Nearly everyone has a bucket list numbered with things you hope to accomplish someday but, if you love skateboarding, you should fill yours with visits to a few of the unrivaled skateparks across the US.
The best skateparks in the United States can be found throughout the country, from Portland, OR, to California, and all the way over to the East Coast in Philadelphia, PA. You’ll find some of the most epic street courses alongside iconic locations and facilities designed for skaters and by skaters, including the largest full-concrete pipe and one of the oldest-running skateparks in America.
Many of the best skateparks are on the west coast, and with good reason given the outdoor weather is much more cooperative year-round. But, that’s not always the case, and there are a few you won’t want to miss on the eastern half of the map as well.
This list is subjective like many other things when it comes to skateboarding and I’m sure I missed a few. The 13 top spots below are in no particular order, but we’ll start on the West Coast, in Portland, Oregon.
1. Burnside Skatepark, Portland, OR
There’s plenty of reasons to visit Portland — from some of the best breweries to the largest bookstore in the world, there’s pretty much something for everyone from every walk of life, and skaters are no exception.
With the 30th anniversary coming up, Burnside has stood the test of time without any source of public funding. It is maintained and supported by dedicated volunteers and draws visitors from the US and across the world.
Burnside started illegally, essentially a DIY project that began with a large pouring of concrete that created a vertical transition obstacle in an empty parking lot, and it grew from there.
It has become a paradigm for other parks that followed across the US, leading to two of the largest skatepark construction companies, Grindline and Dreamland Skateparks.
Despite its seemingly unlawful start, the city eventually sanctioned the space and accepted its permanency. It is a public park, free to all, and located underneath the Burnside Bridge, providing protection from frequent rainfall, in downtown Portland.
Unlike many other parks, no protective gear is required, so it’s not for the faint of heart — it’s certainly infamous, and there is no shortage of challenges.
The park features a four-to-six-foot quarter pipe drop and seven-to-eight-foot raised quarter bowl drop-in, both leading to an adjacent bowl situated a bit lower and a wave that runs along the south side of the park.
It’s tough to describe Burnside with mere words — it may very well be one of the greatest skateparks in the world, according to many, and one you’ll need to see and experience for yourself.
So while we did say this list is in no particular order, Burnside is number one for good reason. It’s free and open 24 hours a day.
2. Denver Skatepark, Denver, CO
Sticking with the West Coast, for now, our next stop is in Denver, CO, though don’t worry, we’ll be back in Portland shortly for another top pick.
Denver Skatepark is located on the Platte River. Not only is it one of the best because it features something for every style and level of skill, but also since the park has a beautiful view, particularly as the sun is setting over the Rocky Mountains.
It’s 60,000 square feet in size, offering challenging concrete bowls, covering the entire north side in a multitude of sizes fit for all levels.
Toward the east, a second section features huge hip ramps surrounded by ledges and rails. And finally, on the south side, you’ll find a street course with platforms, more ramps, rails, and stairs.
Regardless of your skill level and style, you’ll find something to keep you occupied for hours while you soak in the magnificent views at Denver.
The park is open at 5:00 am and stays open until about 11:00 pm seven days a week — plus, it’s free.
3. Vans Skatepark, Orange, CA
Continuing south, our next top pick sits in Orange, CA — Vans Skatepark. Vans is both indoor and outdoor, so you’ll be able to check it out rain or shine. You’ll also likely rub shoulders with a few pros while you are there, namely Steve Salba or Jeff Grosso.
The park opened in 1999, reforming the famous Upland combi-bowl — a massive double bowl originally part of the Pipeline Skatepark in Upland, CA, and considered one of the best in skateboarding history — reason alone to add it to your list.
Vans has multiple sections, including a 20,000-square-foot indoor street course made from concrete and wood. It contains more than enough obstacles — stair sets, banks, rails, ledges, and manual pads — as well as a warm-up course specifically for beginners looking to develop their skills.
There’s also an 80-foot-wide mini ramp indoors that ranges in height from five to nine feet. Once you’ve mastered the indoors, head outside to an outdoor course that also features a mini ramp.
The skatepark is free for all, but you are required to wear protective gear — minimally, a helmet if you are over the age of 18.
4. Lincoln City Skatepark, Lincoln City, OR
With a few top-of-the-line skate parks in Oregon, it’s tough to choose, but this next one certainly deserves mention. Lincoln City is an ever-evolving grouping of five outdoor mini-parks in one, designed by Dreamland Skate Parks.
Each time you visit, and you should definitely do so more than once, you can likely expect something new with yearly upgrades and new designs. Originally built in 1999, the park added five separate sections over the course of 20 years.
It’s also one of the largest in Oregon at over 40,000 square feet and was deemed the “gnarliest skatepark in America” with a rating of 9 out of 10 by Thrasher magazine.
There are four separate bowls, each distinct from the other — the Moguls Bowl, the Cradle and Half Pipe, partially covered to protect from the rain, the Swimming Pool, and, finally, the Snake Run.
With incredible speed lines, there is a lot of concrete to cover, so most recommend spending a couple days here to get in all there is to experience. The park is open from dawn to dusk and is free. Protective gear is required for those under 16 but recommended for all.
5. Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park, San Jose, CA
Part of the country with the most beautiful weather year-round, California is perfectly suited for a striking outdoor skate park, which is exactly what you’ll find at Lake Cunningham Regional in San Jose.
It’s likely one of the most unique skateparks in the entire country with more bowls than most and the world’s biggest cradle at 70 feet long.
But that’s not all you’ll find here. The 68,000-square-feet concrete park is the largest in California, and it also boasts a monstrous mega wall, street obstacles, and plenty of rails, pipes, and pools — not to mention the world’s largest full pipe and tallest vert wall, too.
Quite a few seasoned skaters have agreed that this is among the most remarkable skate parks in the US, and one for those of you who are looking for something a bit more on the extreme side. In essence, we dare you to pass this one up.
There is no cost to skate at Lake Cunningham, but it is weather-permitting, and the hours are a bit more limited than some. So, you’ll want to be sure to check out the website or local guides before you go to make sure it is open.
6. FDR Skatepark, Philadelphia, PA
Our next stop takes us to the other side of the country, the home of the National Constitution Center, and also what has been called a skateboarder’s paradise — FDR Skatepark. Its origins began with an unused piece of land that was part of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park beneath a highway overpass.
It was completely unfunded at the start, with the exception of volunteer labor and donated materials, and the same holds true today with hundreds of people working to add new features (source). So, if you’re interested in making new friends, new volunteers are always welcome — just bring yourself and be ready for a little bit of manual labor.
The park is home to some of the most remarkable graffiti art you’ll ever see, and it also functions as a venue for the arts, musical entertainment, and poetry. Many of these events are held to raise money for improvements to the park.
And while some of the rails and ramps aren’t exactly perfect — there may be a few cracks or pockmarks from the above highway traffic or other seeming imperfections — these are also what makes it special. It’s what many who have been there call a labor of love, much of this place built from the ground up by local skaters.
It is, in many ways, a quintessential park, created by skaters and for skaters. It has a 4-foot dome that ascends toward an 11-foot overhang and a 60-foot-long bunker. It’s challenging for both the novice and experienced. And if authenticity is what you’re looking for, FDR fills that aesthetic in spades.
FDR is free and open 24/7.
7. Les Coleman Skatepark, New York City, NY
Still sticking with the east coast, next on our list is the Les Skatepark in New York City. It’s also called the Chinatown Skatepark or Coleman Skatepark, depending on who you ask. There’s plenty of good reasons to visit NYC if you’ve never been there, and this skatepark is just one of them.
The park began underneath the Manhattan Bridge, providing protection from the elements. Local skaters initially created it on old abandoned basketball courts before the city provided funding to build the park that it is today. With additional financial backing from Nike SB, it was then remodeled in 2012.
Les has a mix of everything you might be looking for, and while the reno turned plastic ramps and rusty rails to smooth concrete, it still retains its classic feel with plenty of street obstacles, including ledges, jumps, rails, a pyramid, and a big apple — NYC’s well-known nickname. Nearly every skateboarding event central to NYC happens here, too.
What makes this one special, similar to the neighboring FDR park in PA, is the community feel. Walk onto this park, and you know that it holds the blood, sweat, and tears of some of the most talented skaters on the East coast — and many others who have been a part of this place since its inception.
Hours of operation are a little more limited than some others, so check local guides for specific opening and closing times. Lastly, go as early as possible it can get pretty packed.
8. Skatepark of Tampa (SPOT), Tampa, FL
Our next stop takes us South, toward the sunny beaches of Florida. The Skatepark of Tampa — otherwise known as “SPOT” — is an indoor and outdoor park intended for all experience levels, with both pro and beginner courses.
It’s known to be one of the best on the East Coast, and its street course is constantly changing with an annual redesign and yearly skate contests taking place since its opening in 1993, most notably the annual Tampa Pro contest held in March each year.
For the pros, the park features a terrain style pro-course with a pyramid, rails, and lots of transitions. And alternatively, the beginner course has smaller rails and ramps to help you hone your skills.
This particular park also extends as a music and arts venue as well and is featured in Tony Hawk’s Underground video game.
There is an entrance fee to skate, and you must wear a helmet regardless of age, but there are quite a few discounts on particular days, including ½ price fees for military, police, paramedics, and firefighters.
And if none of those fit, there’s always “old man Tuesdays” when guys can skate for a mere $3 after 5:30 pm, or the parks rule that “girls skate free” since 1993.
9. Kona Skate Park, Jacksonville, FL
While you are in Florida, you may also want to check out this next one — purely given that it’s been in operation since the 1970s, and it is one of the oldest running private skateparks in the United States. Nostalgic is the feel you will get riding here, and it’s well worth the trip.
The park has been through quite a lot over the years, experiencing bankruptcy before reopening in 1979 with the Ramos family’s help.
The family provided a dedication to the youth of Jacksonville, stating that they wanted this park to be a safe place for kids to explore their passion. This is one of the many reasons this park is on the “best of” list.
It is also responsible for pioneering the modern vertical ramp reputed to have one of the most significant impacts on the sport. The vert ramp combined a half-pipe with a flat bottom portion that resulted in the first-ever vert competition. Quite a few professional skaters began their careers here, too.
Today, the park features a multitude of paths coursing through a snake run that has been featured in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 game, and there’s no shortage of concrete with a multitude of ramps and half-pipes as well.
Hours of operation are limited at times, and there is an admission fee. Check the website or local guides for more details before you head out.
10. Rob Dyrdek/DC Shoes Foundation Skate Plaza, Kettering, OH
Continuing toward the north-central part of the country, we head toward Ohio to a frequently mentioned park for street skating, the Rob Dyrdek Skate Plaza. The park was founded in partnership with DC shoes by pro skater Rob Dyrdek, and it was one of the first skate plazas built in the US.
You’d be remiss not to take a road trip solely to experience this unique multi-purpose park with 42,000 square feet of urban terrain, particularly designed to resemble a public square in the center of town. You might even catch a pro here from time to time if you are lucky.
There are benches, rails, ramps, and lots of ledges with a mix of landscaping and artistry that gives it a unique aesthetic appeal.
It may not have tons of transitions, but it is ideal for pure street-style skating enthusiasts. With lots of stairs, ranging from 12 to 6 high mixed with 2 to 3 level stair sets, each has been custom built with aluminum and concrete.
The park is free, open dawn till dusk, and protective gear is not enforced.
11. David Armstrong Extreme Park, Louisville, KY
David Armstrong Extreme Park, formerly Louisville Extreme, is precisely what its name suggests. Featured here is the largest concrete full pipe known to any skate park in the US at 24 feet.
There’s also a solid combination of styles incorporated into the design, offering a balance between street, transition, and vert skating. It’s roughly 40,000 square feet in size and located just outside of downtown Louisville.
The park gained national attention after being featured in Tony Hawk’s Gigantic Skatepark Tour, and while it is known for its monstrous full pipe, it also has two 11-foot bowls, two 8-foot and 6-foot bowls, as well as a street course, 6-foot flat bank, and plenty of ledges, lines, and rails.
Another feature here is that it is both free and open 24/7 — not something you’ll find in every place, so you’re free to skate all hours of the night if you choose to do so.
12. Courthouse, West L.A., CA
Perhaps the most iconic skate spot in the US and recently featured in the movie Mid 90s. It’s where street skating was defined and refined and was featured in many iconic skate videos.
Obviously the Courthouse was never meant to be a skate spot and despite increased security, the spot only became more popular over the years. I wouldn’t say it’s a skatepark but because of its history, it deserves to be on this list.
The Courthouse closed in 2013 and was about to be bulldozed until the local community stepped in (including Eric Koston). Nike made a deal with the city and took over the park, preserving a bit of skateboarding history.
13. Venice Beach Skatepark, CA
Last, but certainly not least, we head back to the West Coast for one of the most iconically beautiful skateparks, given its location only a few steps away from the California coastline.
Venice Beach Skatepark is a widespread street course, just big enough at 16,000 square feet, and a perfect spot to spend your midday hours after mornings in the water.
There are two bowls, a snake run, and a street course — all overlooking the water. It’s also the former home of both Jay Adams and Tony Alva — both influential in their own right, inspiring free-form surf-style skating.
The park is free and open from 9:00 am to sunset daily, weather permitting, and protective gear is required.
A Little History Skatepark History
So that’s the list, how about a little bit of skatepark history? It’ll help you understand why particular parks made the list, including the first-ever skatepark in America and how the sport came to be what it is today.
Skateboarding likely originated between the early 1950s and 1960s, though there’s a bit of controversy over where exactly the art of skateboarding was born.
Some say it was a group of genius kids who decided a simple 2×4 with wheels was a lot faster than a scooter and, so, got rid of the handlebars in favor of the simplicity of a board alone.
Others say a bit later — by the early 1960s — with California surfers looking for another way to ride a few waves of adrenaline when the ocean wasn’t quite as cooperative. Either way, the idea of sidewalk surfing drew in quite a few participants, and the aptly named street riding sport, “sidewalk surfer” entered the common lingo.
There’s ultimately no real way to know for certain who exactly created the first skateboard as we know it today, though it seems a few people shared a similar idea around the same time, so we’ll have to give homage to an instinctive drive for a good ride — whether on waves or wheels.
The first boards were born from wooden boxes with roller skate wheels — not exactly the safest idea. A lot of riders got hurt pretty quickly, initiating a change from boxes to the first manufactured boards created with wooden planks by a Chicago roller skate company.
Ultimately, this change resulted in the pressed layers of wood that have become today’s skateboard decks. With a new, more functional design, sidewalk surfing grew in popularity. By 1965, the world’s first skatepark opened to the public — Surf City in Tucson, Arizona.
By the 1970s, skateparks were popping up all over, but with them came liability lawsuits and rising insurance premiums, forcing many to close. By 1980, only a few remained, and skaters took their sport to the streets.
Still, skaters of all ages have long been a resilient crowd, and while the 90s saw skateboarding as a bit of an edgier pastime, its popularity continued to grow despite the ebbs and flows throughout the decade.
Skateboarders built structures in their backyards and claimed areas that were underdeveloped, vacant, or otherwise unoccupied. They organized and made names for themselves, founding companies that still exist today.
Most people now understand that skateparks are in no way places where the bad seeds of town gather — the opposite is true. The value in skateparks lives, in part, in the positive impact they have on youth and the surrounding community.
Public skateparks continue to explode across the country, most of which are designed by skaters and for skaters. So, when we consider the best parks in the US, there’s a solid driving history behind their existence, which leads us to begin our list of the best in America with the very first.
Surf City Skatepark in Tucson, AZ, opened on Labor Day weekend in 1965. There was a full ad taken out in a local newspaper with a headline that read, “World’s First Championship Skateboard Course.”
On the same page, you would have seen “Back to School” ads alongside Labor Day sales for a $9.99 tape recorder, a portable TV for a mere $89.99, and even a 50￠ dictionary.
The event featured Pat McGee, Life Cover Girl and the Women’s National Champion Skateboarder winner in 1964. There were free prizes and a one-dollar admission fee to skate as long as you’d like. If you wanted only to watch, you’d only need to grab a quarter to get in.
Tucson quite literally paved the way for some of the best skateparks throughout the US. Next, we’ll find out which are the best today, and where to go to find them.
While this list certainly isn’t exhaustive, there are so many great parks to skate throughout the US and it’s a good place to start. Remember, this list isn’t necessarily in any particular order with the exception of Burnside being collectively agreed upon as one of the top places in the country, if not the world.
I’m sure there are some to add to your bucket list, the tough part is deciding where to go first. Pick one and then find out for yourself why it is one of the best in the US.
Featured photo credits go to Shot by Curt