10 Great Getaways Within The World's Busiest Cities

06/07/2014 08:00 am ET | Updated Jun 07, 2014

Cities have everything -- great people, great food, great public transportation -- the list goes on and on. But sometimes they don't have the one thing that everyone wants, which is typically a little slice of nature. So we've located a few places within some of the world's busiest cities, where in just a few steps you feel a whole world away.

1. New York City, New York
chelsea highline
Population: Roughly 8.4 million

Escape: Chelsea High Line

While New York City is known as an urban jungle all in itself, this little slice of green is available for those who just want to see a bit more green and a little less people. Even though Central Park is an obvious choice for little getaways, it's okay to prefer a walk along the High Line to a more massive park.

2. Venice, Italy
pellestrina
Population: About 270,000

Escape: Pellestrina

Even though Venice is a fairly small city, it still gets busy come tourist season (which appears to be almost year round). So when the crowds become too much, we suggest heading to Pellestrinia, a fisherman's town just across the way. After a day of swimming at the spacious beach, book a table at Da Celeste, one of Venice's best seafood restaurants.

3. London, England
kensington gardens
Population: Roughly 8.2 million

Escape: Secret (and not-so-secret) gardens

Why anyone would want to "get out of London" is baffling to us, there are places where peace and quiet (usually) trump noisy American tourists searching for Big Ben. While strolling through Kensington Gardens can be a hit or miss with tourists, we suggest hiding out in one of these beautiful secret gardens (that you might have to break in to).

4. Mumbai, India
mumbai
Population: Roughly 13 million

Escape: Sanjay Gandhi National Park

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a favorite city escape for Mumbaikars, and a new program at the park provides the perfect weekend escape for those who want to just sit back, stargaze, and interact with nature without leaving the city.

5. Chicago, Illinois
oak street beach chicago
Population: About 2.7 million

Escape: Oak Street Beach

One look at the picture and you're more inclined to think "Miami" than "beaches of Chicago." Indeed, this is the Windy City, and Oak Street Beach is the perfect break for anyone looking to play some beach volleyball while temps skyrocket. Alcohol rules are conservative, but sunscreen should be applied liberally.

6. Barcelona, Spain

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Population: Roughly 1.6 million

Escape: Parc de la Ciutadella

If you think your city escape has everything, then you probably haven't been to Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona. With museums, a zoo, summer music festivals, beautiful fountains and a small lake, you may never venture back out into the city again.

7. Brisbane, Australia
south bank parklands brisbane australia
Population: A little over 2 million

Escape: Streets Beach, South Bank Parklands

Even though Australia has plenty of beaches, within the city of Brisbane, residents decided to build their own and call it "Streets Beach." Because Brisbane has weather that most cities only dream of, the beach is open year round and always has lifeguards on duty. Quick swim over lunch? Sounds like the perfect city escape to us.

8. Bangkok, Thailand
bangkok treehouse
Population: About 8 million

Escape: Bangkok Tree House

Bangkok can get pretty busy, but there's one way to ensure that you're looking down on the crowds instead of being caught in them. Instead of staying at a regular hotel, try out a treehouse! The Tree House is an eco-friendly way to stay sane, as the only noise you'll be hearing are the singing cicadas among the mangrove palms.

9. San Francisco, California

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Population: About 837,000

Escape: Golden Gate Park

You'll forget about the tourists crowding Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf just as soon as you step into Golden Gate Park. While it's no secret that the park caters to over 13 million visitors a year, you'll be able to drum up your own sort of peace and quiet standing among the waterfalls, gardens, lakes and trails that make up the park.

10. Hong Kong, China
golden beach hong kong
Population: Roughly 7 million

Escape: Golden Beach

Sure, there might be a some smog overhead, but you'll be able to breathe a little easier once you can relax on Hong Kong's Golden Beach. Built in the Tuen Mun district, it's the only beach in the area with a volleyball court. Just be sure to pack both your sunscreen and your A-game the next time you head down.

  • Holi Remixes!
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    If there's any place that knows how to welcome spring, it's India. The country's celebration of Holi, or Festival of Lights, is unrivaled and, unfortunately, already over. But there are plenty of other Holi imitators that don't require a trip across the Atlantic. For example: New York City's Holi Festival of Colors.

    If you like colour and music, then head to the Big Apple for beats, coloured powder, and the opportunity to mix both together with swarms of people you've probably never met — just like the real Holi. Last year's event took place in East Flatbush, Brooklyn but this year's venue has yet to be announced. A date has been set, though, so mark May 3 on your calendars if this sounds like your thing.
  • Colour Me Impressed!
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    If you want to keep things in Canada, a trip to the Butchart Gardens might just fit the bill. Located on Victoria, B.C., the garden is open year round — but it's during spring when roughly 300,000 bulbs start to blossom. The result? Instant amnesia to help you forget about your winter woes. Fans of flora can check out all sorts of flowers like daffodils, magnolias, and tulips during the spring. Things kick off somewhere between mid-March and May, and flowers are at their colour and fragrance heights from around mid-April to the first week of May. So come for the slights but stay for the smell!
  • Speaking Of Victoria...
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    Niagara Falls might be the go-to waterfall for Canadians, but those looking for something different should make the trek to Victoria Falls in Zambia. March and April fall near the end of the country's rainy season, and after heavy rainfall from January and February, the river feeding into the falls swells up in size and causes the falls to furiously pump water. The result is a spectacular show that attracts plenty of colourful wildlife. Birds tend to migrate during this time while land mammals like impala, wildebeests, and buffalo start to mate.
  • Flower Power
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    Tulip lovers will want to consider the Netherlands for a more European flower fix. The region is home to stunning collections of crocuses, along with daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips from late March to the end of May. If tulips are your thing, then the Keukenhof estate is where you'll want to go. The garden is home to roughly seven million bulbs. Official tours start on April 5 and even include some one-on-one time with expert gardeners for travellers wanting to grow their own green thumb.
  • "The City Of Eternal Spring"
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    Nicknamed "The City of Eternal Spring," the city of Kunming, China certainly has a lot to live up to. The name stems from the southwest Chinese region's mild climate and allows the area's flowers to bloom year-round. The area is something of a cultural gem thanks to 2,400 years of history, dating back to its time as the gateway of the Silk Road. Today it's positioned as a commercial centre for tourists and boats some scenic sights like Grand View Park and the Stone Forest.
  • The Cherry On Top
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    If the Netherlands is too far, consider making a trip to Washington, D.C. "House of Cards fans" can take in the sights from the political drama while everyone else can soak in the springtime beauty of the Washington Cherry Blossom Festival. Starting on the first day of spring and running until April 13, the festival touts itself as America's "greatest springtime celebration." The event bills itself as a family-friendly event with live performances, art, and plenty of pretty cherry blossoms.
  • Water, Water, Everywhere
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    If the long winter has you in the mood to get wet, make your way to Chang Mai, Thailand on April 13 for the annual Songkran Water Festival. At first glance, Songkran looks like a giant water gun fight. Kids, adults, locals, and tourists spend the day soaked to the bone and making sure there's not a dry spot in sight. It's one of Thailand's biggest national holidays, so naturally, nothing is held back.

    Traditionally, it's a time to celebrate the passing of the solar calendar and for families to pay respect to their elders. How this translates to drive-by watergun shootings, no one is quite sure. But what is for sure are the brightly coloured floats, costumes, and water guns that can be spotted left, right, and centre.

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