Tel Aviv is blessed with lots of green spaces, from tree-lined boulevards to the sprawling Hayarkon Park in the north. If you fancy a break in the center of town, head to Gan Meir (“gan” being the Hebrew word for garden). This mini-oasis featuring towering trees, rock-lined paths and a water-lily pond is located between bustling King George St. and Tchernichovsky St.
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Gan Meir, named after Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv, opened in 1944. Though mere steps off the main road, this green getaway still manages to retain a sense of tranquility.
Gan Meir is a versatile space with multiple identities. In one corner, children scurry around playground equipment as parents look on. In the large swath of grass in the center, groups of friends lay picnic spreads on the many wooden tables. Next to them, one of the city’s most active dog parks offers a wide, enclosed space for our four-legged friends to flirt and play while their owners do the same.
On Friday afternoons, on the King George sidewalk at the entrance to the park, dogs in need of a home are on display to melt your heart. Many a local with no previous intention of adopting have walked away with a new family member happily wagging his tail.
You can flex your muscles while relaxing in the cool shade: Gan Meir also features a small outdoor gym for all to use, as a well as a small basketball court and modest football pitch. Ping-pong tables are available for those who bring their own ball and paddles.
The park is also home to the Tel Aviv lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community center, one of the only such centers in the world that is publically funded by the municipality. The center offers a variety of cultural and recreational programs (such as same-sex Israeli folk dancing), and provides support and health services.
The center is tucked behind a winding path and overgrown foliage that hides the impressive Bauhaus structure, designed in 1940 by Shmuel Mestechkin. The outdoor patio features a café to quench your hunger and thirst and is welcoming of all Gan Meir visitors.
Thanks to the LGBT center, each June Gan Meir gets to put forth its most festive personality as the launching grounds for the annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade. Decked out in rainbow flags, this is Gan Meir at its most glamorous. (With reporting by Brian Schaefer).