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.
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.