Pack a picnic basket full of goodies that would make Yogi Bear drool, and head outside! Here are our favorite picnic spots—from sandy beaches to grassy parks—throughout the Bay Area. If you’d rather brown-bag it, we’ve included suggestions for grabbing provisions along the way. Don’t forget a picnic blanket, sunscreen and whatever else will make the day fun for the whole family.
Crissy Field, San Francisco
Breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge, a sandy beach, and a large grassy area splashed with picnic tables and grills make this San Francisco landmark one of the very best places for picnics ever. Be sure to bring a kite in case the wind picks up, and hats and SPF as there isn’t much shade.
Good eats nearby: The Warming Hut near the base of the bridge.
Where: 1199 East Beach, San Francisco, Ca
Mission Dolores Park, San Francisco
One of San Francisco’s most popular destinations for locals, Dolores Park is a perfect spot to drop a blanket and people watch. The spectacular view of the city is only matched by the festive atmosphere and gorgeous weather year round. A beautiful playground right at the top of the park will entertain kids for hours while you finish your treats in peace.
Good eats nearby: Dolores Park Café at Dolores and 18th. Also, Bi-Rite Market has everything a gourmet picnicker could want.
Where: Between Church, Dolores, 18th & 20th St., San Francisco, Ca
Ocean Beach, San Francisco
Nothing beats a beach picnic at sunset on a warm day. True, this particular beach is not usually the warmest, but the sunsets are killer. Kids will be occupied for hours, dogs are more than welcome and parents can relax, beer in hand, while their little ones build sand castles.
Good eats nearby: Java Beach Café or Other Avenues Food Store Co-op
Where: Great Highway, San Francisco. Ca. The Noriega St. entrance is easy and leveled.
Mother's Meadow, San Francisco
This stunning meadow is surrounded by trees and secluded from any wind. It also features a lovely playground and picnic tables. Families have plenty of space in the flat grassy area to play frisbee, soccer, or tag. After enjoying a snack, follow one of the paths located on the east or west sides to explore the beauty of Stow Lake.
Good eats nearby: Organic hotdogs at Underdog, and Que Huong Vietnamese Deli
Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and Crossover Dr., San Francisco, Ca
Lands End, San Francisco
Stunning views of the coastline and the Golden Gate Bridge, and a lot of history surround what many say is the best hike in San Francisco. Take the Lands End trail as far as you and your family can go, and lay a blanket down on one of the beaches below, or by the Sutro Baths ruins. Be sure to check out the visitor center and gift shop for books about the Sutro Baths and Cliff House.
Good eats nearby: Lands End Lookout Café, Bistro at the Cliff House and Beach Chalet
Where: 680 Point Lobos Ave. San Francisco, Ca
Tennessee Valley Beach, Marin
Tennessee Valley is an amazing offshoot of the Marin Headlands with spectacular hiking trails perfect for the whole family. The easiest trail begins at the parking area and travels 1.7 miles to Tennessee Beach where a perfect picnic spots awaits. In the springtime the green hills are splashed with wild flowers of every color of the rainbow.
Good eats nearby: Café del Soul or Dipsea Café in Mill Valley
Where: Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Mill Valley, Ca
The Cheese Factory, North Bay
Just 20 minutes from downtown Petaluma, Marin French Cheese Co. at historic Hicks Valley Ranch is an excellent picnic destination with several outdoor tables, grassy areas for blankets and a picturesque pond. The littles will love checking out the ducks and geese. Bring your frisbees or softballs for a game of catch—there’s lots of room in the fields. Cheese enthusiasts must visit the onsite retail shop to taste the locally-made brie, camembert and specialty “breakfast cheese.”
Good eats nearby: The Cheese Factory’s shop carries cheeses (of course), sandwiches, drinks and more, plus souvenirs and sundries.
Where: Marin French Cheese Co., 7500 Red Hill Rd., Petaluma, Ca
Tilden Nature Area, East Bay
Tilden Park is nestled in the hills above Berkeley. It offers many wonderful areas with picnic tables and beautiful spots to lay picnic blankets. Two handy spots for parents traveling with young kids are the benches located near the carousel and the spot near Indian Camp, where a tot lot is located. The steam train, merry-go-round and Little Farm are star attractions, making Tilden Nature Area a popular destination for families year round.
Good eats nearby: Grizzly Bar & Grill inside the golf course or Lake Anza’s beach house
Where: Central Park Dr., Berkeley, Ca
Del Valle Regional Park, Livermore
Boasting two swimming beaches and picnic tables with barbecue grills, this Livermore gem is a fantastic summertime destination. You can make advance reservations for a group picnic spot or just head on out and grab an available table. Better yet, spread your blanket on the beach near the water. Kids love splashing around and lifeguards are on duty, but a responsible adult still needs to supervise. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Rocky Ridge Visitor Center is open, featuring well-informed naturalists and neat-o exhibits. There is a $6 parking fee through the main entrance.
Good eats nearby: Lots of grocery options in Livermore like Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Lucky. Also check out Brew Hoo Cafe or Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich Shop.
Where: Del Valle Rd. Entrance, Livermore, Ca
San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, South Bay
Have a picnic and smell the roses at what is considered “America’s best rose garden” and one of the best picnic spots in the South Bay. Lay a blanket on the lush open grass field, walk through the endless rows of fragrant roses, play near the pergola and enjoy the sound of the water in the fountain.
Good eats nearby: Café Rosalena or Crema Coffee
Where: Naglee Ave. and Dana Ave., San Jose, Ca
San Mateo Central Park, Peninsula
Plenty of picnic tables and play spaces make this an idyllic spot to dine al fresco with the littles. Located in downtown San Mateo, Central Park includes a playground, tennis courts, lawns and a children’s train ride. Take a stroll around the Japanese Tea Garden and make stops at the granite pagoda, bamboo grove and tea house. The koi pond is home to several big, colorful fish. Be there at 11 a.m. or 3 p.m., which is when they get fed. Talk about a frenzy!
Good eats nearby: The Sandwich Spot and Hummus Mediterranean Kitchen, both on E. 4th St.
Where: 50 E. 5th St., San Mateo, Ca
Where are your favorite places to picnic? Share them in the comments section.
—Olivia Boler & Sonia Gandiaga