Whenever my allergies cooperate, I love spending time at the city’s parks, lying in the grass, playing basketball or admiring the flowers. On a warm summer day the fresh air revitalizes my spirits and takes me away from the stresses of everyday life.
Although I did not grow up in Baltimore, the city has always been a second home to me. Both my parents grew up here, so I have many family members who I visit often and my church home, Mount Lebanon Baptist Church, is also located in Baltimore.
I spent the last four years living in the city, where I attended Morgan State University, and recently got my degree in multimedia journalism.
A few years ago, my dad became the president and CEO of a nonprofit called Parks and People, and that has only served to further my adoration of our parks.
Parks help me to slow down and see things I normally move too fast to observe. Parks have become my home away from home.
Baltimore has 20 city parks and each have their own personalities and histories. Here are some of my favorites.
Druid Hill Park
Any list of Baltimore parks would be incomplete without mentioning Druid Hill Park. Located in West Baltimore, Druid Hill is home to the biggest African American festival in the city, AFRAM.
As Baltimore’s official 2023 Juneteenth celebration, it’s only right that this event was held at my favorite park in the city. The park is expansive, with 745 acres of land, and it is easy to get lost in the beauty, which is ideal for my park experience.
It’s home to The Maryland Zoo, a refurbished swimming pool, many basketball and tennis courts, and one of my favorite spots: The Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens. The scenery around the botanic gardens reminds me how beautiful the city is.
Every Sunday on our way to church as a child, I would be mesmerized by the big elephant-shaped signs that line the side of Druid Hill Park on McCulloh Street. I would beg my dad to take me by the park to see the animals, and he would remind me that he had to preach in an hour.
Turned out I wasn’t a big fan of the zoo after all.
And as I got older I became more interested in the basketball courts, where I would also ask my dad to take me. He told me that only the best ballers in the city play at Druid Hill, and that only fueled my fire.
I would train daily with the hopes of holding my own on those courts, which made me good enough to play AAU ball throughout high school. I credit Druid Hill Park for helping to mold that part of me.
Located in Southeast Baltimore, Patterson Park is currently known for hosting one of two ice rinks in the city. Patterson holds the title for first official park in the city, as it was the first piece of land given to the city for the purpose of recreational activity in 1827.
When open, the Patterson Park Observatory holds the best views in the park, with multiple floors to stop and marvel.
Whenever I visit this park and get to the top of the observatory it feels like I see something new every time. As a kid, I felt like the king of Baltimore, perched so high above the city.
Patterson Park has a swimming pool, multiple playgrounds, the Audubon Center — a sanctuary for birds — and five newly renovated basketball courts.
The basketball courts used to be run-down and in terrible shape. There were cracks on the courts, weeds growing out of the concrete, and sometimes a broken rim and missing net.
As one of my favorite pastimes, it made playing basketball almost unbearable, and I sought out other courts around the city.
With inspiration from Daryl Frantz and help from Project Blackboard, Baltimore artist Jordan Lawson took on the project of revitalizing and painting murals on the basketball courts, which now makes them much more inviting.
Federal Hill Park
What this park may lack in size, it more than makes up for in character and breathtaking views. The park was built overlooking the Inner Harbor, and there are benches built around its perimeters to capitalize on the sights.
A couple years ago, my maternal cousins and I came to this park and took family pictures as a surprise gift for my grandma. Every time I visit Federal Hill, I’m reminded how her face lit up when she saw her gift.
The park got its name in 1788, when Maryland residents celebrated the ratification of the U.S. Constitution by building a ship named “The Federalist,” and shortly after adopting the name of Federal Hill.
Federal Hill served as a military outpost during important battles, such as the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Important figures in those battles, such as Maj. General Samuel Smith and Lt. Colonel George Armistead, are memorialized by monuments on park grounds.
Federal Hill is home to a large children’s playground, beach volleyball courts, and a basketball court — all within proximity to downtown Baltimore.
I had the pleasure of visiting Riverside Park for the first time last month, and it captured my heart. The residents of Riverside treat this park like their front yard — and it shows.
Many residents of the nearby neighborhood come to the park to walk their dogs. During my time there I saw many dogs and their owners roaming the grounds. Pups would run up to me and their owners would apologize, which would start conversations that allowed me to connect with some wonderful people.
The city recently acquired land from CSX railroads to renovate the grounds into a new 17-acre park that will include a multipurpose field, a new softball diamond, and new basketball and pickleball courts.
During the War of 1812, what is now the park was called Fort Lookout. The fort offered views of of the Patapsco River and the South Baltimore peninsula, which were instrumental in the victory during the Battle of Baltimore.
With funding from the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, the iconic gazebo was renovated and adds to the park’s old-timey, Victorian character.
The gazebo is a staple of the park, and something I look forward to when I visit.
As a home away from home, it warms my heart knowing the residents of Riverside feel the same way about their park.