Lieshi (Martyrs) Park
Lieshi park is Changsha's biggest, boasting two large lakes, an array of boating hire facilities, a funfair, an ethnic village zone (which inside has a hill top barbecue area) and various other attractions and exhibitions.
At the West Gate of the park is Hunan Museum which has a collection of more than 180,000 items and the famous Mawangdui 'mummy' dating from around 206BCE-9CE. The museum is currently closed for renovation and may open in 2015.
Orange Island, so called because Changsha produces a plentiful supply of oranges (some green, not so orange!), sits as a perfectly long strip of land in the XiangJiang (river). The XiangJiang is said to be protected by two Goddesses who committed suicide in the river following the death of their mystical husband/ruler (shun).
These events aside, the Island is now connected with a subway station, of the same name (JuZiZhou) and has temple complex at the closer northern end and a huge Chairman Mao statue/bust at the far southern end. The island is mainly used as a place to stroll, take photos along the southern section, which has an array of pagodas and garden zones and other chill out activities.
You may need to take some water if you plan to visit the bust in summer as shops are scarce but there is an island cart service.
The island is also host to some major music concerts throughout the year, most notably the Orange Island music festival (Sept).
City riverside promenade
On the East side of the river, a lengthy path takes one from the southern end of Changsha to Kaifu district in the north. The path, with sculptures, small pagodas, locals dancing, temple structures and a variety of buskers and street performers is a great experience.
In summer time, every Saturday night at either 8 or 8:30pm (varies) thousands line the riverside to take in spectacular fireworks, set off from Orange Island (opposite), which are mostly produced in the nearby town of Liuyang (home of the firework). Locals also light and send off paper lanterns and engage in other social, pleasant activities.
There is a wider, and more spacious path that runs along the West side of the river too, although with far less active flare but an equally good vantage point for the firework displays.
Liuyang River promenade
It is mainly used by joggers and cyclists and some street markets are found along the route. The Dragon Boat Racing teams tend to practice along this river ahead of Dragon Boat Racing Day.
Yuelu Mountain overlooks the city and is a favourite walking and exercise place for the locals. Changsharen sometimes walk to the top, allow for at least 30 minutes, take photos of the city below and explore some of the paths and lakes that litter the mountain side.
Entrance is free and there are some amusements at the top including a temple and cable car facility. This is a great way to cool down in those humid summer months.
Tianxin Temple & Park
This landmark temple is quite small but centrally located and easy to find. The park is mid way between Waking Street and Helong Stadium (5 minutes in each direction).
Tianxin has a special place in the hearts of the locals.
Moon lake park area is located in the northern part of the city, not too far from the well-known Window of the World theme park and Hunan TV Studios. It mainly consist of a large lake with surrounding pathways. There are some elegant bars and restaurants that overlook the lake, otherwise there is not much else to do there except escape Changsha's more crowded parks.
meixi lake area
It is also close to the riverside and hosts an impressive Chinese New Year lantern festival around Spring Festival time.
This park has a collection of fauna from around the world, much of them signed with latin titles, and is dotted with quaint, mini pagodas, ponds and other photogenic structures. In spring time, it becomes the city's must-visit park due to it's impressive cherry blossom fall, which litter the roads and paths that snake around the rectangular park and around it's lake area. The park, which is not free, has an electric car service and a recently completed barbecue zone at the far end. There is also a hotel/restaurant overlooking the boating lake. This is a calm, tranquil park (with golf range and zip wire ride) and quite relaxing.
To get to the park, get off any bus to South Bus Station one stop before if coming from the city centre along Shaoshan South Avenue (which most buses do) and then walk through the 'Hong Xing' warehouse area to the nearby park entrance. It's not visible from the avenue but just a 2 minute walk.