We’re blessed here in California with weather that allows us to enjoy sunny alfresco dining much of the year while people in other parts of the country are bundled up inside filling up on soup and hot tea. But there’s something about the arrival of June and the end of the school year that makes you want to stock up on some goodies, grab a red gingham blanket and head to a scenic site for a picnic.

Whether you’re looking for a prime spot on the beach, a grassy hillside, or a mountain vista, you’re bound to find just the right locale for your perfect picnic (and in some places, you just might find all three at once!). So pack up your basket and head on out to one of these great California picnic spots.

Los Angeles Area



Picnicking in front of the Griffith Park Observatory yields a uniquely California view. Image courtesy of Flickr user AnthonyGurr

1. Griffith Park

No list of primo picnic areas in L.A. would be complete without mentioning Griffith Park. After all, it’s not just the go-to spot for hiking, hanging out and grabbing some culture; it’s also a reality show staple when it comes to showcasing the ultimate L.A. panorama. The area is littered with benches and tables, but nothing compares with the stretch of “lawn in front of the historic Griffith Park Observatory,” says Huffington Post, with a view of all of L.A. spilling out before you.

2. Switzer Falls

For a decidedly un-L.A. experience, travel a bit inland to Switzer Falls in La Cañada, where Arroyo Seco Creek offers a favorite spot for peaceful picnicking among the majesty of the Angeles National Forest. If you’re so inclined to hike while you’re there, you might just happen upon cascading waterfalls, natural swimming holes, and tufts of wildflowers.

A view to savor from Malibu Bluffs Park. Image courtesy of Flickr user Snap Man.



3. Malibu Bluffs Park

When it comes to beaches, Malibu Bluffs Park offers a spot that takes full advantage of its heightened vantage point. The bluffs give way to stunning ocean views, while the natural terrain keeps the sand out of your shoes. But if sand between your toes is precisely the point of a beach picnic, head to one of Travel and Leisure’s favorite spots: Malibu’s Point Dume. “It’s only minutes from L.A. but you feel transported—wide, beautiful stretch of white sands, crashing waves, and even dolphins if you’re lucky.” 

San Diego Area

Sea lions visible from La Jolla Cove. Image courtesy of Flickr user Sharper Nature & Landscape Photography.

San Diego has some of the country’s most spectacular sites—and sights–for relaxing with a good plate of food and a couple of good friends or loved ones.

4. La Jolla Cove

With a surfside view overlooking La Jolla Cove, it doesn’t get much more picturesque (or more romantic) than Ellen Browning Scripps Park. Undoubtedly why it is the “most photographed spot in San Diego according to AAA Magazine.” The popular, secluded La Jolla Cove beach and Children’s Pool, so named because it is ideal for kids, are both easily accessible from here.

5. Carlsbad State Beach

Looking for a spot to spend some picnicking time as a family? Nothing beats Carlsbad State Beach. Between the sandy shore and the bluffs overlooking the Pacific, you’re sure to find a great spot for your spread, and your brood. And just in case you need to check your email between bites of potato salad, you’ll be happy to know there is free WIFI on the beach for AT&T customers.

6. Balboa Park

Balboa Park is the urbanite’s answer to the picnic—a rose gardened, relaxing respite in the center of San Diego’s hustle, bustle. A bonus for Balboa Park enthusiasts: you can bring the dog too!

Bay Area

The mesmerizing Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Image courtesy of Flickr user citybythebaytours.

7. Palace of Fine Arts

Located in San Francisco’s Marina district, the Palace of Fine Arts was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition…and was even honored with a miniature version at Disney’s California Adventure. This favorite spot for weddings is also among the most relaxing of picnic places, with lush greenery and sparkling water as your guides.

8. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

Meander through coastal redwoods and you’ll find an ideal spot to set up for the day among Bothe-Napa Valley State Park’s towering Douglas Firs, lush ferns and falling water. Is this the Napa Valley wine country? You bet.

A picturesque picnic on Angel Island. Image courtesy of Flickr user Lisa Vorderbrueggen.

9. Angel Island

Hop on a ferry from San Francisco or Oakland and spend a few hours on Angel Island, the largest island in the Bay Area, with big views to match. Once a World War II immigration station, the island today offers pristine surroundings in which to enjoy your picnic. When you’re done, take a walk on the trails or enjoy an island tours. Forget the food? You’ll be happy to know the island has its own concessions.

Where will you be heading to this summer?