to need a quick urban oasis.

  • Address: 221 5th St E, St Paul, MN 55101
  • Website: Mears Park

Best park for lounging: Summit Overlook Park

summit overlook park

Summit Overlook Park is a small little plot of grass in the Grand Avenue / Summit Avenue neighborhood with a beautiful view overlooking The University Club, The St. Paul High Bridge, and Ramsey Hill.

Something about this park and its lush green grass just begs for a picnic blanket and a good book.

When the weather is nice, this is also a regular location for outdoor yoga classes as part of St. Paul’s fitness in the park program.

Hidden in plain sight: Hidden Falls

Another one of our parks along the Mississippi River, Hidden Falls is… as the name implies… well-hidden among the trees along the river. But far-below the nearest Mississippi River Boulevard lies a massive nature space filled with hiking trails, a swimming area, waterfalls, and more.

Protip: During the spring runoff when the river’s water level rises, this park can get pretty flooded, which often closes some of the trails. It’s worth double checking before you go!

The Hidden Gem: Irvine Park

It’s amazing how many people don’t know about Irvine Park. It’s a small-but-beautiful green space within a short walk of Xcel Energy Center. Compared to all the chaos around West 7th Street and Minnesota Wild games, Irvine Park is a relaxing, urban oasis.

The park is revolves around an enormous bronze fountain, originally installed in 1881. It’s laid out in a town-square style, with the park surrounded by some of St. Paul’s most historic mansions – a living time capsule to when John Irvine deeded the square to the “village” (not city!) of St. Paul in 1849.

P.S. – It’s also one of the most haunted places in Minnesota.

  • Address: 1313 Hidden Falls Dr, St Paul, MN 55116
  • Website: Irvine Park

For the history buff: Cathedral Hill Park

cathedral hill park

The St. Paul Cathedral is one of the coolest landmarks in the city, and nowhere offers as great of a view as Cathedral Hill Park. This small grassy area is just a small part of this larger attraction, but definitely a must-see.

The up-and-comer: Lilydale

Located on the south side of the river and a little further from St. Paul’s most popular neighborhoods, Lilydale doesn’t see the traffic of many other spots on this list. But over the past few years, the city has invested heavily into this park with a multi-year master plan, including a recently constructed picnic shelter, kayak rentals, and The City Pup’s favorite, a brand new dog-park!

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