Baltimore is a big place and it offers a wide variety of parks. But selecting a park by trial and error is no way to approach your outdoor fun. You have limited time to enjoy your summer freedom, and a disappointing park can be a real let-down. That’s why we have weeded through the choices and offer these five suggestions.

Patterson Park
Friends of Patterson Park
27 S. Patterson Park Ave.
Baltimore, Md. 21231
(410) 276-3676

Patterson Park is the pride of Baltimore, having been named Baltimore Magazine’s “Best Park in Baltimore” for several years, most recently in 2013. What makes Patterson Park so great? Firstly, it is one of the few parks right inside Baltimore City, meaning urban residents have somewhere local and convenient to relax, take a run or a hike or enjoy some recreational activities. Activities include its monthly youth soccer game, regular basketball games, outdoor pool, dog park, outdoor tennis court or climbing its scenic and beautiful pagoda. Patterson Park has something for everyone, be they sports fans, exercise enthusiasts or nature buffs.

Banneker Museum and Park
300 Oella Ave.
Catonsville, Md. 21228
(410) 887-1081

Baltimore resident Benjamin Banneker is called the “first African-American man of science,” having been a self-taught scientist, surveyor, almanac author and farmer in the late 18th and early 19th century. At a time in American history that was so brutal for African-Americans, his accomplishments are noteworthy to say the least, and he is a testament to the pride of Baltimore. Appropriately, Banneker Museum and Park celebrates the life of this extraordinary man with a museum and gallery containing a few of the works and legacy of Banneker. Visitors may also enjoy the beautiful patio garden or hike some of the extensive nature trails in this 138-acre park. Or participate in some of the regular special events such as the park’s annual Colonial Market Fair. Exploring Baltimore’s history in local parks is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone with Baltimore pride, and Banneker is a largely unsung hero well worth investigating.

credit: Marshy Point Nature Center Facebook page

credit: Marshy Point Nature Center Facebook page

Marshy Point Nature Center
7130 Marshy Point Road
Middle River, Md. 21220
(410) 887-2817

Marshy Point Nature Center is more than 490 acres of an ecologist’s dream come true. Equal parts woodlands and wetlands, Marshy Point is teeming with some of the best examples of Maryland wildlife, including some of Maryland’s rare and beautiful migratory waterfowl. Whether you’re a bird-watcher, a trail hiker or just an all-around nature lover, you won’t be able to find a better spot in Baltimore County to practice your art. Want to learn more about the local nature? Marshy Point offers audio-visual presentations, an exhibit hall, a wide variety of nature classes in its classrooms, plus guided hikes and canoe trips. Make a day of it, but be sure you pack a lunch so you can enjoy it at the outdoor patios with picnic tables. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, call ahead or visit the website to include yourself in any of the exciting nature activities.

Related: Best Parks for Kids in Baltimore

Robert E.Lee Park

Credit: WJZ

Robert E. Lee Park
Robert E. Lee Memorial Park
Towson, Md. 21209
(410) 887-4156

Robert E. Lee Park is arguably the most versatile park in Maryland. Surrounding Lake Roland, Robert E. Lee Park includes terrain ranging from woodland to wetlands and from serpentine barrens to rocky plateaus. Perfect for the lovers of wildlife, the park includes a wide variety of species, including rare birds, frogs, rodents and a variety of exotic plant life only found in the serpentine barrens. The park also offers its own variety of guided nature programs. For the outdoorsman, come for the miles of hiking trails, canoeing or kayaking. Be sure to visit the dam while you’re there. For a relaxing day, bring your dog to the dog park and enjoy a lunch at the pavilion. However you like to spend your time outdoors, Robert E. Lee Park has an option that fits.

Rocky Point Park
2200 Rocky Point Road
Essex, Md. 21221
(410) 887-2818

Enjoy the water? If so, Rocky Point Park may be worthy of your consideration. This park sits at the mouth of the Back and Middle Rivers, and offers the visitor a breathtaking view of the Chesapeake Bay, Hart-Miller Island and Craig Hill Light. Come for the fishing, sailing, boating, canoeing, kayaking or swimming. Don’t know how to sail? The park offers classes to get you started at the Baltimore County Sailing Center, located right on-site. For a more relaxing experience, come and swim at the 300-foot beach, featuring its own beachfront tent. Or lounge in one of the two pavilions or seven shaded picnic groves. For summer fun, the Rocky Point Park is a must.

Related: Ask A Baltimore Guide: Tips For Your Next Campout

Joel Furches is a freelance writer and researcher for The Examiner and Logos Software, and also manages his own catalog of writing on Hub Pages. Joel is on the board of directors for Ratio Christi. He has a bachelors in Psychology and a Masters in Education.