America’s top kid-friendly picnic spots
By Mimi Slawoff
Picnic with Kids (Flickr: Amber Strocel)
Food somehow always tastes better outside. Whether impromptu or planned, a picnic is a pleasant way to enjoy a meal with friends and family in a park, at the beach or by a creek — anywhere scenic. It doesn’t take much — pack a basket or cooler with your favorite sandwiches or leftovers from last night’s dinner (fried chicken, meatloaf, almost anything will do), chips, fruit and drinks. Or pick up food to go. Many restaurants provide boxed picnic lunches.
Here’s a sampling of 7 family-friendly places to enjoy dining alfresco:
Zuma Beach (Los Angeles County, California)
Zuma Beach in Los Angeles (Photo: Dave Parker)
Actually, most of SoCal’s beaches are perfect for a family picnic. Zuma’s wide, sandy beaches with plenty of (paid) parking, food shacks, restrooms and showers make this a super choice for families. Malibu Lagoon State Beach and Topanga State Beach are also good options.
Sandwiches, juicy peaches, grapes, carrot sticks, and other finger foods are good munchies for the beach. Or stop by John’s Garden, a deli and snack shop at the outdoor Malibu Country Mart and bring the goods to the beach. The extensive lunch menu is quite tasty.
(MORE: Stay awhile and see more of the City of Angels. Find kid-friendly hotels in Los Angeles.)
Eldorado Canyon State Park (Boulder, Colorado)
Eldorado Canyon State Park in Boulder, Colorado (Flickr: F Delventhal)
The scenic South Boulder Creek provides an idyllic backdrop for a family picnic. Hiking, fishing and an interpretive center make this a popular spot, so if possible visit on weekdays to avoid the crowds. Another picnic option just outside Denver is Lookout Mountain, a less visited area where deer, squirrels and rabbits wander about.
Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art (Nashville, Tennessee)
Stroll along beautifully themed gardens with cozy walking paths. Bring a packed lunch to eat anywhere on the grounds or at the picnic area in the Water Garden. Or opt for boxed lunches from the Pineapple Room restaurant. Pick up or have them delivered anywhere on the property (20 percent service charge). Yummy offerings include panini pressed turkey and brie, chicken or tuna salad and Southwest chicken wrap. While at Cheekwood, be sure to explore the kid-friendly Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail.
Lakeridge Park (Seattle, Washington)
Escape the noisy city with a family hike in a quiet canyon just a short drive from downtown. Explore wooden bridges and a running creek in this fairly remote area. A playground rounds out this kid-friendly picnic paradise. Throw down a blanket and enjoy a peaceful meal outdoors.
DeGray Lake Resort State Park (Bismarck, Arkansas)
Claim a table at one of the family picnic pavilions equipped with grills at the 13,800-acre DeGray Lake. Or find a secluded spot anywhere around the park, situated in the scenic Ouachita Mountains. Bring your own food or pick up sandwiches and side dishes from the onsite Shoreline Restaurant at the DeGray Lake Resort State Park Lodge.
Central Park (NYC, New York)
Central Park in New York City (Photo: Yomex Owo)
Kids won’t be bored at this sprawling park, where they can visit the Central Park Zoo, burn off energy at the Billy and take a spin on the Central Park Carousel. When it’s time to eat, find a picnic spot at the 15-acre Sheep Meadow, home to a flock of sheep. If you didn’t pack your own picnic, pick up sandwiches, salads and baked goods at the nearby Le Pain Quotidien.
(MORE: Vacationing in the City That Never Sleeps? Find kid-friendly hotels in New York.)
Grant Park (Chicago, Illinois)
Grant Park in Chicago (Photo: Fineas Anton)
Soak up a bit of culture at this famous park, which is home to outdoor sculptures and the iconic Buckingham Fountain (among the largest water fountains in the world). Take a walk, ride bikes and then settle down for a relaxing picnic. Bring your own or buy food from nearby restaurants.