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How to plan the perfect picnic

Photo by Underground Dining at Naglee Park via Yelp

Outdoor dining has become very popular over the last several months as we’ve all tried to keep safe while eating out. But we submit that the humble picnic has always been the best way to spread out a blanket and keep distance while dining. 

With the warm days waning and fall foliage on the cusp of coming on, now is an ideal time to bust out the blanket and basket to eat your grub on the grass. Take a peek at our picnic ideas and see how Yelp can help you plan the perfect picnic!

Pick the Place. Yelp has dedicated categories for parks, hiking, campgrounds, fishing, and lakes. You can also search for features like “rivers” or “forest” to pick the kind of scenery you want. Or, just search “picnic” to see reviews where Yelpers divulge their pinicking secrets. For curated lists, you can see our recent post about the Top Photographed Parks in North America and Highest-Rated Hiking Spots in Every State.

Pick the Food. Preparing your own? We suggest the specialty food category, where you’ll find sub-categories for cheese shops, chocolatiers, fruits and veggies; or the regular food category for grocery, dessert, or beer/wine/spirits. However, takeout is totally an option. Just dial in the address of the destination you picked, search for restaurants, and filter the results by “offers takeout.”

We’ve included a few examples below for inspiration:

Cheese Bar by Nicole Y / Mount Tabor Park by John K

In Portland, we searched for parks and found Mount Tabor. Brad M explains, “There are a lot of great little spots for a picnic. We got to the top of one hill and there was one bench that was perfectly in the warm sun.”

What do you pair with rich view of the city and Mount Hood in the distance? Rich cheeses from Cheese Bar, which we found on the map across from the northwest corner of the park. Pick up a sampling of several cheeses (curbside pickup now available) and make the trek up Tabor.

Liberty Heights Fresh by E S / Liberty Park by Keo N

Salt Lake City has ample opportunities for do-it-yourself dining al fresco. Searching for specialty markets like Liberty Heights Fresh means you can go in to peruse their specialty produce, meats, cheeses, and crusty breads; or you can simply pick up a grab-and-go sandwich.

From there, searching for parks and sorting by distance puts Liberty Park on your radar, just a few blocks to the west. This park has plenty of picnic tables, green lawn space, walking paths, and room to spread out safely. Or you can come by on Friday nights during the summer for the farmers market and grab your food from one of the local farmers or prepared food vendors.

The SaltBox Cafe / Eastern Promenade by Mike S

Want to stretch your legs to work up an appetite? In Maine, a search for a hike led us to Eastern Promenade, where Yelper Maria L recently shared, “There’s lots to do here including kayaking, basketball, tennis, or a simple picnic with a great view of the water.” 

Pick up a bite from The SaltBox Cafe, an adorable mini mobile kitchen, that often sets up next to the promenade. In the words of Christina H, “It’s like a tiny wooden cabin on wheels!” Their coffee gets you going, but it’s the crab crake croissant that will have you coming back. 

Espresso Y Poco Mas / Big Bend NP by Bill O

Think outside the box lunch. Think outside lunch or dinner altogether, and have a breakfast picnic. Searching for breakfast on the Mexican border brought us to Espresso Y Poco Mas where the burritos and other brekkie options are legit. 

With takeout burritos in hand, you’re less than 15 minutes away from Big Bend National Park, where the best meals are outdoors meals. Some restaurants tout dining rooms with a view, but you can’t beat the picnic vistas. Texan Brent L reports, “I was just awestruck and flabbergasted with the views and the scenery every time I turned a corner.”

Whether it’s a breakfast burritos in a national park, sandwiches for lunch on the trail, or sunset in the park with fancy finger foods, Yelp can help you assemble the perfect picnic!