Pack your picnic basket full of kid-friendly snacks and head out to one of these Bay Area picnic spots that offer gorgeous views, grass for days and spots to enjoy an afternoon of relaxation. From Marin down to San Jose there are loads of options to enjoy our luxuriously long picnic season here in the Bay Area. Follow the park’s social distancing rules and stay safe while you enjoy the plush grass and sunny days.
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Crissy Field West Bluffs, 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.
Where: Crissy Field West Bluffs, Long Ave., San Francisco, CA
Bernal Heights Park, San Francisco
This park checks all the picnic boxes—epic view, grassy spots and even a bonus swing to make you feel like you are touching the clouds. On a clear day you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge and all the way to East Bay hills. Park in the lot or on one of the side streets and follow the paths up to the top. It will take you about 20 minutes with tiny walkers so pack the jogging stroller if you think that will be an issue.
Where: 10 Bernal Heights Blvd., San Francisco, CA
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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.
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
Treasure Island, San Francisco
Just across the Bay Bridge from SF is the spot with quite possibly the BEST view of the city that you can find. Treasure Island connects to the Bay Bridge via Yerba Buena Island and is home to the monthly TreasureFest Flea Market and also some perfect spots for picnics. Spread out your blanket on the Great Lawn and you'll have outstanding views and even a playground for kid climbing. Bring your kites as it's almost always windy here.
Good eats nearby: MerSea is a cool, new spot that just opened on the Great Lawn. It offers eats, libations and even bocce ball to keep the kiddos occupied.
Where: Treasure Island, San Francisco
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Strawberry Creek Park, Berkeley
If your lazy weekend is so lazy you can’t be bothered to pack a picnic, head here. Hidden Cafe is actually within the park perimeter and offers coffee (how better to survive the constant barrage of “watch this” on the playground?) as well as inventive tacos, salads and baked goods. And as if that’s not enough, Phoenix Pastificio is just next door offering fresh pasta.
There are a few picnic tables next to the creek in addition to a giant shady lawn that begs for picnic blankets. Fun fact: this park is at the former site of a Santa Fe train freight yard and this long buried creek was daylighted here to follow its natural course.
Where: 1260 Allston Way, Berkeley
Tilden Nature Area, Berkeley
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
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Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley
This spot hosts the yearly kite festival but it's a great spot to fly a kite any time of the year. Views of Alcatraz and both bridges makes for epic photos, there's 90 acres of grass to explore. Parking can get a little tight so get there early in the day or carpool!
Good eats nearby: We like Bette's Oceanview Diner for relaxed dining with something for everyone.
Where: 11 Spinnaker Way, 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
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Half Moon Bay State Beach, Half Moon Bay
The downside is that parking costs $10. The upside is that Francis Beach (the southernmost one) has lots of picnic tables (good for a birthday party), grass for frisbee and football, a campground, trails for cycling, amazing sunsets and of course A BEACH. There are even picnic tables off the sand so you can grill and go back and forth to the beach as much as you please. (Note: the beach is popular here but actual swimming can be dangerous due to strong rip currents.)
Where: Western end of Kelly St., Half Moon Bay
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
Las Palmas Park, Sunnyvale
Picnic tables? Check. Big kid and toddler playgrounds? Check. Giant Easter Island heads? Um . . . check? When a tropical theme was chosen for Las Palmas, the park designers really followed through on that design, creating a large (non-swimmable) lagoon dotted with the aforementioned Easter Island moai. Then they surrounded the lagoon with palm trees and placed a big kid playground on an island in the middle. There are reservable and non-reservable picnic tables making this Polynesian-themed oasis perfect for picnic and barbecue parties.
Where: 850 Russet Dr., Sunnyvale
Cornelius Bol Park, Palo Alto
True, there are only a couple picnic tables here and no barbecue pits. However, why would you want a table when there’s a huge expanse of grass calling you to lay down a blanket? Pack some flip flops and towels for the kids’ feet because they’ll love walking in Matadero Creek (the entrance is about an eighth of a mile from Laguna Ave. and down an embankment that might not be great for older caregivers). Afterwards follow the paved trail north to see if Bol Park’s famous occupants—donkeys Perry and Niner—are visiting. They’re the most recent of a long line of donkeys who have lived here since the 1930s. (Insider tip: Sunday morning is the best time to spot them.) Pair your outing with a showing of “Shrek” since Perry—the model for Eddie Murphy’s “Donkey” character—is also a movie star.
Where: 3590 Laguna Avenue, Palo Alto
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Frontierland Park, Pacifica
The star attraction at this park, hidden in the hills of Pacifica, is the volunteer-built playground that’s half fort, half maze. Plus there’s a gigantic grassy area that’s ideal for games, flying a kite or just plain running around. One large picnic area is available with a reservation and includes 10 picnic tables, a huge counter prep area, two barbecues and a sink. Otherwise there are several other tables, each with its own barbecue, that are usually easy to claim upon arrival. If your kids aren’t tired out after that take them to the hiking trails. Plus down the hill there’s a bowling alley and, of course, the beach. Expect a long nap afterwards.
Where: 900 Yosemite Dr., Pacifica
San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, San Jose
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
Vasona Lake County Park, Los Gatos
This South Bay spot has miles of walking trails, creeks for exploring and loads of grass to spread out your picnic blanket. Park near Oak Meadow and you can enjoy the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad and merry-go-round after your snack. Or, grab a spot in near the Youth Science Institute and check out the animals that live there. Vasona also hosts a summer music series and movies under the stars. Parking is $6.
Good eats nearby: Grab a pizza from Campo di Bocce or burgers from Main Street Burgers
Where: 333 Blossom Hill Road, Los Gatos, CA
Sanborn County Park, Saratoga
This park nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains has it all—an expansive lawn with picnic tables, redwood-shaded trails that can make you forget you’re in the middle of a blazing summer, a lovely creek, waterfalls, campgrounds, and—for the more adventurous—hiking paths all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Where: 16055 Sanborn Rd., Saratoga
China Camp State Park, San Rafael
Make your way to China Camp Village where you can picnic right next to the beach on San Pablo Bay and also visit a museum dedicated to the 1880s Chinese shrimp and fishing settlement that was once here. On the weekend there’s a snack shop offering food, beverages and ice cream. While at China Camp be sure to check out the hiking trails and wildlife watching, and if you’re more adventurous there’s camping, boating, windsurfing, and mountain biking.
Where: 101 Peacock Gap Trail, San Rafael
Angel Island State Park, Tiburon
This picnic spot might necessitate a little more planning than others but the views will make it absolutely worth it. Grab the ferry from SF or Tiburon and head to the island with your people and your picnic gear. Just up the hill from the dock area are tons of picnic tables that are open for the taking, or grab a patch of grass and spread out your blanket. After you eat, explore the island on foot or take the tram ride for a 360 degree view of the Bay Area.
Good eats nearby: The island has its own cafe and cantina that offer sandwiches, cookies and even adult beverages. Stay for the live music!
Where: Angel Island
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
—Kathleen Mikulis, Kate Loweth, Olivia Boler & Sonia Gandiaga
Featured photo: iStock