11 Urban Oases in the West

Find peace, tranquility, and greenery in urban parks and gardens beloved by Via readers.

picture pond and pagoda at the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon
Visit a pagoda at the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon.
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

These reader favorites are the perfect places to find a little calm and quiet in the city. Here’s where they recommend:

“A favorite oasis is the International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City’s Jordan Park,” writes Alyce Brannan. “The beautiful gardens represent many countries. It’s peaceful to walk through in the evening.”

Alton Baker Park in Eugene, Oregon, is on the Willamette, with a footbridge over the river, a lot of foot and bike paths, and the Cuthbert Amphitheater,” Nelson Whipple says. “It’s very tranquil.”

“I was skeptical as I watched Director Park taking shape over an old parking lot in downtown Portland, but now it has become one of my favorite spaces to eat lunch, people-watch, or just hang out,” says Andrea Dobson. "I especially love the simple design of the Teachers Fountain. Across the park, folks play chess on the ground with giant pieces.”

“One square city block in Portland puts you into another world of peace, quiet, and calm,” Alice Ann Glenn reports. “Inside the Lan Su Chinese Garden, it’s hard to imagine that there are cars whizzing down busy streets on all four sides. Beyond the lovely gardens [AAA members get $1 off], it’s got beautiful architecture and a tearoom with impeccable service. There are dragons, too!”

“The Portland Aerial Tram provides a great view and a mobile moment of Zen,” writes Kevin Garaventa. "We can see the mountains, the river, and the hustle and bustle of the city as the cabin quietly flies up the cables from the Willamette River waterfront to Oregon Health & Science University.”

San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens, itself a green oasis that often hosts musical performances, includes a gorgeous waterfall honoring Martin Luther King Jr.," says Vivian Imperiale. "The wall is engraved with his inspirational quotes in several languages. But the most stunning feature is the path behind the falls.”

“There is a lovely rooftop terrace garden at the Crocker Galleria in San Francisco,” reports Richard Swerdlow. “Take the elevator to the top, find the secret stairs, and you’re in a garden filled with terra-cotta urns, inviting benches, and meticulously groomed greenery.”

“One great urban hideout is the Japanese Tea Garden, part of Central Park in San Mateo, California,” says Jo Thomas. “Some say it’s the finest Japanese garden in Northern California—maybe the state.”

“The roof garden at the Kaiser Center in Oakland is hidden from the street atop a parking garage,” writes Joie Seldon. “The huge, gorgeous space with a fountain, trees, flowers, and benches is open to the public, but many people have no idea it’s there.”

“My pick is Redwood Park at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco,” declares Cynthia Spita. “The grove of young redwoods transplanted from the Santa Cruz Mountains also features ferns, boulders, a fountain, and a paved walkway.”

Turtle Bay Exploration Park makes a pleasant retreat from the surrounding city of Redding, California,” Jessica Lippe writes. “It has plenty of natural areas perfect for hiking and biking. You can’t miss it, since its entrance is marked by the Sundial Bridge spanning the Sacramento River.”