Finding a mindful escape without going far from home

What is the definition of “mindfulness”? “The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”

As transparent as this is, the idea of just sitting alone with our thoughts is enough to make most of us squirm. We’re leashed to our cellphones, caught up in the buzz of the world around us, and the internal voice telling us to take on more. The pressure is on to stay informed and keep up with everyone else around us.

So being mindful and finding peace within ourselves sometimes requires a change in the environment. 

That's how we sought these five parks, green spaces perfect for taking a step outside of the hustle and bustle of society, if only for a few minutes.

The woods hug the boardwalk at Lettuce Lake Park.Lettuce Lake Park
6920 E. Fletcher Ave., Tampa, FL 33637

This is our favorite. The Hillsborough River winds its way through the endless trails of greenery sprouting out in every which way, reflecting the beauty right back at you. Perfect for people-watching, take a seat among one of the benches found on the main boardwalk trail as canoers and walkers trickle in and out of view. Or find a more secluded area immersed within this mini jungle.

Flamingos splash around at Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg.Sunken Gardens
1825 4th St. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33704

The first thing you may notice as you walk into this park are the lined cages filled with birds full of magnificent colors. Parrots stretching their wings, boasting their beauty as their cracked voices talk right back at you. Flamingos trek their way through their little secluded area, oblivious to their gathering audience. The sound of water falling and an array of tropical gardens make this a place of beauty and tranquility at the center of urban development yet so far away.

Walking trails wind through McKay Bay Nature Park near Ybor City.McKay Bay Nature Park
134 N 34th St., Tampa, FL 33605

This park is a unique pick due to its size (38 acres). An outdoor getaway nestled within Tampa near Ybor City, this park stands out because of its simple power to make you feel as though there is no possible way you’re only steps away from Ybor’s unique and creative lifestyle. An avian paradise, boardwalks, and paved walking trails make it a favorite stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.

Seagulls flock to Ballast Point Park on Hillsborough Bay.Ballast Point Park
5300 Interbay Blvd., Tampa, FL 33611

There is something so soothing about being by the water. It’s almost as though you’re connected through the endless flowing waves that crash themselves along the various decks reaching out into Hillsborough Bay. Whether you want to just sit on a waterfront bench and inhale the seaside air, enjoy a cold thirst-quenching treat, fish on the edge of the dock, bring family and friends along for a picnic, or splash in the water park and playground, visits to Ballast Point Park are a must during your time in Tampa. 

The freshwater pond at Al Lopez Park.Al Lopez Park
4810 N Himes Ave., Tampa, FL 33614

This sometimes overlooked gem in West Tampa features a freshwater pond that mirrors the fluffy clouds above while Florida's native birds peck their way through the shallow banks looking for tasty morsels and nesting materials. The park fills regularly on evenings and weekends with crowds of families enjoying countless baseball and softball diamonds, but the rest of the time visitors can find quiet space for reflection along the walking trails and on picnic benches overlooking this glassy tranquil body of water surrounded by chirping birds and curious squirrels. 

For more information about a perfect place for mindfulness near you, follow the links below:
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Read more articles by Lauren Wong.

Lauren Wong is a graduate of the University of Tampa with a degree in journalism who is freelancing while she looks for a full-time job. Originally from the Chicago area, she enjoys travel and aspires to be a travel photojournalist. During the summer of 2019, she worked for Premier Travel Media in Chicago and as a correspondent for Input Fort Wayne, another Issue Media group online magazine based in Indiana. She loves spending time outdoors camping, kayaking, and taking pictures.