Parque Lenin

Outer Havana

Parque Lenin, in Arroyo Naranjo municipality, 20km south of central Havana, is the city's largest recreational area. Constructed between 1969 and 1972 on the orders of Celia Sánchez, a long-time associate of Fidel Castro's, it's one of the few developments in Havana from this era. The 670 hectares of parkland and beautiful old trees surround an artificial lake and provide a quintessential weekend escape for local families, who pile in with their picnics loaded up in old American cars.

Although the park itself is attractive enough, its mishmash of facilities has fallen on hard times since the 1990s. Taxi drivers complain it's muy abandonado and wax nostalgic about when 'Lenin' was an idyllic weekend getaway for scores of pleasure-seeking habaneros. These days, despite the weekend hordes, the park has a neglected and surreal air. Help has long been promised but tends to be sporadic and short-lived. An amusement park that reopened a decade ago with Chinese money is already showing signs of wear, and the park's emblematic steam train has no reliable schedule.

Most attractions are open 9am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday, and admission to the park itself is free. Horseback riding is perennially popular, but try to hire a mount from the Centro Ecuestre rather than the army of hustlers who hang around outside the park entrance and who often ride maltreated horses. For the most fun, join the Cubans who congregate around the park's cheap parrilladas (barbecues), sharing bottles of rum and dancing away their cares to the strains of salsa and/or reggaeton.

The P-13 bus will get you close to the park, but to catch it you'll have to first get to Vibora. The best way to do this is to get on the P-9 bus at Calles 23 and L in Vedado.

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