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Patch Picks: Santa Monica's Best Parks

The spring has arrived—which means you should be taking advantage of one of Santa Monica's 26 parks.

After an unusually rainy winter, many Santa Monicans are cheering . The first day of spring 2011 fell on Mar. 20, but with the we've had this week, it feels like the season may finally have arrived.

Accordingly, we here at Santa Monica Patch are encouraging our friends and neighbors to take advantage of the sunshine by visiting Santa Monica's bounty of recreational parks. There are 26 in total (), but below you will find the five best ones in our book. If you agree—or have other suggestions—we encourage you to share your perspectives in the comments box below.

Patch Picks: Santa Monica's Best Parks

1. : Stretching 1.5 miles, Palisades Park offers the most scenic views of Santa Monica's 26 parks and is one of the best sunset destinations in Los Angeles County. The city's biggest park runs along Ocean—from Colorado Ave. to San Vicente—and features a Visitors Center kiosk, picnic areas, benches, a Camera Obscura, a rose garden, a pergola and a beacon overlook. Also located at Palisades Park is the Senior Center (at Ocean and Santa Monica), and the nearby shuffleboard courts. Palisades Park is a City of Santa Monica Landmark and runs along the final stretch of the current course for the Los Angeles Marathon.

2. : Buttressed between the Santa Monica Airport and one of the city's sleepier commercial districts on Ocean Park Boulevard, Clover Park has equal appeal for sightseers, families, athletes and business persons in need of a stress-relieving stroll. Spread over almost 18 acres, the park is the second-biggest among Santa Monica's 26 and has amenities galore: 16 barbecues, loads of picnic tables, two playgrounds for kids, restrooms and free Wi-Fi. But the park's greatest asset could be its generous number of light-equipped sports fields (one for baseball, two for softball and two for soccer) and courts (one for basketball, one for sand volleyball and multiple tennis courts).

3. : Reopened in December 2005, Virginia Avenue Park is a quick stroll from Santa Monica College, and only a few blocks away from the 10 Freeway. It offers numerous traditional and non-traditional park amenities, as well as community meeting areas. However, the park's most popular attraction is the Farmers Market, which it hosts every Saturday from 8am to 1pm.

4. : Dedicated in memory of artist and former Santa Monica Mayor Christine Emerson Reed, this quiet oasis of green is only a few blocks away from the busy commercial district of Wilshire Blvd. With tennis courts providing a buffer between the street and the park's other features, Reed remains an attractive destination for families, teens and athletes.

5. : Next door to the Crossroads Elementary School campus, Memorial Park is distinguished for its skatepark, where at least a few kids are usually found doing ollies. It's also remarkable for the Memorial Park Gym, which features indoor basketball and volleyball courts, and the concession stand that serves the park's two baseball fields.

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