The Best Picnic Spots in Every State
Grab the wicker basket and the thermos of lemonade. From scenic national parks to urban hideaways, these are the best places for a pop-up picnic.
Alabama: Birmingham Botanical Gardens
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When you need a breath of fresh air, the over 10,000 plants in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens will more than satisfy you. Choose one of the 30 different themed gardens to lay out your picnic blanket from the Japanese Garden to the Bruno Vegetable Garden. Or head to the Formal Garden, where a spot of tea and dainty cucumber sandwiches will have you feeling just like a lady who lunches. Don’t miss the best-kept secret in every state.
Alaska: William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery
There’s something fishy about this pick—after all, it isn’t your traditional picnic spot. Set up on the observation deck of the William Jack Hernadez Sport Fish Hatchery in Anchorage where you can watch Alaskan chinook and coho salmon return up river to lay their eggs (peak spawning season is July to September). After you eat, take a self-guided tour of the facility and see the massive tanks of thousands of teeming fish.
Arizona: Papago Park
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Escape the hot desert sun in one of Arizona’s most famous red sandstone formations, Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park in Phoenix. It requires just a short hike up to the butte’s summit which was first discovered by the Hohokam Indians. Pack dinner in your backpack for this one, because the views of the city below make for a picturesque sunset.
Arkansas: Clinton Presidential Library
Spend a morning inside the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock where you’ll learn everything you wanted to know about the former president and even sit inside a full-size replica of his Cabinet Room. Grab a bite to go from Forty Two, the library’s restaurant, and head outside to the grassy hill overlooking both the uber modern building and the wetlands below. Are you a bibliophile? Then don’t miss the most impressive library in every state.
California: Chateau St. Jean
Anyone who loves a glass of red knows that the ultimate vino vacation starts in California’s wine country. Specifically, at Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma, where you can enjoy a charcuterie spread in the fountain garden, designed to resemble the lush landscape of southern France and Tuscany. Work off all the meat and cheese you consume with a rousing round of bocce ball afterward.
Colorado: Arrowhead Ski Area via Paragon Guides
Take a llama to lunch with this unique backcountry experience in Vail. It isn’t cheap (a half-day hike for two will set you back $415) but we definitely think it’s worth it for the gorgeous views and the furry companionship. The best part? Your llama isn’t there just for photo ops and petting, it will also tote the picnic basket for you.
Connecticut: Hammonasset Beach State Park
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There’s plenty of room for everyone and their brother out here at Hammonasset Beach where two miles of beach makes it the longest coastline in Connecticut. Whether you want to frolic in the surf or touch the rays and turtles at the nature center, bring on the fun in the sun! To avoid soggy sandwiches, check out these tips for the perfect picnic.
Delaware: Brandywine Creek State Park
Fun for the whole family awaits at Brandywine Creek State Park in Wilmington. While you can hike and bike during the day, on Wednesday evenings in the summer, they host a free campfire at the park. Sing traditional campfire songs, share ghost stories and—the best part—gooey s’mores. Love that melty chocolate-marshmallow combo? Whip one of these s’mores-inspired recipes at home.
Florida: Picnic Island
What better place to have a picnic than, well, a place named Picnic Island? On this tiny Florida Key that’s only accessible by private boat, there’s picnic tables, a grill, cornhole, and even a tiki hut. Before you leave the little sliver of paradise, make a wooden sign with your name and where you traveled from and nail it to the wall with all the others. Want to make a weekend of it? Find out the most charming bed and breakfasts in every state.
Georgia: Forsyth Park
Sip on a tall glass of Southern sweet tea under the shade of giant oak trees dripping in Spanish moss at Savannah’s Forsyth Park, named after a former Georgia governor. Break open that old copy of Gone With The Wind (it’s only appropriate!), toss the Frisbee or listen to some live jazz. Find out the most iconic book set in every state.
Hawaii: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
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It’s not every day that you get to picnic on an active volcano—and you can’t visit the Big Island without exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There are plenty of cool locations from the Jaggar Museum overlook where you can watch glowing lava flowing to the ocean to the famous Kilauea volcano where the rocks are warmed from magma flowing underneath.
Idaho: Hell’s Canyon, Idaho County
Calling all thrill-seekers! Sign up for a one-day whitewater rafting excursion on the Hell’s Canyon section of Snake River, the deepest gorge in North America. In between flying through rapids and soaking up the incredible scenery, chow down along the banks before setting off again. Even if you aren’t an adrenaline junkie, you can park yourself at one of the picnic tables nearby and watch the rafters go down the river.
Illinois: Lincoln Park
Home to the Lincoln Park Zoo (one of the oldest zoos in North America and boasting free admission), this 1,208-acre space is a lush oasis in the heart of downtown Chicago. If you happen to be there on a Wednesday or Saturday morning, you can pick from the assortment of fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and more at the farmer’s market for your picnic spread.
Indiana: Monument Circle
Set up on the steps of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in “The Circle” for some prime people-watching along with a beautiful view of sparkling crystal water pools and the state capitol building just a few blocks away. Enjoy one of these gourmet sandwiches (hint: it’s all about the ingredients), then climb the 330 steps to the top of the monument to see all of Indianapolis from above.
Iowa: National Balloon Classic
It doesn’t get more quintessential Midwestern picnic than laying in a grassy field with the backdrop of bright hot air balloons dotting the blue sky. Plan your trip to Indianola for the end of July to catch the National Balloon Classic where you’ll watch over 100 balloons take to the skies. Or visit any time of year and go for a ride yourself—most hot air balloon companies will let you bring food aboard!
Kansas: Pop-Up Urban Park, Wichita
Avoid the common picnic problems like scratchy grass or pesky ants by visiting the Pop-Up Urban Park in downtown Wichita. You don’t even have to bring your own basket—the “park” is actually a gathering of some of the city’s most popular food trucks. With a belly full of smokey BBQ or chili dogs, you can play a life-sized game of Connect 4 or challenge a friend to outdoor ping-pong.
Kentucky: Kentucky Bourbon Trail
What Kentucky is known for is horses and bourbon. And with 95 percent of the world’s bourbon produced in the state, it’s a tradition worth partaking in. Tour some of the famous distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail which starts in Louisville and break for lunch in between (you’ll need sustenance to soak up the booze!). Many of the grounds offer pretty picnic spots, including Wild Turkey, Four Roses, and Bulleit.
Louisiana: Gardens of the American Rose Center
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Stop and smell the roses at this Shreveport sanctuary, the country’s largest rose garden with more than 20,000 bushes! Surrounded by beautiful blooms and the sweet scents of spring, it’s the perfect place for a romantic picnic for two.
Maine: Quoddy Head State Park
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Be the first people in the United States to see the sunrise in the morning at Quoddy Head State Park, the country’s easternmost point. Take one of these healthy breakfasts to go, grab a few blankets to fight the early morning chill and don’t forget your binoculars: humpback whales can often be spotted just offshore.
Maryland: Fort McHenry
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Your picnic just got a lot more patriotic at Fort McHenry, the spot where Francis Scott Key wrote our national anthem back in 1814. Go on a tour of the star-shaped fort, watch the guard perform a musket demonstration or just enjoy the views of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Massachusetts: Tanglewood Music Center
Bowties, lobster quiche, and chandeliers are hardly what you expect to see at a picnic. But that’s exactly what you’ll find if you choose to dine al fresco at Tanglewood Music Center. The elegant affair is a longstanding tradition for New Englanders who gather on summer afternoons, eagerly awaiting the evening when the Boston Symphony Orchestra provides classical music as the soundtrack.
Michigan: Marquette Park
There are no cars allowed on quaint Mackinac Island—and whether you choose to bike or simply walk, you’ll need to refuel with a hearty lunch at Marquette Park, located on the water in front of Fort Mackinac. As you watch the ferries go by and escape the hustle and bustle of city life, savor some of the island’s sweet specialty: rich chocolatey fudge. Pure bliss…
Minnesota: North Shore
You’ll feel like you’re in Ireland with the windswept cliffs and crashing waves along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Duluth. Pull over at an overlook for a picnic with a view or spread your blanket out on Black Beach where the beach is literally an onyx hue thanks to crushed taconite. But whatever you do (or wherever you go), do not pack one of these foods!
Mississippi: Holly Springs National Forest
An hour outside of Oxford, Holly Springs National Forest is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Hike one of the many trails winding through the 155,000 acres of hardwood and pine forests before setting up camp (aka a picnic blanket and chairs) on the banks of one of the crystal clear lakes hidden among the trees.
Don’t be fooled by the word “garden,” this urban park, nestled in front of the famed St. Louis arch, is almost three acres of sculptures, fountains and vibrant artwork. Grab a bite from one of the food trucks that pull up at the entrance and sit along the curving limestone wall. The cool thing about this park? It’s incredibly sustainable, using a rain garden to collect rainwater for the plants which are all native to the area.
Montana: Grinnell Glacier
One of the country’s most breathtaking parks, Glacier National Park has more than its fair share of sights to be seen. We recommend Grinnell Glacier, named after the environmentalist who fought for Glacier to become a national park in 1910. The 7-plus mile hike, which starts with a boat ride across Swiftcurrent Lake, can be a bit strenuous—it usually takes an entire day—so carry lunch to enjoy at the top. Just watch out for bighorn sheep and mountain goats on the trek!
Nebraska: Arbor Lodge State Historical Park
Oaks, chestnuts, pines… whatever type of tree you can name, this arboretum likely has them, with over 260 species of trees and shrubs. The former home of the man who founded Arbor Day, the Nebraska City mansion sits on 65 acres of beautiful woodland which you can tour at your leisure via the Tree Trail. There’s even a tree-themed playground for the little ones!
Nevada: Grand Celebration Tour, Las Vegas
Because of course, a picnic in Vegas is going to be over-the-top, these helicopter tours pick you up in Sin City to carry you off to the Grand Canyon. They provide stunning views of the Colorado River carving through the famous red rock before landing inside the canyon. At the bottom, you’ll be treated to a swanky champagne picnic plus time to explore the area on your own. When you get back to Vegas proper, check out one of these attractions to keep the fun going.
New Hampshire: Gould Hill Orchard
Who can resist the first juicy bite of a peach that’s just been picked? At Gould Hill in Contoocook, you can pick your own apples, plums, pears, nectarines, and more, then enjoy the fruits of your labor (literally) with a picnic under the rows of trees: a simple fruit, cheese, and bread combo would be perfect.
New Jersey: Cape May Lighthouse
Work up an appetite climbing the 199 steps to the top of the historic Cape May Lighthouse and exploring the state park’s nature trails. Then chow down on picnic fare under one of the covered pavilions overlooking the waves crashing on the sandy shore below.
New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns
An underground picnic is (literally) the coolest on this list. Wind through the limestone caves below the Guadalupe Mountains and gasp in awe at the spectacular stalagmites, stalactites, and even shallow pools at Carlsbad Caverns. Food underground can only be eaten in the designated rest area (there’s a snack station there, too, where you can purchase food) but you can also take your treats to the Rattlesnake Springs Picnic area near the visitor’s center after your tour.
New York: East River State Park
Skip the crowds of Central Park and make your way over to East River State Park in Brooklyn. While we love it for its history and waterfront location, we especially love it on Saturdays when Smorgasburg takes over the 7-acre park. Smorgasburg is the biggest open-air market in the whole country with over 100 vendors selling artisan eats, street food, craft beer and more.
North Carolina: Grandfather Mountain
There’s no shortage of breathtaking places to enjoy a picnic along North Carolina’s scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. But travel off the beaten path about a mile to Grandfather Mountain in Linville for a real treat. Climb to the top, trek across the mile-high swinging suspension bridge and reward yourself with one of these healthy meals-to-go… all while being treated to incredible 360-degree views from the highest peak on the parkway.
North Dakota: Lewis and Clark Riverboat
All aboard! Take your picnic to the high seas—well, the Missouri River—on the Lewis and Clark Riverboat that embarks in Bismarck. While you can’t bring food onto the steamship, there are snacks and beverages available for purchase during the cruise. Otherwise, stock a cooler and sit at one of the picnic tables along the waterfront on a breezy August evening.
Ohio: Bicentennial Park
Talk about a fountain. The 15,000 square foot splashy centerpiece of Bicentennial Park might not be at the level of the Bellagio fountains in Vegas but with its 75-foot spray, 1,000-plus jets and light and fog artistic effects, it’s not a bad second place. The daily fountain show isn’t the only entertainment to be enjoyed while noshing on yummy treats—you can also catch a concert or play at the performance pavilion.
Oklahoma: Natural Falls State Park
If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, look no further than Natural Falls State Park. Deep in the Ozark Highlands (and where the movie Where the Red Fern Grows was filmed), set up camp on the moss-covered rocks next to the gurgling 77-foot waterfall. For a true outdoors experience, make it a multiple-day excursion and spend the night in one of the park’s rustic yurts.
Oregon: Starfish Cove, Lincoln City
You likely won’t find this hidden gem on a map anywhere. That’s because it’s only accessible during low tide—during high tide, the connecting Schooner Point is underwater. It’s worth the trek though. Chances are you’ll have the beach to yourself (romantic picnic a deux, anyone?) and, as the name suggests, the Lincoln City spot it’s the perfect place to hunt for starfish, fossils and other critters in the hundreds of tidepools along the shore.
Pennsylvania: Rittenhouse Square
It might surprise you, but with parks aplenty, Philly is one of the best cities in the countries for picnics. One of the best—and one of the originals—is Rittenhouse Square which was designed by William Penn in the 17th century. Lying among one of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, you’ll have your pick of tree-lined grassy space to set up your outdoor meal where you can admire historical mansions sandwiched between stunning skyscrapers.
Rhode Island: Cliff Walk
Get your 10,000 daily steps in and find a bench to grab a bite to eat along Newport’s 3.5 mile Cliff Walk. Hugging the New England coastline, you’ll see the stately Newport Mansions on one side and icy waves crashing into the rocky cliffs below on the other. If you make it to the end, you’ll wind up at Bailey’s Beach where you can cool off with a quick dip in the Atlantic before catching the trolley home.
South Carolina: Angel Oak Park
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No picnic blanket required at this Lowcountry landmark. Believed to be over 1,400 years old, the massive Angel Oak Tree is one of the oldest and largest oak trees around today. And with 17,000 square feet of shade, there is plenty of room for everyone to sit on the huge lower limbs and unpack their baskets filled with Charleston goodies like cupcakes from Sugar Shop and a charcuterie plate from Goat.Sheep.Cow.
South Dakota: Falls Park
Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s largest city, was named after the rushing waterfalls spanning 42 acres. The water may no longer be used to power Sioux Falls (there was a mill that generated electricity) but Falls Park becomes a hot spot for locals in the warmer months. Bike one of the trails that runs alongside the river or browse the eclectic art displayed in the converted historic horse barn. And your picnic can happen rain or shine, thanks to the covered pavilion space.
Tennessee: Centennial Park
Nashville isn’t just called Music City… it’s also been dubbed the “Athens of the South.” Which explains the full-size replica of the Parthenon that sits inside the bounds of Centennial Park (there’s even an art museum inside with a statue of the Greek goddess Athena). If you’re more athletic than artsy, play a game of pick-up volleyball on the sand courts or jog the trails. When it’s sandwiches-and-potato-salad time, queue up the park’s playlist on your phone (yes, it exists) for a little extra ambiance.
Texas: San Antonio River Walk
The 15-mile path along San Antonio’s waterway is a major draw for visitors… and for good reason. Lined with oversized cypress trees and bursting with activity, it’s the largest urban ecosystem in the United States. Tour it by foot, by bike, by river taxi or even by kayak. When you get worn out from the hot Texas sun, shack up at an umbrella-shaded table with some classic Tex-Mex cuisine.
Utah: Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater
When you think of Park City, you probably think of powdery snow and ski slopes. But the vacation town comes alive in the summer too with a plethora of free outdoor concerts featuring local musicians and bands at the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater. Stroll Main Street to stock your picnic basket, then head to the grassy hill for a night of rock and (sushi) rolls.
Live like the Lincolns with a visit to Hildene, the family’s mansion of Abe’s son, tucked away at the foot of the Green Mountains. Learn how to make cheese (then eat it with lunch, of course), traipse across the floating boardwalk to the wetlands, or plant yourself amongst the bright blooms of the many gardens.
Virginia: The Monticello Wine Trail
Fun fact: Food & Wine Magazine ranked Charlottesville as the most underrated wine region in the country. With gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling hills, and some of the best wine we’ve had, we don’t disagree. Enjoy an afternoon of tasting and dining al fresco at any of the 30 vineyards along the trail.
Washington: Pike Place Market
A real-life secret garden exists… and it can be found on the rooftop of Pike Place Market in Seattle. To get there, navigate through the back hallways of the market until you step out onto a flower-covered patio overlooking Puget Sound and the city’s famous Ferris wheel. It’s a quiet escape from the bustling tourists—just make sure you grab some goodies (like fresh fish or hot homemade donuts) from the stalls inside first.
West Virginia: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Ripe with Civil War history, Harpers Ferry is also one of the exquisite areas that ggiveWest Virginia its “wild and wonderful” reputation. Both the mid-point of the Appalachian Trail and the intersection of the Potomac River, Shenandoah Valley, and the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s easy to find a place to take a break after a day of hiking along its many trails. The nearby historic town is also a charming area to eat outside if you can snag one of the picnic tables.
Wisconsin: Frog Bay Tribal National Park
The first national park owned by a Native American tribe, Frog Bay on the Red Cliff Reservation offers exquisite white sandy beaches (yes, in the middle of Wisconsin!), trails for hiking and snowshoeing and plenty of picture-perfect places to lay out a red checker-print blanket and open up your picnic basket along the shore of Lake Superior. Don’t miss the most spectacular sunset in every state.
Wyoming: Gardner River
With 52 picnic areas to choose from, you really can’t go wrong in the natural wonder that is Yellowstone National Park. And while we’re all for seeing Old Faithful, sometimes it’s nice to get away from the hordes of tourists and seek a quieter watering hole. Head to one of the picnic tables at Gardner River and watch the fly fishers cast their lines. Bonus: Boiling River is close by so you can let your food coma subside as you soak in nature’s hot tub. Read on to find out the National Parks that are so off-the-beaten-path they’re practically secret.