Top 5 Places to Picnic in the Park
Our top 5 list takes the guesswork out of picking the perfect picnic spot – what’s for lunch is up to you.
Saturday, June 18 the National Park Service is celebrating International Picnic Day by encouraging Americans to get outdoors and enjoy a picnic in a favorite national park. With more than 400 national parks, monuments and landmarks to choose from, you’ll be sure to find your ideal lunch location. And odds are there is a KOA nearby!
Our recipe for a fun, all-day picnic: Good eats, of course, with some treats thrown in for dessert, packed in your daypacks. A hike, kayak paddle, or bike ride will work up everyone’s appetite. The final ingredient is a picturesque spot preferably where the kids can play and you can relax, perhaps near some water, whether a river, lake or the ocean. Who has the Frisbee?
Here are five ideas to get you started:
- Too many people simply drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park when there are so many places to take a walk or a hike and see a waterfall. There are more than 20 to choose from! And there are plenty of streams for a picnic and trout fishing too. Try Chimneys Picnic Area by the rushing Little Pigeon River. You’ll find a beautiful KOA Holiday complete with cabins in Pigeon Forge TN, right on the Little Pigeon River at the foothills of the national park.
- Before your picnic on a Southern California beach, explore the teeming tide pools and Old Point Loma Lighthouse, restored to how it looked in the 1880s and depicting what life was like then for the light keepers and their families at Cabrillo National Monument on the San Diego Coast. The monument is named for Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on the West Coast. While visiting, check out all the birds and stick around for sunset Yoga! Don’t forget the sand toys!
- We love Olympic National Park on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula because the sprawling park includes several ecosystems—from the Olympic Mountains to old growth forests to rainforests and of course, the Pacific coast. Before your picnic, you can hike through the Hoh Rain Forest, stroll along the shores of the 12-mile long Lake Crescent, a glacial lake. Or skip stones at Rialto Beach where you might spy a bald eagle. At the Olympic Peninsula / Port Angeles KOA, located at the gateway to the park, you’ll find the perfect basecamp for all your Pacific adventures.
- Check out the historic 16-iunch gun at Battery Townsley, take a walk around Crissy Field’s restored wetlands, look for red-legged frogs in the Mori Point ponds and pose for a selfie with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background at Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco. Bike along the waterfront across the Golden Gate Bridge or spend the day at Stinson Beach. The kids will like the interactive exhibits at Golden Gate Bridge Plaza. You may want to camp across the bridge in Marin County where you have your pick of KOAs.
- Join a ranger-led canoe trip, go for a swim, climb to the top of a historic lighthouse, or go for a bike ride—there are three biking trails and 12 walking trails that offer ample opportunity to see wildlife—seals and sharks, shorebirds and turtles—within the Cape Cod National Seashore. There are six lifeguard-protected beaches for your picnic. Take your pick!
Eileen Ogintz writes the syndicated column and blog Taking the Kids and is the author if The Kid’s Guide series for kids to major cities across the United States.
Looking for more great ideas to get kids excited about travel? Checkout Eileen’s Kid’s City Guides for tons of tips, facts, games and fun from traveling kids in the know.