Friday, August 10, 2012

Best Public Places

I haven’t returned to the subject of public places in awhile, but a recently published list is begging to be shared.

Planetizen released their updated compilation of the Top 100 Public Places in the U.S. and Canada.  I love travel for many reasons, but this list has me particularly eager to hit the road.  Take a look at the list.  I expect you’ll be equally motivated.

I know people who have made it a goal to visit all fifty states.  Indeed, I’ve thought about it.  But states are defined by boundaries that were often arbitrary and capricious.  Public places seem so much more organic and in tune with the human condition.  And therefore worthy of being visited.

I just might adopt the alternative bucket list of visiting as many of these public places as possible.  And not just to visit, but to buy a sandwich, find a good bench, and observe the world using a good public place.  I can’t think of a retirement plan that sounds more enticing.

Nonetheless, I still want to quibble with list on a couple of points.  As one objection, Central Park is a fine place.  But I have a hard time believing that Central Park belongs on a list that Golden Gate Park misses.

For another, Place Jacque Cartier in Montreal is probably my favorite public place, at least in the western hemisphere.  (Trafalgar Square in London and the Tuilleries in Paris would outrank it.)  Mount Royal Park is a splendid Olmstead creation that adds greatly to the civic life of Montreal.  But, given a free afternoon in that fine city, I’d pick Place Jacque Cartier every time.

Another omission that surprised me at first, but made sense as I pondered it, is the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston.  It’s a broad swath of luxuriant green grass that the locals and their dogs use with enthusiasm on warm, sunny days.  (The photos here, including the dogs at play, are from the Greenway on just such a day.)  However, it lacks features to engage folks on less spectacular days.  A good public place needs to have year-round magnetism.

If you have any thoughts on the list, please share.

On a personal note, after I publish this post, I’ll depart on a trip that will add four more states to my lifetime tally.  Ironically, it doesn’t include a single public place on the Planetizen list.  But I expect to see other great places about which I’ll share upon my return.

I’ve already written the blog posts for my absence, so please continue returning here three times a week even while I’m away.  And if you receive an email from me when I publish a post, those will continue during my travels.  (And if you don’t receive an email but would like to, please email me.  I’ll be happy to add you to the list.)

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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