Though it isn't centrally located, La Sabana ("the savannah") comes the closest of San José's green spaces to achieving the same function and spirit as New York's Central Park. A statue of 1930s president León Cortes greets you at the principal entrance at the west end of Paseo Colón. Behind the statue, a 16-foot-tall menorah is illuminated each night during Hanukkah. La Sabana was once San José's airport, and the whitewashed Museo de Arte Costarricense, just south of the Cortes statue, served as its terminal and control tower.
The round Gimnasio Nacional (National Gymnasium) sits at the park's southeast corner and hosts sporting events and the occasional concert. The Estadio Nacional, a 40,000-seat stadium—a controversial gift from the government of China, which decided to use its own construction workers rather than employ locals—looms over the park's northwest corner. It hosts soccer matches primarily, but Paul McCartney, Elton John, Shakira, and Lady Gaga have all played
in the stadium. In between are acres of space for soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming, jogging, picnicking, and kite flying. The park hums with activity on weekend days. You're welcome to join in the early-morning outdoor aerobics classes on Saturday and Sunday. A years-long project is under way to replace many of the park's eucalyptus trees with more bird-friendly species native to Costa Rica. Unsavory characters populate the park at night. The stadium grounds are fine, but avoid walking through the rest of the park after the sun goes down.