In downtown Memphis, between Main Street and Second Avenue and between Madison and Jefferson avenues, you'll find Court Square, the oldest park in Memphis. With its classically designed central fountain, restored gazebo, and stately old shade trees, this park was long a favored gathering spot of Memphians. Numerous historic plaques around the park relate the many important events that have taken place in Court Square. (Tip: Don't sit here and expect to enjoy a snack or picnic lunch -- you'll be accosted by dive-bombing pigeons and aggressive, overweight squirrels.)

Formerly the Mississippi River Park, which was essentially an open field, the River Garden at Mississippi River Park is a 1-acre park at the center of the brand-new, $60-million-plus Memphis riverfront (see below). Located at Riverside Drive, the new park has fun stops including life-size bird nests people can get into, an all-ages playground, paths, native plants, and a lawn for relaxing. Kayak Memphis is based here; it offers everything from self-guided trips to Full Moon Kayaking on summer nights, complete with a floating DJ. Just above the River Garden, you’ll find Fourth Bluff Park, which offers shade, picnic tables, movable furniture and panoramic views of the Hernando de Soto bridge and Wolf River Harbor. Bonus: In the spring, the park hosts what has to be the most scenic NBA Grizzlies Playoff Watch Parties in the world.

Below the park along Riverside Drive you’ll find another completely made-over space in Tom Lee Park. Comprising 31 acres that stretch for 1.5 miles south along the bank of the Mississippi, the park includes scenic pathways, a misting fountain, over 1,000 native trees, a state-of-the-art playground, sports and fitness areas, public art, and more. The park is named for Tom Lee, a local African-American hero who, in 1925, rescued 32 people from a sinking ship despite being unable to swim himself. A monument was erected after Lee’s death from cancer in 1952. Today, check out their website before your visit to see what’s afoot, from Firepit Fridays in the winter to yoga classes and roller-skating parties. North of Tom Lee Park, you’ll find Greenbelt Park, a natural flood plain that changes with the seasons. Lower Greenbelt Park, while usually underwater from late winter to early spring, is a gorgeous place for picnicking or walking unpaved trails on Harbor Town. Bikers and strollers can use the paved pathway in Upper Greenbelt Park on the east side.

On the other end of Tom Lee Park, you’ll find Big River Crossing, the nation's largest rail/bicycle/pedestrian bridge. The 5,000-foot trail connects downtown Memphis and Arkansas over the Mississippi River. Rent a bike at one of Explore Bike Share’s riverfront stations and take it across the bridge to Ducks Unlimited Park in Arkansas. (It sounds farther than it is.) With 1,500 acres, this park offers paved trails and loops as well as a seasonal sunflower field. Big River Crossing also serves as a connection point of the Main Street to Main Street project, a 10-mile corridor that includes the Big River Trail System. Its goal is to create a cross-country riverside trail using the levee system from the Mississippi headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico for bikers and hikers.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.