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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Sunday in the Park With St. George's City

The revanchist Russian winter may still be sending its last blasts our way, but spring is here, and as the weather warms, Moscow's parks and leisure spots begin to beckon with the promise of fresh air.


From zoos to cruises, from roller coasters to forest paths, the city offers a wealth of cheap ways to shake off the winter cobwebs and enjoy the fruits of the season. Here are a few of the most popular and pleasing venues.


Gorky Park (Nearest metro: Park Kultury or Oktyabrskaya.) This is probably the most popular recreation spot for Muscovites, with more modern facilities than you find at most other parks. The entrance fees are 8,000 rubles ($1.65) for adults, 5,000 rubles for children.


The park -- officially "The Central Park of Culture and Rest in the Name of A.M. Gorky" -- was opened by Lenin himself in October 1923, and with its picturesque location on the banks of Moskva River it has remained a magnet for city dwellers.


It is often uncomfortably crammed with visitors in the summer, but in early spring it is still possible to have some quiet moments or find room on a river cruise -- 25,000 rubles and higher for a leisurely 5-kilometer journey.


But if you prefer wilder water, try the "Canadian," a Niagara Falls-type ride that shoots you up and down steep watery slopes before finally depositing you, soaked and shaken, on dry land again.


You can also take to the sky in "The Flying Machine." The view of the city skyline is fantastic, but first-time riders may find this lofty progress a bit daunting. One ride costs 35,000 rubles. The park offers a variety of other amusement park rides and arcade games, plus a disco that closes at the perhaps too seemly hour of 9 p.m., and stages that feature everything from punk rock shows to poetry readings to learned lectures on science and history.


Sokolniki Park (Nearest metro: Sokolniki.) Sokolniki Park is a bit cheaper than Gorky Park, a bit quieter, but despite its large area, has little in the way of modern facilities. Still, it offers ample opportunity for pleasant walks, and there is an abundance of sports facilities available.


Bitsa Park (Nearest metro:Kaluzhskaya.) Strictly speaking, Bitsa is not a park but a forest. Its calm woods draw large crowds, particularly on weekends, but there is ample space to carve out a private path.


In Bitsa Park you'll find plenty of benches dispersed strategically amid the corridors of birch. Mind the paths, however: In early spring, they're still treacherous from melting snow.


Ismailovsky Park (Nearest metro: Ismailovsky or Ismailovsky Park) The vast grounds of this park encompass everything from recreation areas to the famed bazaar (and tourist trap) to the royal estate where Peter the Great first learned to sail. There is also an expanse of woodlands in this largest tract of undeveloped land in the immediate Moscow area.


Sparrow Hills (Nearest metro: Universitet.) Sparrow Hills, still perhaps best known by their communist-era name, Leninsky Gori, or Lenin Hills, are the highest geographical point in the city, and can easily be reached on foot from the metro with a half-kilometer walk through the interlaced gravel roads of the Moscow State University campus.


This is an excursion for a view, not solitude, however. Expect to be greeted atop the fabled heights -- immortalized by Pasternak's poem "Sparrow Hills" -- by cheerful peddlers hawking T-shirts, badges, jewelry, necklaces and, of course, matryoskha dolls.


From here you command a view of the Luzhniki sports stadium, the White House, the glowering spires of the Stalin buildings and other city landmarks. If you come on a weekend, you'll probably find yourself in the middle of one of the many wedding parties that assemble for ceremonies at Sparrow Hills' picturesque church.


Kuskovo (Nearest metro: Ryzansky Prospekt.) Somewhat off the beaten path, the former estate of County Pytor Sheremetyev now provides one of the more pleasant outings in the Moscow area.


The wooden 18th century mansion overlooks a large artificial lake, constructed so the count could stage mock sea battles. The southern part of the estate consists of a large park -- more impressive corridors of birch -- with many features still left from the Sheremetyev's elaborately formal grounds: an open-air theater where the count's troupe of theater serfs once performed; a Dutch house; an Italian villa; an Orangery with an exhibition of antique ceramics; and the customary church with bell tower.


Take buses No. 208 or 133 from the metro to Yunosti Ulitisa to reach the estate. And don't be daunted by the formal structure; there is still plenty of space for a private communion with nature. And the earlier you go, the better; in summer, it's swarming with people -- and mosquitos.