1. Forest Park
St. Louis, MO
It may not be as well known as New York's Central Park, but it's 450 acres larger, coming in at about 1,400 acres of rolling-green beauty, with plenty of museums and activities. Originally built to host the 1904 World's Fair, Forest Park endures as one of America's greatest public spaces. You have your pick of visiting the surprisingly great (and free!) Saint Louis Art Museum, with paintings by giants like van Gogh and Andy Warhol; the Saint Louis Science Center and Planetarium; the Missouri History Museum with particularly interesting exhibitions on Charles Lindbergh; the Jewel Box, a greenhouse with hundreds of flowers; the Muny theater, the country's biggest outdoor theater; and the (also free!) Saint Louis Zoo. And if you're not here to sightsee, hit the trails, grab some friends, and get on the soccer field, or go skating at the ice rink during the winter. Don't miss the 75ft waterfall known as the Cascades, a breathtaking spot for an afternoon picnic. Nowhere else in America will you be able to walk manicured green space, look at a Van Gogh painting, and visit with polar bears and red pandas -- all without spending a dime.
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Nadia Imafidon is a Kansas-based magazine editor, freelance writer, and singer in soul/funk band Sharp 9. Follow her on Twitter at @nadia_imafidon.