A good picnic may depend on the quality and presentation of food prepared, as well as the company you keep, but what makes a good park for picknicking? We believe a good one is contingent on great views, plenty of shady spots, and activities available for you to partake in — after you’ve filled yourself up with great food, either packed in a picnic basket or bought from someplace nearby, and taken a nap, of course. With these criteria in mind, we have gathered America’s nine best parks for picnicking.
To highlight these parks, we used a similar methodology to that employed for our list of the World’s Best Parks for Picnicking, in that we chose a mixed bag of urban and not-too-crowded parks. For example, while San Francisco’s Mission Dolores Park is bustling, parks like the famous Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, or Fort Williams Park in Maine, a short drive from Portland, are more serene.
After zeroing in on various geographic regions, we considered parks that are relatively close to markets or restaurants where ordering food to go is encouraged, as well as parks that have more than four stars on websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. It was important for us to choose parks enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.
Don’t live near any of these parks? No worries. With these picnic essentials, you can set up a great picnic pretty much anywhere — as long as you have a few good picnic recipes under your belt. But if you can, we highly suggest traveling to these beautiful parks, as every American city has something so unique to offer, and the best places to enjoy them is in the city’s greenest spaces.
#9 Railroad Park, Birmingham, Ala.
While an interesting history goes a long way in making a park scenic and picnic-perfect, there’s something to be said for parks built in recent history. They are engineered so perfectly to fit modern needs and, as is the case of Birmingham’s Railroad Park, often add a much-needed greenspace to the middle of cities. Despite its location in the middle of downtown Birmingham, Railroad Park boasts a beautiful lake, nine acres of open lawn, and great views of the city. You don’t have to go far to get food; the park-owned Dining Car offers seasonal fare right in the center of the park.
#8 Walden Pond, Concord, Mass.
The corner of rural Massachusetts that Henry David Thoreau made famous is ideal for a tranquil picnic when you feel you need to get away from the city. The area is so well-preserved that it seems almost unchanged from when the young author penned his American masterpiece. Get some cheese, olives, crackers, or whatever to-go item you want at the nearby Concord Cheese Shop.