Pack a picnic blanket and explore local parks for a taste of life in the Bay Area suburbs.
A family picnic is a perfect way to test out the Bay Area suburbs. Stop by a grocery store or nearby grab-and-go restaurant for some goodies, find a park or green space, and dig in. Not only will you get a sense of how you could spend your weekends in the not-too-distant future, but you’ll have an opportunity to chat up locals and get the scoop on anything and everything.
#1. Shoreline Lake (Mountain View)
If you’re considering Mountain View, Shoreline Lake needs to be on your radar. This waterfront park offers tons of activities from seasonal events from Fourth of July fireworks to an Autumn Spice festival to kids camps, sailing lessons, and more. Plus, there’s plenty of grassy space for waterfront picnics.
#2. Mitchell Park (Palo Alto)
Mitchell Park has something for everyone in your crew, including a fenced-in dog run for your four-legged family members. This park also features a playground, splash pad, biking trails and sports facilities, including tennis courts and soccer fields. The public library is next to the park so you could take the kids to storytime before your afternoon picnic.
Schedule a curbside pickup at Dohatsuten for ramen and Japanese tapas or check out Ada’s Cafe in the park. This community-focused nonprofit works to train and empower employees with disabilities and offers a menu of pastries, sandwiches, snacks and coffee.
#3. Gamble Garden (Palo Alto)
A few miles from Mitchell Park, Gamble Garden is a 2 ½ acre greenspace filled with rose and herb gardens. Locals can stroll through the park for free and it’s a favorite with those looking for a quieter spot to relax.
Throughout the year, yoga, concerts and other neighborhood events are held at Gamble Garden. Pick up sandwiches at Mendocino Farms or a latte at Verve Coffee Roasters before finding a scenic spot in the garden to enjoy your picnic.
#4. Shoup Park (Los Altos)
Shoup Park is a favorite with active Los Altos families. Not only does this park have plenty of designated picnic areas and BBQs but it connects to the hiking trails in the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve. As a bonus, there’s also a playground and a teen center in the park.
#5. Blackie’s Pasture or Paradise Park (Tiburon)
There are several kid-approved picnic spots to explore in Tiburon. One of our faves is Blackie’s Pasture — named for a beloved horse who used to live in the field — for a scenic waterfront picnic. Keep an eye out for a sculpture of the horse as you take a stroll on the Tiburon Historical Trail.
Another popular option is Paradise Park. This 19-acre beach park features a fishing pier, swimming areas plus peaceful picnic spots with BBQs. No matter which park you pick, you can grab supplies from Woodlands Market or Rustic Bakery.
#6. Town Park (Corte Madera)
When you’re exploring Corte Madera, be sure to visit the 20-acre Town Park. This grassy spot has everything including a playground, dog park, tennis courts and shaded picnic benches.
Stop by Trader Joe’s or Safeway first to get your picnic essentials. If you’d rather check out a local eatery, there’s Tub-Tim Thai Restaurant or Blue Barn, which even offers takeout picnic baskets. Another fave: Cafe Verde, an Italian hotspot and pizzeria right on the edge of the park.
#7. McNears Beach County Park (San Rafael)
If your family loves to get out on the water, McNears Beach County Park is the place to be. There’s a swimming pool, fishing pier and easy access for kayaking and canoeing. You can even connect to the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail for bay views while you hike.
When you’re ready to relax, you’ll find plenty of picnic tables and green space. There are so many grocery stores nearby, like Sprouts and Andy’s Local Market with a massive deli, or you can order takeout from one of the many global restaurants in San Rafael, including Lotus Cuisine of India and Sol Food. Alternatively, swing by the San Rafael Farmers Market on Sunday and grab some local eats en route to the park.
#8. Stafford Lake Park (Novato)
Outdoorsy families love Stafford Lake Park. Not only can you fish from the shore, but this 139-acre park offers tons of scenic hiking trails and a disc golf course. This is also one of the only spots in the Bay Area where you can see the leaves change in the fall.
If you’re heading here, check out Harvest Market, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods on the way. All are just minutes from the park.
#9. Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach (Alameda)
Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach gives Alameda residents a vacation-like escape in their own backyard. This park offers 2.5 miles of beach plus tons of swimming areas and grassy spots for laid-back picnics. You can even bring your pup to the lawn areas.
If you want to take advantage of the BBQs, stop by TJs, Safeway or Alameda Natural Grocery for your grilling needs. As you eat, you might get some bonus entertainment — this is a favorite spot with windsurfers so keep an eye on the water.
#10. Tilden Regional Park (Berkeley)
If Berkeley is on your list, pack your picnic blanket and head to Tilden Regional Park. This 2,000-plus acre park includes nearly 40 miles of trails, a swimming lake, botanical garden, steam train, and a carousel.
You’ll also find plenty of picnic spots around the park or you can reserve one of the designated areas with BBQ grills. Pick up snacks from Whole Foods or Andronico’s Community Markets on your way in. There are a ton of other options in Berkeley if you want takeout, like Sweetgreen and Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen,
#11. Danville Public Library Lawn (Danville)
Danville residents often set up picnics in the one-acre Town Green outside the library. Take the kids to the library for storytime or performance before enjoying your alfresco meal.
You’ll have no trouble finding somewhere to stock up on picnic supplies. There’s a Lunardi’s and Trader Joe’s nearby or you can get Mediterranean carryout from Sultan’s Kebab or Mexican classics (including Whole30 options) from Cocina Hermanas.
#12. Briones Regional Park (Lafayette Area)
Briones Regional Park is the place to go for a camping staycation, day hike or scenic picnic. There are even horseback riding trails if your family is big on equestrian activities.
Pick up a fresh salad or sandwich or breakfast from Sideboard before making your way to the park. Depending on the season, you might enjoy incredible wildflower views while you eat.
#13. Central Park (San Ramon)
San Ramon residents have tons of options for picnic spots but one of our favorites is Central Park. This grassy area has a playground, skate park and splash pad. Plus, you can grab a salad from Mixt or Greek favorites from Shish Grill for an easy meal.
You could combine your visit with a stop at Fieldwork, a family-friendly beer garden nearby.
#14. Laurelwood Park and Coyote Point Recreation Area (San Mateo)
With so many great outdoor spots in San Mateo, we couldn’t mention just one. Laurelwood Park is the largest in town and features trails to Sugarloaf Mountain plus a playground for the kids. For picnic supplies, there’s Neal’s Coffee Shop, which has a crowd-pleasing breakfast and lunch menu, plus Trader Joe’s and Safeway.
Across town is another favorite- Coyote Point Recreation Area. This spot features the fantastic Magic Mountain Playground, hiking trails, fishing spots and swimming areas. There are plenty of picnic spots in this rec area, so grab food at Mollie Stone’s Market or Green Leaf Bistro first.
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