Guide to Summer, Part 2: The Country’s Best Picnic Spots


Summer is in full swing, and it’s got us doing our best to spend as much time as we can outside and enjoy it while it lasts. To help you make the most of the season, we’ve teamed up with Victoria lager to present a Guide to Summer, a four-part series presenting some of the best outdoor spots, events, and ideas in the country. In this installment, we take a look at some of the nation’s best picnic locales, from a California vineyard to an island in the Detroit River. Check it out and let us know what we missed. Then be sure to catch our other Guide to Summer posts on outdoor music venues, film series, and themed BBQ ideas.

Governors Island, NYC

A ten-minute free ferry ride away from the Southern tip of Manhattan, Governors Island is the perfect spot to escape the clamor of the city. The Island has changed hands from the Native Americans to the Dutch to the English, and finally to the US, with a history that saw it house everyone from Confederate prisoners to the Coast Guard, but it’s only within the last decade that it opened to the public through the National Park service. Numerous events take place here throughout the summer, including concerts, festivals, art exhibits, and sports, but it’s also a great place to spend the day biking, lounging, exploring, and taking in the sun.

Click through the links below to continue exploring our top picnic spots.

The Yards Park, Washington DC

The Yards Park opened in Washington, DC in September, but it wasn’t fully ready with its benches and fountain until the warm weather hit again this season. The park sits on the oft-forgotten Anacostia River, next to the Navy Yard and Washington Nationals stadium. The landscaping is modern and artistic, with a post-modern bridge that overlooks much of the park, and wooden lounge chairs farther along for you to lounge and watch the Anacostia. The second best thing about the park is that because it is new and in an otherwise industrial area, it’s never overcrowded. The best thing about the park is the wading pool with its modern cascading fountain. Its primary use seems to be for little kids who are learning how to swim and splash their siblings, but there are clean wood and metal decks all around to sit on and dip your feet on hot days. – Nora Oppenheim

Georges Island, MA

Just a 25 minute ferry ride away from Boston Harbor, Georges Island has a huge field with a lot of room for picnics and running around, as well as ample trees to lie under for shade. The island also has a beautiful shoreline with rocks to sit on for those who like to picnic by the water, and it remains a historic venue filled with ruins waiting to be explored. – Fiona Guedalia

Stinson Beach, CA

(Photo via TrekEarth)

Situated just above the San Francisco Bay, Stinson Beach can get windy and cold (an appropriate time to trot out Mark Twain’s “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in SF” aphorism); but on a sunny day, it’s gorgeous, and a great place for refueling after a hike through the redwoods at nearby Muir Woods. There’s a large park with tons of picnic tables, but you can also bring the picnic right down to the sand. Plus, there are kayaks and surf gear to rent if you’re up for it — but keep in mind the water’s more than likely to be on the chilly side, too. – Leah Taylor

Northerly Island, Chicago IL

For those more adventurous Chicagoans, Northerly Island is worth the trek past Soldier Field. It provides both a great view of the skyline (framed in prairie grass) and of the mighty Lake Michigan. You can hear music on the northern part of the island, but we prefer the days when it’s less crowded. It’s also easy to bike to, and there’s a small beach on the east side where you can relax. Though you can no longer watch airplanes take off from Meigs Field, you can enjoy heckling Segway riders as they traverse the landscape. – Kathleen Massara

Preston Vineyards, Healdsburg, CA

Northern California’s Preston Vineyards and Winery sells wine, produce, fresh bread, and farm-made olive oil. It also features the loveliest garden, where you can picnic and pick figs off the trees and pretend you’re in a Merchant/Ivory movie, living a life of leisure. – Lauren Epstein

Belle Isle, Detroit MI

In Detroit, Belle Isle is the ultimate picnic mecca. It sits in the middle of the Detroit River connected by a little bridge, just a few blocks from the heart of Downtown. It’s only about two miles long, and you can rollerblade the entire circumference in about 30 minutes. It’s also a historic park, complete with a zoo, marina, golf course, water park, aquarium, a giant slide, and a bunch of old mansions from the early 1900s that are now abandoned and seemingly haunted. The best spot for a picnic: the giant, majestic fountain that greets you once you get off the bridge. It’s one of Detroit’s true jewels. – Alexandra Gamlin

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood CA

It’s hard to beat the Cinespia outdoor screenings in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. If you get there at dusk, you can stroll past the graves of entertainment greats and visit the peacocks who roam the grounds daily. Before the movie, a DJ typically spins beats while folks chomp on dinner. It can be eerie to picnic at night in a cemetery, but watching Easy Rider or Harold and Maude projected against the side of a mausoleum ends up feeling quite life affirming. – Jane McCarthy