San Juan Parks
A good way of spending a relaxing afternoon in your vacation would be to visit one of the many San Juan parks. I find it is pretty relaxing to enjoy nature at its best, especially at places that are new to me. So, when I am on vacation, I certainly enjoy visiting parks when I have a good amount of time to spare.
In case you are like me and think that this would be a good thing to do, you could check out the following parks.
Old San Juan Parks
Parque de las Palomas (Pigeon Park)
There is something special and intriguing about this park that makes it a stopping point for almost every visitor that comes to San Juan. Located at the south end of Cristo Street, Parque de las Palomas is one of Old San Juan’s best kept secrets. Well, maybe it’s not a secret anymore, as you can see it in the internet and hear people talk about it. But they talk about because it is a one of a kind park. Unlike conventional parks on large open properties, Pigeon Park is in the heart of Old San Juan historic quadrant, and is literally full of pigeons! Yes, its name is not a metaphor, nor it’s derived from something that looks like a pigeon. Real pigeons live here. They even have “custom made holes” in the wall where they sleep. I call that their private hotel.
Pigeon Park is perfect for taking the kids and letting them have fun feeding the pigeons. The pigeons get excited when they see people because they know it’s feeding time. You can buy bird seed for one dollar near the entrance of this park. Kids usually have a blast doing this. And while they are at it, you can always sit back and relax enjoying the great views of San Juan Bay. Yes, the views are another attractive that Pigeon Park has, as the park is nested over the city wall.
Keep in mind that these pigeons are not trained to use the bathroom. So, be careful not to get pooped on!
Entrance to the park is free and it is open every day.
El Morro Grounds
The grounds of El Morro Fort are a great destination that fits in my category of park because it attracts a lot of visitors and locals that want to spend an afternoon, evening, or even an entire day relaxing, having fun with the kids, or enjoying the bay and ocean views. Its location makes it a perfect place for flying kites, as the area is very open, free of overhead obstructions and there is a constant ocean breeze. As a matter of fact, kite flying is the number one activity that takes place at the grounds of El Morro, especially on Sundays.
People watching and picnics are other activities that take place on the grounds of El Morro. Couples are also seen strolling along and enjoying the scenery of the place.
If you are into photography, the spectacular view of the sunset behind El Morro Fort is a great photo opportunity. Also, the adjacent cemetery, named after Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis, is a great place to photograph. However, I don’t recommend that you venture into the actual cemetery grounds to take pictures because the neighborhood just east of the cemetery (La Perla) is not very safe for tourists or even for the locals, and you would have to walk near that neighborhood to go to the cemetery. Trust me on this one; don’t venture into La Perla neighborhood. The cemetery and its surrounding views can be photographed from the city wall.
Puerta de Tierra Parks
Parque Luis Muñoz Rivera (Luis Munoz Rivera Park)
Luis Munoz Rivera Park is my Puerto Rican version of New York’s Central Park. Okay, it is not nearly as big or crowded, but it is a pretty good size park in proportion to the size of the San Juan islet, where it is located.
This park covers an approximate area of 25 acres, in which it houses nicely maintained trees, benches, fountains, a kid’s playground, gazebos, and the San Gerónimo Powderhouse. The latter is a small armory that was built in the 18th century as part of the defense system of San Juan. Its place in history was significant, though not a lot of people know about it. An interesting fact about this powderhouse is that it was connected to the San Cristobal Fort at some point in time through underground tunnels that later had to be cut off to allow for installation of cannons between the fortifications. San Geronimo Powderhouse is definitively a must see in Luis Munoz Rivera Park.
Occasionally, the Luis Munoz Rivera Park hosts special events and outdoor concerts that people can enjoy at no cost.
Parque del Tercer Milenio (Tercer Milenio Park)
Tercer Milenio Park is located in the same area as El Escambron Beach. Its amenities include walking trails, which bicyclists and joggers use, and an area for outdoor concerts or activities. There is a small baseball field adjacent to it, a multi-purpose stadium (Parque Sixto Escobar), and the Escambron Battery. There is also a restaurant and a banquet lounge on the premises of the park, special for wedding receptions, corporate events or other activities.
This park is mainly visited by bicyclists, joggers and beachgoers. It is not the kind of park where you would go to spend a day with the family or celebrate a birthday party, unless you are in the beach area.
A pedestrian bridge is located between Tercer Milenio Park and Luis Munoz Rivera Park, which you can use to easily go from one park to another. There is a nominal fee for parking, but you can always park on the designated street parking spaces by the Luis Munoz Rivera Park and use the pedestrian bridge to access the park.
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