The third season of Parks and Recreation originally aired in the United States on the NBC television network between January 20 and May 19, 2011. Like the previous seasons, it focused on Leslie Knope and her staff at the parks and recreation department of the fictional Indiana town of Pawnee. The season featured 16 episodes, most of which were approximately 22 minutes long each and aired at 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays.
All of the members of the original cast returned for the third season except Paul Schneider, who previously played city planner Mark Brendanawicz. Rob Lowe and Adam Scott, who appeared as guest stars in the second season, began season three as regular cast members playing Chris Traeger and Ben Wyatt, respectively. The season also featured guest appearances by Megan Mullally, Will Forte and Parker Posey, among others.
To accommodate Amy Poehler's pregnancy, the first six episodes of the third season were filmed immediately after season two wrapped so they could be saved for a projected September 2010 air date. However, after the episodes were finished, NBC postponed the season premiere until January to accommodate their new series, Outsourced. The third season consisted of several major story arcs, including a complete shutdown of the Pawnee government for budgetary reasons, inspired by the real-life global financial crisis. Other storylines included the parks department's organization of a harvest festival, a romance between Leslie and Ben, and the dating and eventual marriage of Andy Dwyer and April Ludgate.
Leslie and the Parks Department return to work after three months to discover that the budget crisis still looms. After unsuccessfully trying to have their budget restored by using Ann to charm Chris with a date, Leslie decides to make an all or nothing play by resurrecting the Pawnee Harvest Festival. Meanwhile, Ben restarts the youth basketball league and instates Ron and Andy to coach the only two teams. April returns from a vacation with a new boyfriend.
While planning for the local Harvest Festival, Leslie is struck with the flu and is forced to go to the hospital. Ron and Andy have a day of male bonding, and Tom hits the spa.
Leslie wants to bury a time capsule that encapsulates life in Pawnee, but an odd suggestion from a local man causes unforeseen consequences. Andy seeks help from Chris about how to win back April.
Tom tries to get back at Ron by going out on a date with Ron's ex-wife Tammy, while Leslie tries to protect Ron from falling prey to her charms. Meanwhile, April is assigned to work with Chris.
While advertising for the Harvest Festival, Ben has to deal with some troubling questions about his past. Meanwhile, Andy continues to try to win April back.
Ron and Leslie take a road trip to the big city in order to visit Ron's favorite place which happens to be a steakhouse, but Leslie has alternative motives for the trip.
It's make it or break it for the Parks Department at the Harvest Festival which is full of surprises.
Leslie takes the whole department camping in order to brainstorm new ideas. Meanwhile, Andy attempts a romantic gesture for April, while Ann gets nervous when Chris returns to Pawnee as the new city manager.
April and Andy host a dinner party for the Parks Department. Meanwhile, Ann tries to move on from Chris at a singles' party.
Leslie tries an online dating service, but doesn't end up with a stranger as she expects. Also, Chris challenges Ron to a grilling competition as part of his plans to make Pawnee healthier.
Jerry’s contribution to Leslie’s community art show causes a stir. Ben moves in with April and Andy and attempts to teach them how to be adults. Meanwhile, Leslie is frustrated by Chris and his interoffice dating rules.
Leslie's ex-best friend, Lindsay Carlisle Shay, launches an attack on Pawnee, banning residents from visiting a nearby park in the neighboring city of Eagleton with a large fence, causing Leslie to go to war with Eagleton. Meanwhile, everyone finds out that it is Ron's birthday, a fact that he went to extreme lengths to conceal.
When Leslie tries to get Ann a job at city hall, her lukewarm reaction causes their first-ever fight. Tom invites the entire department to the Snakehole Lounge to help him promote his new alcohol, "Snake Juice."
When Chris sends Leslie and Ben on a trip to Indianapolis, Leslie is afraid she won't be able to deny her feelings for him. Ron teaches a young student about his views on government. Meanwhile, Andy gets his feelings hurt by April after playing Tom's new game.
Everyone in the office is unhappy when Chris decides to make some big changes in the parks department -- especially Tom who starts to question his career choices. Leslie is caught off guard when Ben has a meeting with her mom.