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Garden of the Gods ranked best in the US; nearly tops in the world

June 24, 2014 Updated: June 24, 2014 at 3:41 pm
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Michelle Ennis leaps from rock to rock while visiting Balanced Rock in Garden of the Gods Monday, June 23, 2014. Ennis is visiting from Chicago and said this was her first ever visit to the park that online travel site TripAdvisor recently named the No. 1 park in the country. The city of Colorado Springs estimates that roughly 2 million people visit the park every year. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

When it comes to parks in the U.S., Garden of the Gods is tops.

That's the word from the online travel site TripAdvisor, which recently ranked the park No. 1 in the country, ahead of New York's Central Park (No. 2) and Chicago's Millennium Park (No. 3).

The ranking is based on feedback from TripAdvisor users, who have posted more than 3,000 reviews of the park to date, for a 5/5 average rating. TripAdvisor is among numerous online sites that steer tourists toward restaurants, hotels and other services and attractions while allowing visitors and locals to sound off on their experiences.

"For the city, it's a huge honor," said Kurt Schroeder, of Colorado Springs Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services.

It might also be an economic driver in a city that depends on tourism, Schroeder said.

The city believes that roughly 2 million people visit Garden of the Gods every year, but that's a "guesstimate" derived from the 750,000 visitors who stop into the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center each year, Schroeder said.

Rounding out the top five in TripAdvisor's annual list are New York's Highline Park (No. 4) and the Boston Public Gardens (No. 5).

While receiving top honors for the U.S. and a No. 2 ranking for the world (Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada, heads the list) "validates" what Colorado Springs residents know, it's also a reminder that Garden of the Gods can be improved to "an even higher level," said Susan Davies of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group that has pushed for more funding for the city park.

"It's something to celebrate," Davies said. "At the same time, if somebody comments on how great your house looks, you're going to say, 'Yes, and I need to keep it looking great.'"

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