Parks and Recreation Trends for 2024

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What parks and recreation trends will define 2024?

Staying on top of the latest parks and recreation trends helps keep the public engaged and makes your agency more relevant. 

So, what’s on the horizon for this year? 

If the start of this decade has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. However, we feel a few trends will emerge or continue to be on the radar of several parks and recreation agencies in 2024. 

This article highlights some of the more popular recent trends--and potential ones--for parks and recreation agencies in the coming year.  

Pickleball Continues to Dominate

Pickleball continues to be one of the most popular recent offerings for parks and recreation agencies. Passionate picklers continue to fill gyms, pickleball courts, and renovated tennis courts, showing no signs of slowing down.

According to the 2023 APP Tour’s Pickleball Participation Report, there are 36.5 million pickleball players in the United States. It makes sense--the sport is easy to learn, accessible to most ages and ability levels, and doesn’t require expensive equipment. 

On average, 130 new pickleball locations are created each month. In 2024, you can expect more people to fill your pickleball courts--or ask you to make them. If you’re thinking about adding some pickleball courts to your parks, here are some things to consider before installing a pickleball court.  

You may also receive calls about pickleball noise. See our article about addressing such complaints

But will another sport surpass pickleball’s popularity in 2024? Here are some to keep on your radar. 


Padel is another racket sport gaining popularity in some parts of the country. This sport--roughly a cross between tennis, racquetball, and squash--gets played like tennis, but the ball can bounce off the walls surrounding the court. 

Padel was invented in Mexico in 1969, but it really took off once it was introduced in Spain. In fact, it’s one of Spain’s most popular sports. 

Like pickleball, it’s easy to learn and has longer rallies than tennis. It is also played as doubles, adding a social element. 

Padel uses an enclosed court that is smaller than a tennis court. Glass, mesh, or concrete walls form the enclosure. 

Currently, it’s estimated that Padel has over 100,000 U.S. players, and the number of courts has more than doubled in the last two years. 

Time will tell if Padel gives pickleball a run for its money as the fastest-growing sport in America.

New Olympic Sports 

The XXIII Olympiad will be held in Paris, France, this July. The Olympics attract millions of spectators and billions of television viewers worldwide.

Four new sports will be added to this year's Olympiad to set a new standard for inclusive, gender-balanced, and youth-centered games. The sports are closely associated with youth and reward creativity as well as athletic performance. 

New Olympic sports for 2024 include:

  • Sport climbing
  • Surfing
  • Skateboarding
  • Breaking (breakdancing)

Will adding these sports increase their widespread popularity and demand for facilities and programs that offer them? We will see as the games unfold. 


image of a park and recreation trend cricket sport

One other sport worth mentioning is Cricket. It’s the second most-watched sport in the world. Cricket was also one of the most popular sports in the US. Then, during the Civil War, baseball became the favored bat-and-ball sport.  

Cricket is played on a large grassy field. The field's shape and dimensions can vary, but there is typically a rectangular area in the middle for the batsmen. The object of the game is to score more runs than your opponent.

Today, areas of the country are experiencing increased popularity with the sport. Some popularity is due to immigrants from Southeast Asia who are passionate about the sport. Others are just looking for a different game or a new challenge.


Other Parks and Recreation Trends

Dog Parks

Like pickleball, dog parks are another recurring parks and recreation trend. The pandemic caused a surge in pet ownership. It’s estimated about 45 percent of families now own a dog.

Not every family has a large backyard for their dogs to run around. Many dog owners take advantage of local dog parks. The parks offer opportunities for pets to exercise while owners can socialize with other pet lovers.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the tech buzzword for 2023. As AI becomes even more versatile and advanced, parks and recreation agencies can use it to help with customer service, analyzing data, making decisions, and more. 

Parks and recreation agencies are also using tech creatively to interact with wider audiences. Virtual tours, interactive apps, and augmented reality help give visitors a new or different experience at sites.

For example, some parks or historical sites offer self-guided tours using smartphones or augmented reality glasses. Some playgrounds use technology to introduce interactive games and activities that encourage physical play and learning. 

Tech is also showing up in other areas--like mowers. Autonomous commercial lawnmowers may save on labor costs and allow maintenance staff to focus on other aspects of park and facility maintenance.

Finally, more parks and recreation agencies are taking advantage of computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) to help streamline their operations. CMMS can help with work order management, preventative maintenance plans, asset management, labor tracking, and more.  

Playground Trends

Common playground themes resurface in 2024. Playgrounds are no longer just a place to play--they are sustainable areas where everyone can play, learn, and explore nature. 

What many are seeking in new playgrounds:

  • Inclusivity: Individuals of all ability levels can enjoy.
  • Eco-Conscious: Using recycled materials and eco-friendly construction & maintenance. 
  • Incorporating Adventure and Nature Play: Using natural playground elements for sensory experiences and a deeper connection with nature.

Another trend in playgrounds is reflecting the unique identity of the community. Playgrounds infuse local culture, art, history, and other distinctive features to encourage community pride and spirit.  

Community Gardens

As the focus shifts to more environmentally friendly practices and better awareness about where food is sourced, some communities are developing or expanding community gardens.

Community gardens give more people the opportunity to grow their food. These gardens also help enhance community engagement, promote healthier eating, and reduce local food insecurities.

The Takeaway

We’re seeing some returning parks and recreation trends that are still going strong. But will new parks and recreation trends soon overshadow some of the pandemic’s emerging trends?

Technology and sustainability continue to be major themes in future planning and everyday operations. 

As technology evolves and the public’s interest shifts, it’s exciting to see what innovations parks professionals will create to roll with the changes.