For Independence Day the other day, we ended up in the outskirts of Tel Aviv to have a traditional Israeli barbecue at the beautifully tranquil Yarkon Park (cue in chicken kebabs, meatballs, chatzil, hummus and other Israeli spreads). To give you an idea of the vastness of this sprawling city park....Yarkon Park is to Tel Aviv what Central Park is to New York City. Aside from the park's natural beauty and its prized vastness amidst a bustling city, Yarkon Park also has some interesting features that I'd love to share with you.
In the eastern part of the park lies the Rock Garden. The Rock Garden, one of the largest of its kind in the world, gives ample expression to Israel’s geological diversity. Wandering the trails in the 10-acre enclosure you’ll find the rocks interspersed with some 3,500 species of plants, including over six acres of cacti, many of them beautifully flowering. One trail leads to a scenic view of the Yarkon Park’s lake.
Across from the Rock Garden, is a five-acre Tropical Garden where a wooden walkway shaded by towering palm trees takes you to its own tiny lake where swans glide and fish frolic. The rainforest-like micro-climate is the perfect home for the huge variety of orchids and vines you’ll see along the way.
Nearby is a bike-rental center. With the breeze blowing freely through your hair, you can take a refreshing ride around the park. On a busy day like Independence Day, you can expect the bike rental line to be out the door and around the corner.
For history lovers....you can let your friends and family enjoy the sunshine and relaxation while you go hunt down this next site. Seven Mills, a heritage site housing ancient flour mills that once ran on steam and have now been restored on the park's grounds. Surrounding the Seven Mills, you will be pleasantly surprised to find ducks and other water-loving birds.
One of the more popular activities among families, couples and children is the lakeside paddle-boat rental station. I just love the idea of taking a romantic paddle boat for two out onto the calm lake from where you can view the entirety of the park. A relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
If you don't want to actually spend the money to rent a paddle boat, it's still fun to watch from the sidelines:
The amenities do not stop here. Yarkon Park is also home to one of Israel’s largest water parks, complete with water slides, a wave pool and a toddlers’ pool. Childrens' playgrounds also abound.
You may also find a bird sanctuary and even a petting zoo further into the park's grounds. I never did find these areas of the park during my one day visit (and it's no surprise why when you look see how expansive the park's spread is):
If you are looking for something more active to do, you can opt to fill your time at the Sportec, an outdoor center with a 45-foot high climbing wall as well as several basketball courts and rollerblading courts. And...get this...they even have trampolines to play on! It's supposed to be for kids, but...well, I suppose adults can have some fun, too. In addition to the preceding, there are an abundance of open fields for soccer, football and other sports.
Still not sold on the park? Likely you will opt to go when you find out that several of Israel's most elaborate outdoor music concerts take place there several times a year. Yarkon Park's outdoor concerts have been home to the likes of Michael Jackson, U2, Madonna, Justin Bieber (seen right), Paul McCartney, Elton John, Aerosmith, Tina Turner, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Guns N' Roses and Linkin Park, just to name a few. I know I would definitely like to see an upcoming concert there - I'll have to keep my eyes and ear open. Who wouldn't want to attend a concert in the middle of the park, just like New York City's Concerts in the Park.
Of course, the most popular activity in the park is to just sit back, relax and have a delicious barbecue with your good friends and/or family members. So, whether it's Independence Day or just a regular old weekend, pack up a blanket, some coals and a picnic basket and head over to enjoy this unique green space in the middle of Tel Aviv's busy city center...just like the locals do.
So, are you ready now for an active break (or perhaps a not-so-active break...) from the city life? There is surely something for everyone at Yarkon Park and I was thrilled to finally visit this city oasis in person. Whether you are looking for some R & R or some outdoor activities, there is certainly something to satisfy everyone's cup of tea over at Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park.