The city contains 1,800 acres (7.3 km2) of parkland spread throughout 79 parks and is managed by the Burnsville Parks Department which follows a Parks & Trails Master Plan. Only a third is developed and for recreation with the remainder preserved as natural habitat. Burnsville north border with the Minnesota River is within the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Crystal Lake is the city’s major recreation lake allowing boating, fishing, jet-skiing, and swimming. The Burnsville Skate Park is a free facility during summer hours. The Burnsville Ice Center has two large professional ice rinks.
The Burnsville Athletic Club is an all-volunteer youth sports league. It has an annual participation of nearly 1,300 players in the baseball leagues for grades K-12, 80–90 boys basketball teams in grades 3–12, and over 400 players in flag and tackle American football in grades 2–8. There are also traveling teams for boys’ and girls’ basketball, girls’ fast pitch softball, and 8th grade boys football, which play against similar teams from around the state at a higher competitive level. Other adult sports are provided through the city’s recreation department, other recreational organizations, and minor league groups.
The city of Burnsville is home to over 58 playgrounds and roughly 11 recreational lakes. The most heavily used of the lakes are Keller Lake, Crystal Lake, Kruse Lake, and Aligmanet Lake.
Burnsville’s “Heart of the City” project is a downtown development policy driven by smart growth. The redevelopment encompasses 54 acres (220,000 m2) centrally located in Burnsville, a few miles south of the Minnesota River.
The 1150 seat post-modern style Burnsville Performing Arts Center, now The Ames Performing Arts Center, opened in January 2009. Its approval in 2007 was controversial. Grande Market Square at Nicollet Avenue and Burnsville Parkway is the cornerstone of the Heart of the City project, and features a Doron Jensen-signature restaurant.