Having the perfect picnic is still on your summer bucket list. Letting your wee ones burn off energy is always on the agenda. From east to west, and offering up tons of room to play, we’ve rounded up 15 sweet spots to throw down the basket. From rolling hills, hidden playgrounds, beaches and beyond, we promise your little crew will be so busy working up an appetite, you’ll finally have a chance to finish your own meal.
Photo: Lori Belloir via Flickr
Livingston Park – Manchester, Nh
There’s something for everyone at this scenic spot. They’ll fly kites and play frisbee on the large lawn while you spread out, and they’ll enjoy swing time at two playgrounds—one for the littles and one for the bigs—while you polish off your own sandwich. Need to cool off? A brand new outdoor pool just opened in Livingston Park, complete with water features and a slide. Finish your day with a visit to Dorrs Pond right next door; there’s an easy nature trail and several fishing spots.
Picnic Tip: Don’t forget to be on the lookout for wildlife for an impromptu nature lesson.
Manchester, NH 03104
Photo: cisc1970 via Flickr
Brooklyn Bridge Park – Brooklyn, Ny
Choose your own adventure at this waterfront park. Opt for amazing views at Picnic Grove, a blanket-worthy lawn at Empire Fulton Ferry (take a spin on Jane’s carousel, too), or get fancy with hibachi grills at Picnic Peninsula at Pier 5. If it’s playgrounds you seek, Pier 6 has the splashy fun Water Lab, the twists and turns of Slide Mountain, the Tarzan-like thrills of Swing Valley, and the HUGE Sandbox Village. There’s a nautical-themed playground at Main Street and Pier 1 has a playground designed especially for tots. Try to beat the kids at hopscotch and four square at Pier 2 or hit up the beach and explore tide pools at Pier 4.
Picnic Tip: Save room for dessert at Ample Hills Creamery!
Brooklyn Bridge Park
334 Furman St.,
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Photo: Heather W. via Yelp
Gravelly Point Park – Arlington, Va
Don your aviator glasses. Put your tray tables in the upright position. If you like a little plane-spotting with your picnic, Gravelly Point Park is for you. Next door to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, planes land and take off every few minutes— and fly super low overhead. Watch huge airliners make sharp turns as they come in (to avoid flying in restricted airspace, like over the White House, there will be pretty cool maneuvers). Located on the banks of the Potomac River, there’s lots of green space to enjoy your picnic and be sure to bring a set of wheels to enjoy the Northern Virginia Bike Path.
Picnic Tip: If you like a little less aviation fuel with your picnic, check out other sweet D.C. spots here.
Gravelly Point Park
George Washington Memorial Pkwy.
Arlington, Va 22202
Photo: Barbthebuilder via Wikipedia
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park – Tampa, Fl
The playgrounds at this park are just right for chilling out on a hot Florida day, with plenty of fountains for splashing and a mister to cool down your littles. Located on the banks of the Hillsborough River and next door to the Glazer Children’s Museum, it’s the perfect spot for picnicking. Relax on the Great Lawn and watch the boats cruise by, then stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk and explore.
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
600 N Ashley Dr.
Tampa, Fl 33602
Photo: Addy C. via Yelp
Morgan Falls Overlook Park – Sandy Springs, Ga
A shady spot is just what you need for a picnic in the Atlanta area. With a super-huge playground, complete with rock-climbing wall and large spider web, all under shade awnings, your picnic partners can play and keep cool! Relax on wooden bench swings overlooking the Chattahoochee River. Enjoy the park’s spectacular scenery by taking the forested trail (just under a mile) that winds along the bluff. It’s just enough for little hikers and offers gorgeous views of the park, river and waterfall. Cool off down on the river, rent paddle boards, kayaks and canoes, or try a spot of fishing.
For more inspiration, check out our round up of Atlanta’s Best Parks and Playgrounds.
Picnic Tip: Be sure to visit The Old Chimney— a historic stacked-stone chimney uncovered when the park was built.
Morgan Falls Overlook Park
200 Morgan Falls Rd.
Sandy Springs, Ga 30350
Photo: Wesley S. via Yelp
Winnemac Park – Chicago, Il
You’ll forget you’re in the middle of America’s third largest city when you’re picnicking in Winnemac Park. There’s plenty of room to spread out and enjoy your outdoor feast. Little picnickers can explore the butterfly garden and scenic prairie garden, then take a hike or bike along the many different trails— it’s a blast to see where they all lead. There’s a cool tot play area and a wonderful accessible playground all kids can enjoy.
Picnic Tip: Don’t forget to check out our picks for Chicago Playgrounds with Awesome Picnic Areas
5001 N Leavitt St.
Chicago, Il 60625
Photo: Jillberg via flickr
Minnehaha Falls Regional Park – Minneapolis, Mn
A waterfall in the middle of a city? Minnehaha Falls is a must-see for folks visiting Minneapolis, and a great place to picnic. Find a spot at a picnic table or relax on the grass. There are walking paths, a bike trail (bike rentals available), and a disc golf course. Below Minnehaha Falls, follow the creek down to the Mississippi River. Take the footbridge across, and you and the kids can wade in the shallow water.
Picinic Tip: Train buffs will get a kick out of the Minnehaha Depot. Built in 1875, on summer Sundays guests can go inside and view exhibits about early railroad history with volunteers from the Minnesota Transportation Museum.
Minnehaha Falls Regional Park
4801 S. Minnehaha Park Dr.
Minneapolis, Mn 55417
Photo: Gabby Cullen
The Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden – Dallas, Tx
There are plenty of places to picnic inside the Dallas Arboretum but the Children’s Garden takes the cake. It’s eight acres of wild, wonderful fun, and connects kids with nature in amazing ways. Before or after you spread your blanket and basket down, take a stroll through the treetops on the Texas Skywalk, touch and feel plants in the Plant Petting Zoo or paddle in Turtle Creek. Relax under a pergola or arbor with cooling misters overhead.
Picnic Tip: The vast lawns and gorgeous botanics of the Arboretum are only a short walk away from the Children’s Garden entrance.
Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden at the Dallas Arboretum
8525 Garland Rd.
Dallas, Tx 75218
Photo: JeffCo Colorado via Flickr
Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve Park – Golden, Co
Imagine outdoor dining with deer and elk as your companions. The Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve Park is a beautiful setting to enjoy eats and learn about nature. There are interactive kids’ activities inside the Center and easy forest and meadow loop nature trails for little trekkers. Family nature programs like “Preschool Nature Nuts,” “Backyard Astronomy” and “Night of the Skulls Campfire” abound.
Picnic Tip: You’ll want to take the scenic route before nosh— do it along Lookout Mountain Road.
Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve Park
910 Colorow Rd.
Golden, Co 80401
Photo: David L. via Yelp
Encanto Park, Phoenix, Arizona
Another stellar city park, Encanto Park is an oasis in the Sonoran Desert. Take a paddle boat or canoe out on the lagoon, have a splash in the swimming pool, practice for future U.S. Opens on the two golf courses. Hit the rides at Enchanted Island Amusement Park (for kids 2-10), and get really sticky with cotton candy (after your picnic of course).
Picnic Tip: Enchanted Island hours vary depending on the time of year. Check their website for up-to-date info.
2605 N. 15th Ave.
Phoenix, Az 85007
Photo: Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce
Fletcher Cove Park – Solana Beach, Ca
For a seaside picnic with a stunning view, take the kiddos to Fletcher Cove Park. Surrounded by palm trees, this park is beautiful at any time of day, but it’s an especially great spot to watch the sunset. There are picnic tables and a large grassy area, or you can head down to the beach. There’s a cool playground with mini climbing wall, slides and swings, and good spots for grownups to sit.
Want more SoCal beachside picnic-worthy parks? Check out our picks here.
Picnic Tip: If you don’t have time to pack a picnic, grab healthy treats from the Naked Cafe, just across the street.
Fletcher Cove Park
111 South Sierra Avenue
Solana Beach, Ca 92075
Photo: Meghan Rose
Will Rogers State Historic Park – Pacific Palisades, Ca
This beautiful estate was once the home of cowboy star Will “The Cherokee Kid” Rogers. With a large grassy space and great views of downtown, it’s just right for dining al fresco. Take the .3 mile Rustic Canyon trail leading to a stream that’s great for paddling. There are special children’s tours of the ranch house and stables, and you can take a self-guided tour of the park.
Picnic Tip: When there are no polo matches on, take your kite to the Will Rogers Polo Field— it’s one of the best kite flying spots in L.A!
Will Rogers State Historic Park
1501 Will Rogers State Park Rd.
Pacific Palisades, Ca 90272
Photo: Wendy F. via Yelp
Tilden Regional Park – Berkeley Hills, Ca
With over 2,000 acres to explore, a picnic by the shores of Lake Anza, followed by a swim, and a ride on a miniature steam train are only a few reasons why Tilden Park is a favorite getaway for Bay Area residents and visitors. Take a stroll through the botanic garden, ride the antique carousel, or visit the Tilden Nature Center and Little Farm. If your family likes to hike, there are many trails around the park— the loop trail around Lake Anza is a family fave.
Picnic Tip: Get the insider deets from our guide to Tilden Park here.
Tilden Regional Park
2501 Grizzly Peak Blvd.
Orinda, Ca 94563
Photo: Nikki McLeod via Flickr
Rose Garden Children’s Park – Portland, Or
It’s inside Portland’s huge Washington City Park, which includes Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum and Portland Japanese Garden and this playground has all sorts of features to keep the kids busy; from swings and slides to ramps and tunnels. It’s also fully accessible, so everyone can play! After the kiddos have climbed and swung to their hearts’ content, you can enjoy your picnic in one of several spots.
Be sure to explore more of Portland’s Washington Park by checking out our guide here.
Picnic Tip: The Washington Park & Zoo Railway is not currently running to the Rose Garden as repairs are being made to the line. You can still ride the train around the zoo though!
Rose Garden Children’s Park
Washington City Park
1715 S.W. Skyline Blvd.
Portland, Or 97221
Photo: Helen Walker Green
Alki Beach Park – Seattle, Wa
Seattle’s Alki Beach has tons for families to do: beachcombing, building sand castles, exploring very low tides. Bring your picnic basket down to the lawn and tables, sit on the seawall, or find a place to perch on a driftwood log. Work off the treats with a cruise along the bike path. Bring your own wheels or rent (surreys, choppers, fat-tired bikes, in-line skates, longboards and more), or take a kayak, canoe or paddle boards out for a cruise on the water. The super Whale Tail playground is just a block south of the beach; kids love to climb on the whale tail sculpture, slide down twin slides (look for the little one for tots), and pilot a pretend fishing boat. Finish off the day watching ferries criss-cross Puget Sound as the sun sets over the Olympic Mountains.
For more picnic spots in the Emerald City, check out our favorite spots to spread out here.
Picnic Tip: If you don’t have time to pack a picnic, stop at one of the many beachside eateries and get it to go. Spud and Sunfish are favorites for fish n’ chips. There’s also American faire, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese and more.
Alki Beach Park
1702 Alki Ave. S.W.
Seattle, Wa 98116
What’s your favorite spot to picnic and play? Tell us in the Comments below!
— Helen Walker Green