California Bear

Picnic Time: 4 Top Scenic Spots for Alfresco Gatherings

From a 109-year-old otherworldly architectural gem and lagoon that resembles a movie set, to a 12-acre public park with spraying fountains along the ocean in San Diego, we’ve hand-picked the best picnic spots in the state. 

Palace of Fine Arts

Arguably one of the most picturesque locations in San Francisco, the architectural landmark is the ideal backdrop for a picnic on the lawn. Built by acclaimed architect Bernard Maybeck for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, the ornate Beaux-Arts-style structure is surrounded by manicured grounds, a lagoon, and an expansive lawn.

Griffith Park Observatory

Perched in the Santa Monica Mountains, the massive 4,210-acre oasis is the largest municipal park containing urban wilderness area in the country. Dotted with lilac, mountain mahogany, and oak trees and views overlooking Downtown Los Angeles (on a clear day), the park boasts 52 miles of hiking trails, a planetarium, theater, and observatory. Bring your own spread (alcohol is not allowed) and snag a spot on the lawn, or pop into the Café at the End of the Universe for vegan chicken burritos, pita with red pepper hummus, and flank steak with chimichurri sandwiches. 

Waterfront Park 

As the name implies, the idyllic park in San Diego’s Embarcadero features a 830-foot-long interactive water fountain; sweeping views of the Bay and Maritime Museum of San Diego; six civic green lawns, a playground; and four designated picnic areas. Check the schedule for public events and exhibitions.

Blue Heron Lake

The fairytale-like setting in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park was formerly known as Stow Lake. Originally conceived in 1893 as a destination for horse-drawn carriages, the man-made lake spans 12 acres and frames a center island once known to have strawberries, named Strawberry Hill. Rent a rowboat or pedal boat from the nearby boathouse or stake out a shady corner under a tree on the south side lawn picnic area.

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