The Best Picnic Destinations in All 50 States
Food always tastes better when it’s eaten al fresco on a sunny day. Since fall is swiftly approaching, take advantage of the warm weather by planning one last summer picnic. Stumped for scenic spots? We’ve got you covered. Here are the best picnic destinations in all 50 states. We can’t promise there won’t be any ants, but we can assure they’ll offer great views, handy resources, and unforgettable memories.
1. ALABAMA // BIRMINGHAM BOTANICAL GARDENS
Return to nature without leaving the big city by visiting the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The lush, 67.5-acre outdoor space is home to 12,000 different types of plants, over 30 gardens (including a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, and a Japanese garden), and miles of paths, among other attractions. Admission is free, and the gardens are open daily from dawn to dusk. Pack a lunch, or grab a meal to go at The Gardens Cafe, located just inside the garden gates.
2. ALASKA // WONDER LAKE CAMPGROUND, DENALI NATIONAL PARK
Denali Park, Alaska
Tucked deep inside the Alaska Interior, hours away from the state’s major cities, sits Denali National Park and Preserve. The park boasts more than 6 million acres of glaciers, snowy crags, forest, and tundra. Its crowning glory is Denali, a 20,310-foot mountain that’s the highest peak in North America. Dine at Wonder Lake Campground, which sits at mile 85 on the Denali Park Road and offers an impressive view of its neighboring peak. The site is home to 28 tent-only campsites, and two cooking stations that offer a walk-in, bear-proof pantry and six covered picnic tables.
3. ARIZONA // DESERT VIEW DRIVE, GRAND CANYON
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
There are countless scenic spots across Arizona, but Grand Canyon National Park—touted as one of the world’s seven greatest natural wonders—is inarguably the most breathtaking. The park offers many convenient tourist accommodations, but if you want to escape the crowds, hop in a car and enjoy a picnic along Desert View Drive. It runs 25 miles along the Canyon’s South Rim out to Desert View Watchtower—a historic 70-foot-high stone tower with an observation deck and gift shop—and the canyon’s East Entrance. Along the way, you’ll find four picnic areas and several pull-offs that provide distant glimpses of the Colorado River below.
4. ARKANSAS // DEVIL'S DEN STATE PARK
West Fork, Arkansas
Tucked deep inside Lee Creek Valley in the Ozarks’ Boston Mountains is Devil’s Den State Park. In addition to several designated picnic spots with tables and grills, the rocky, 2500-acre expanse of wilderness offers visitors 64 miles of horseback riding and hiking trails, a swimming pool and park café, a playground, a general store, and camping sites and cabins for overnight stays. Once you've finished picnicking, take some time to enjoy the park’s countless geological wonders: Splash around in Lee Creek’s natural waterfalls, or take a kayak out on Lake Devil, an eight-acre lake that formed after a stone dam was built across Lee Creek during the park’s construction in the 1930s.
5. CALIFORNIA // POINT DUME STATE BEACH
Enjoy your picnic among rugged cliffs, golden sand, and blue surf at Point Dume State Beach in Malibu. The beach juts out into the Pacific Ocean, and on clear days, visitors are treated to a view of the entire Santa Monica Bay, the inland Santa Monica Mountains, and the distant Catalina Island. And from December to mid-April, you might want to brave the cold to watch herds of California whales swimming by the coast during their migration season.
6. COLORADO // THE MAROON BELLS, ELK MOUNTAINS
Visit the Maroon Bells—two craggy peaks in the Elk Mountains that loom more than 14,000 feet over an alpine lake—and you’ll feel like you’re picnicking in a postcard. Located just 10 miles west of Aspen, the serene spot is reportedly the most-photographed location in Colorado. There’s a public picnic area that can accommodate up to 75 people, making the spot a perfect space for large groups or parties. However, a word to the wise: The local ecosystem is so fragile that vehicle restrictions are imposed on Maroon Creek Road from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you want to dine here, you’ll have to arrive bright and early, camp overnight, or take a daytime bus tour.
7. CONNECTICUT // HAMMONASSET BEACH STATE PARK
This two-mile stretch of beachfront park is situated on a small chunk of land jutting into the Long Island Sound, so despite its East Coast locale, you can actually watch the sunset over the water. Just a short walk from the beach, there are covered picnic areas with grills that can be reserved throughout the summer for a fee. There are also public restrooms and concession stands, and Yankee magazine has deemed it one of the best picnicking spots in all of New England. After you chow down, take a walk down to the Meigs Point Nature Center, an educational center that houses native animals, including some local sea creatures that kids can touch and handle.
8. DELAWARE // ALAPOCAS RUN STATE PARK
The picnic tables and grills are the least exciting of this recreation area’s attractions, which include a rock climbing area, some easy hiking trails, three sports fields, a disability-accessible playground for kids of all abilities, and the Blue Ball Barn that now houses the Delaware Folk Art Collection. It’s also home to the Pawpaw Folk Festival, a late-summer event that promises live music, storytelling, food trucks, and folk art.
9. FLORIDA // CASTILLO SAN MARCOS
St. Augustine, Florida
The Castillo San Marcos, built by the Spanish in the late 1600s, is the oldest masonry fort in North America. It doesn’t have any tables, but the grassy lawn and former moats make it a great picnic spot anyway. Soak up some history, then enjoy a snack and a game of catch with waterfront views. If you’re still feeling peckish, grab a cone down the street at Tedi’s Olde Tyme Ice Cream or a gourmet ice pop at The Hyppo.
10. GEORGIA // ROLATER PARK
Cave Spring, Georgia
The limestone cave that gave Cave Spring, Georgia its name is a popular dining spot in the summer. (Probably because it’s a fantastic way to beat the Southern heat). After you've viewed the stalagmites, head over to the reflection pond formed by the cave’s spring and take in the view. Take a sip, too—people fill up jugs of the delicious mineral water to take home. You can rent a picnic pavilion for a small fee, or park yourself on the grassy area beside the 1.5 acre lake and pool complex with something from the snack bar. The park was once home to a 19th century boys’ school, so there are also plenty of historic buildings to explore.
11. HAWAII // KUALOA REGIONAL PARK
Kāneʻohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii
Located just down the road from Kualoa Ranch, the private nature reserve made famous as the setting of Jurassic World and other movies, Kualoa Regional Park is a scenic place to take a load off. The water on the peninsula is calm and the beach is surrounded by picturesque cliffs and mountains. It’s also an important place to learn some island history: Kualoa was considered a sacred place, and young Hawaiian chiefs were brought there to train for their duties. The location plays a role in several Hawaiian myths, and it’s now on the National Register of Historic Places [PDF]. On the way there, grab some macadamia nuts and coffee just down the road at Tropical Farms for a taste of Hawaii.
12. IDAHO // DISCOVERY AT LUCKY PEAK STATE PARK
Discovery, a section of Lucky Peak State Park just 10 minutes from Boise, is the perfect place to get away for the day with grills, picnic tables, and bathrooms. Sit by the river and watch the kayaks go by, or cast a fishing line. It’s a great place for nature viewing, and in the summer you might catch a glimpse of a resident owl. (If you’re up for a winter visit, you might even see a bald eagle.) Elsewhere in the park, there’s a swimming beach and a marina where you can launch your boat, rent jet skis, or pop into the convenience store. There aren’t many restaurants nearby, so grab something from downtown Boise to go. Try sandwiches and salads from the a’Tavola Gourmet Marketplace—its picnic supplies should be up to snuff, since it sells picnic baskets at Boise’s annual summer Shakespeare Festival.
13. ILLINOIS // MILLENNIUM PARK
Chicago tourists may love to snap pictures with Millennium Park’s “Bean” sculpture, but venture past it to explore the rest of the park. Just steps away from the Art Institute of Chicago and Michigan Avenue’s restaurants and shops, you can grab a bite to eat and trek over to the grassy knoll in front of the park’s Frank Gehry-designed bandshell. Grab a spot early on summer evenings, since free concerts make the park a major destination. For a quieter experience, dip your feet in the small canals running through the perennial Lurie Garden, located on the east side of the park. If that’s not exciting enough for rambunctious kids, let them play in the Crown Fountain on the other side of the park.
14. INDIANA // VICTORY FIELD
You can purchase tickets to sit on the Ivy Tech Lawn at Victory Field as you watch Indianapolis's minor league baseball team, the Indians, for just $5 a person. Though coolers aren’t allowed in the rest of the stadium, you can bring your picnic onto the lawn—just watch out for foul balls. And you’ve got a front row seat when it’s time to get player autographs.
15. IOWA // JOHN AND MARY PAPPAJOHN SCULPTURE PARK
Des Moines, Iowa
The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park offers an incredible, eclectic display of sculptures dotting the grounds from artists like Willem de Kooning and Louise Bourgeois. The 28 pieces, valued at well over $40 million, were donated by venture capitalist John Pappajohn and his wife, Mary; the park, located in downtown Des Moines, also features dedicated benches and even a few chess tables. And, no, it’s not sponsored by the pizza chain.
16. KANSAS // DEANNA ROSE CHILDREN’S FARMSTEAD
Overland Park, Kansas
This replica family farm might be the most kid-friendly picnic hotspot in Kansas. After you grab a shaded spot to enjoy, you can tour the grounds, which feature a petting zoo, fishing pond, and horse-drawn wagon rides. Children can also snag pony rides and milk cows. For souvenirs and taffy, visit their replica general store modeled after the ones common in the early 1900s.
17. KENTUCKY // KINGDOM COME STATE PARK
You won’t believe the views available at Kingdom Come, which sits at an elevation of 2700 feet on Pine Mountain and overlooks some sensational and unspoiled wilderness. After eating, check out some of the state’s wildest rock formations, including Raven Rock, a nature-sculpted mass that stretches 290 feet into the sky.
18. LOUISIANA // HODGES GARDENS STATE PARK
Hugging a crescent-shaped lake, Hodges Gardens offers some of Louisiana’s most beautiful landscaping. You can spread a blanket near any one of the hundreds of botanical arrangements that are bursting with color. It’s recommended you keep an eye on your food, though: The Park is home to wild deer, ducks, raccoons, and other potential basket thieves.
19. MAINE // QUODDY HEAD STATE PARK
Cliff-top picnics don’t come any better than at Quoddy Head, which allows visitors to survey Quoddy Channel, a body of water separating the U.S. and Canada. While you eat, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the humpback, finback, and minke whales that surface offshore. You can also take a trip up to the top of West Quoddy Head Light, the candy-striped lighthouse on park grounds.
20. MARYLAND // PATTERSON PARK
The focus of Baltimore’s oldest park is the Pagoda, a towering Victorian-era lookout that allows for a view of downtown. You can also take a swim, go ice-skating, or reserve one of the park’s many pavilions for a family-sized picnic; bird watchers can eye over 170 different species that populate the property.
21. MASSACHUSETTS // SMOLAK FARMS
North Andover, Massachusetts
You can request permission to bring your own picnic to this family-run farm, or reserve a picnic program that comes with food (including dessert), beverages, a picnic blanket, and anything else you may need. Smolak offers a variety of activities, from hay rides to American Girl doll tea parties. But the most popular attraction is the fresh produce: Visitors can pick their own fresh apples, peaches, strawberries, and gooseberries.
22. MICHIGAN // DETROIT ZOO
Several picnic tables dot the grounds of the Detroit Zoo, which allows visitors to graze in between exhibits ranging from aardvarks to zebras. You can even rent a wagon to tote your food supplies around.
23. MINNESOTA // ITASCA STATE PARK
Park Rapids, Minnesota
While the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center, home of the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture, would normally be a perfect picnic spot, the garden is closed for renovations until 2017. Instead, try picnicking at the Itasca State Park. Minnesota's oldest state park is home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and the monument to the headwaters is surrounded by picnic spots that overlook the water—perfect for getting your feet wet after a meal!
24. MISSISSIPPI // SCULPTURE GARDEN AT DELTA STATE UNIVERSITY
The Sculpture Garden at Delta State University features a rotating exhibition of sculptures along with their permanent collection, and they host an annual contest, should you be inspired to create your own large-scale artwork during your visit. And while you’re there, pick up a T-shirt featuring the Fighting Okra, the university’s unofficial mascot.
25. MISSOURI // FOREST PARK
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis's Forest Park is a perfect picnic oasis in the middle of the bustling city. The former site of the 1904 World’s Fair has plentiful green space and just about any cultural attraction you can imagine, from the St. Louis Zoo to a gorgeous glass-walled greenhouse called the Jewel Box.
26. MONTANA // PALISADE FALLS
For those who enjoy an easy hike (less than a mile!) and a beautiful view, Palisade Falls offers plenty of wildflowers, the shady cover of spruce and fir trees, and of course, the hum of the 80-foot waterfall. The falls are a short drive outside of Bozeman, Montana, and the paved trail makes this spot accessible for those in wheelchairs and parents with small children.
27. NEBRASKA // WORLD’S LARGEST PORCH SWING
In the tiny town of Hebron, you can have a meal with up to 18 adults or 24 children on what the is billed as the World’s Largest Porch Swing. While the swing is in a public park rather than on a porch, it’s a fun spot to swing away the afternoon. But with a swing that large, you might need to ask a local for a push.
28. NEVADA // VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK
Avoid the insanity of Las Vegas and soak in incredible natural scenery in Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park. But leave the paper bags at home—bring your best picnic basket to honor the prehistoric "Basket Maker" peoples who created much of the rock art that can still be viewed in the park today.
29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // RHODODENDRON STATE PARK
Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire
If you just want to dine amongst flowers, head to New Hampshire's Rhododendron State Park. The 16-acre grove of rhododendrons is most vibrant in late July, but the park and trails are open to visitors year-round. You can even check the state of the blooms on the park's blog before your visit.
30. NEW JERSEY // VAN SAUN COUNTY PARK
Paramus, New Jersey
There’s so much to do in Van Saun County Park that a picnic might become an afterthought. Spend the day on the park’s ball fields, playground, and dog park, and check out the pony rides, carousel, or the zoo before spreading out your lunch at one of the park’s designated picnic areas.
31. NEW MEXICO // WHITE SANDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Alamogordo, New Mexico
If you enjoy a dramatic view, White Sands National Monument is the place to go. Dunes Drive, a 16-mile round-trip route, winds into the silvery-white gypsum dune fields—stop the car and go for a brief hike or get out your saucer and do a little dune sledding. When you're ready to eat, drive over to the park’s futuristic-looking picnic shelters, each of which is equipped with its own grill.
32. NEW YORK // BEAR MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
Bear Mountain, New York
Perched in the mountains overlooking the Hudson River, Bear Mountain State Park boasts spectacular views and a wide variety of things to do. Enjoy a leisurely pre-picnic walk along the park’s nature trails, rent a boat, go swimming, or (from October to March) strap on a pair of ice skates.
33. NORTH CAROLINA // BEAR ISLAND
Swansboro, North Carolina
Reachable only by boat, Bear Island at Hammocks Beach State Park makes a great day trip for water lovers. Check out the little island’s fishing and swimming spots, rent a kayak or canoe, or just settle in with a sandwich under the picnic shelter to watch the waves.
34. NORTH DAKOTA // ICELANDIC STATE PARK
Cavalier, North Dakota
History and nature buffs alike will love to explore Icelandic State Park, which offers restored historic buildings, the Pioneer Heritage Center, and a riverside nature preserve that is a sanctuary for plants, birds, and wildlife just 5 miles from the Canadian border. Relax under old oak trees while taking in the natural beauty.
35. OHIO // HUNTINGTON BEACH
Bay Village, Ohio
A picnic at Huntington Beach in Bay Village on Lake Erie may be the easiest lunch ever. Grab snacks from The Hut at Huntington, or pop in to the trattoria across the street to pick up panini, pizza, or a selection of antipasti, then pull up a bench at one of the park’s scenic overlooks and enjoy the view.
36. OKLAHOMA // GUTHRIE GREEN
Tulsa's Guthrie Green is a community gathering space with a wide lawn, a garden, tree-lined paths, shady shelters, and a performance space. Named after singer Woody Guthrie and located in the Brady Arts District, the park features green technology like solar panels and LED lighting. Check out the Green’s calendar and plan your picnic to coincide with one of the space’s many concerts, family events, or food truck festivals.
37. OREGON // HOYT ARBORETUM
The Hoyt Arboretum is a nature lover’s paradise tucked inside the urban landscape of Portland. Washington Park’s "museum of living trees" is home to 6000 tree specimens representing over 2000 species from around the globe. After working up an appetite on a hike, visitors can stop for a bite under the Stevens Pavilion Picnic Shelter. The 14 picnic tables—10 under the A-frame roof and four on the grass nearby—are surrounded by a grove of Douglas firs. After, you can explore other attractions in the park like the Children’s Museum, Japanese Garden, and the Oregon Zoo.
38. PENNSYLVANIA // RINGING ROCKS STATE PARK
Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania
A picnic at Ringing Rocks State Park comes with musical entertainment. On a nice day, the area is filled with the sounds of people striking hammers against the park’s mysterious, sonorous boulders (hence the name "Ringing Rocks"). Guests are free to use the tables near the trailhead or bring a blanket to spread out on top of the park’s waterfall when it’s dry. Ice cream and deli sandwiches can both be found at the Homestead Coffee Roasters and general store down the street.
39. RHODE ISLAND // BEAVERTAIL STATE PARK
Jamestown, Rhode Island
Beavertail State Park offers some of the most stunning coastal views in the Ocean State. In between exploring the area’s historic lighthouses and miles of hiking paths, visitors can lay out a seaside picnic along the park’s rocky shoreline. Just make sure to pack something that pairs well with ocean spray.
40. SOUTH CAROLINA // ANGEL OAK PARK
Johns Island, South Carolina
On the edge of Charleston, South Carolina lives one of the oldest organisms east of the Mississippi. Experts estimate that the Angel Oak has been growing for the past 300 to 500 years. The tree is more than just a must-see landmark—the 17,000 square feet of shade beneath the canopy make it a prime picnic location.
41. SOUTH DAKOTA // BLACK HILLS NATIONAL FOREST
Custer, South Dakota
There’s no shortage of stunning, natural beauty in South Dakota. One of the state’s best-known destinations is Black Hills National Forest. Visitors to the park can find plenty of places to set up a picnic and soak in the scenery. The Strawberry Picnic Ground on Strawberry Hill includes picnic tables, charcoal grills, a fire ring, and a path to a small pond. If you’re looking for something sweet to nibble on, the hand-dipped truffles at the Chubby Chipmunk make the chocolate shop worth the 5-mile drive.
42. TENNESSEE // CUMBERLAND PARK
At Cumberland Park in Nashville, running out of things to do is a challenge. The space is home to a climbing wall, a walking path, an amphitheater, and two water-spurting "spraygrounds." Guests can pack their own picnic meal or show up in time for the annual Ragin Cajun Crawfish Boil in May, or any number of their free music events, from jazz concerts to "full moon pickin' parties," throughout the year.
43. TEXAS // BLUE HOLE REGIONAL PARK
is the place to be in the Texas heat. The cool, crystal clear waters of the swimming hole are perfect for taking a dip—or testing out your cannonball skills. The park has open picnic areas for visitors to use, but if you don’t mind being in the splash zone, you can spread your blanket under the shade of the swimming area’s cypress trees.
44. UTAH // ANTELOPE ISLAND STATE PARK
The largest island (over 28,000 acres) in the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island is home to pronghorns, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and one of the largest free roaming herds of bison in the United States. With its swimming areas, picnic tables, horseback riding, and hiking trails, it’s the perfect place to spread out a picnic blanket and enjoy being surrounded by nature. Visitors interested in a little adventure can also head to the island in late October to watch or participate in the park’s annual bison roundup, in which volunteers on horseback corral the island’s bison herds so park employees can administer vaccinations and check-ups.
45. VERMONT // HILDENE
For a scenic picnic ensconced in American history, Hildene in Manchester can’t be beat. The historic home was the summer home of Abraham Lincoln’s eldest son Robert Todd Lincoln, and was occupied by members of the Lincoln family until 1975. Visitors can tour the Lincoln Family Home, which is furnished with Lincoln family furniture, before picnicking in the sprawling gardens that surround the house or at the picnic tables near the visitor’s center.
46. VIRGINIA // FIRST LANDING STATE PARK
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Featuring 19 miles of hiking and biking trails, swimming and boating opportunities, and plenty of wooded areas and beaches to picnic on, First Landing State Park has it all. Named for the 1607 landing of the Virginia Company, the park commemorates an important piece of America’s earliest history. It also features a breathtakingly diverse mix of subtropical and temperate plants for any budding botanists to study.
47. WASHINGTON // GAS WORKS PARK
The grounds of an abandoned factory may sound like a strange place for a picnic, but Seattle’s Gas Works Park offers up a charming—if incongruous—blend of nature and urban decay. With its sprawling lawns and view of the Seattle waterfront, the park is a refuge from the city. But the converted factory grounds are still home to the now-rusting buildings of the Seattle Gas and Light Company’s coal gasification plant, which manufactured tar, roofing, and of course gas during the first half of the 20th century. The park is also close to plenty of restaurants or there are fire grills in the picnic area, and it is known to be the best spot to watch Seattle’s Fourth of July fireworks display.
48. WEST VIRGINIA // SUMMERSVILLE LAKE
Summersville, West Virginia
With its four large picnic shelters, 60 miles of shoreline, and scenic cliff faces and forests, Summersville Lake near Summersville, West Virginia is the perfect peaceful getaway. The lake is the largest in the state, built in the 1960s over the former town of Gad, West Virginia, and is an ideal spot for a post-picnic swim. Scuba divers have even dubbed it "The Little Bahamas of the East" for its clear waters and warm temperatures.
49. WISCONSIN // PICNIC POINT
They call it Picnic Point for a reason. Located in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the nearly mile-long peninsula juts out into the blue waters of Lake Mendota and features a rich array of plant and animal life. With plenty of fire pits and benches, the peninsula is perfect for families looking to barbecue after an easy hike through the woods.
50. WYOMING // MIRROR LAKE
Visitors to Mirror Lake, which lies near the base of Medicine Bow Peak outside of Saratoga, can enjoy a packed lunch overlooking the lake’s clear waters—or cast a line and fish for their own meal. Accessible by car, the popular fishing and picnicking location is in the center of Medicine Bow Forest and is surrounded by plenty of hiking trails for outdoorsy picnickers to enjoy.
By Michele Debczak, Kirstin Fawcett, Shaunacy Ferro, Anna Green, Kate Horowitz, Jake Rossen, and Rebekah Shoemake