How to Find the Perfect Spring Picnic Spot in Your City
Ahhhh…there’s that fresh spring air blowing in, carrying scents of blooming flora and the sounds of this season of renewal. You’re itching to take it all in.
Luckily, there’s a great reason to get out there: a springtime picnic! Make it happen—no matter how dense a metropolis you live in—with these tips to unearth ideal urban picnic spots.
New York and New Jersey
New York is as city-fied as they come, but by using the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation official website, we were amazed by the size and features of Pelham Bay Park. Located in the East Bronx, this green space is three times the size of Central Park and is accessible by car, bike, and public transit with a subway stop on the 6 train.
Upon arrival, you’re greeted with a landscape that holds true to the region’s geological foundations. Offering ample bird watching, nature abounds along a 13-mile saltwater shoreline, punched with kayak and canoe launch sites. Hike rolling trails, amble on lazy walking paths, or cycle along the stretch of the Bronx River Greenway that courses through the park. BBQs and picnic tables are available, but with many grand open spaces, nothing beats unfurling a blanket for old school picnicking.
New Yorkers can find great spots outside of the city too, like Pier A Park in Hoboken, NJ. A short Ziptrip, walk from station, or ferry ride away, it offers open lawn space with great views of the NYC skyline on the Hudson River.
Bay Area birders and blossom-seekers can find out-of-the way plots through the San Francisco Recreation & Parks’ website. Charging to the top of our list is the challenging perch known as Billy Goat Hill, which is accessible by public transportation, biking, walking (which, in this case, is more like hiking), and driving.
No matter your mode, the trek is worth it; a gorgeous city panorama is your reward for making the journey. For families with kids in tow, just below the park lies Walter Haas Playground, recently renovated and a prime spot for little ones to burn off whatever energy they have left.
While San Francisco is king of the hill when it comes to elevation, Washington, D.C. stands as the least likely candidate to having a park with a view—built on what was once sea-level marshland. But D.C. rises to the occasion with the natural treasure in Meridian Hill Park.
Picnickers can elect to dine al fresco in the rectangular grass plain atop the hill, away from the crowds. Accessible by bike, foot, bus, and the Metro’s Green and Yellow lines, a quiet time can be had while ambling astride the largest cascading fountain in North America. Need even more calm? A statue of “Serenity” lies on the park’s west side.
Continuing in municipal mode, we give big kudos to the City of Toronto’s interactive parks map. The simple and clean layout is loaded with information, showing color-coded pins to indicate park size. Click a pin, and that park’s amenities are laid out, letting you find your ideal spot. For example, Downsview Dells Park offers not just picnic areas, but also fire pits—perfect for a spring picnic.
We’re also fans of the great tool provided by the Chicago Parks district, which allows you to search by facility type. In this case, typing in “picnic” pulls up a map and list of locations set aside for picnicking. Some are just picnic tables like the Sheil Picnic tables, located outside the Sheil Park fieldhouse. Others are listed as “picnic groves”—areas set aside within larger parks—like the one located within the massive 135 acre Columbus Park. You’ll also find a handy list of picnic add-ons, like fishing, outdoor art installations, and one-of-a-kind features such as Columbus Park’s Refectory, a Spanish-style building that’s so unique and elegant, it’s often reserved for weddings and other special events.
Don’t restrict yourself to just your city when searching for the perfect picnic spot. In the case of Bostonians, perusing the website for the abutting city of Brookline reveals acres of open greenery. Just as accessible as the nearby Olmsted Park and Arnold Arboretum is Larz Anderson Park. Basket-worthy hilltop views of the Boston Skyline, paired with open fields and a pond, make this a prime picnic location.
No matter which city you call home, creating a special spring picnic is easy and made even better with a little forethought. Dig around, do a little snooping, and you can find your new favorite spot…long before the ants do. Bon picnic!
What’s your favorite urban picnic spot? What do you use to discover out-of-the-way places to chill in the city?