It’s a word that can take you right back to those chill summers of your childhood, sitting cross-legged on a blanket under that big leafy oak. A bucket of fried chicken, a container of sandwiches…watermelon triangles…a bag of chips, and an extra big brownie square for dessert. Topped off with a nap or a game of hide-and-seek, chase, or frisbee.
The word is “picnic,” and the places – and ways – to enjoy one this time of year are as plentiful as that perfectly ripe peach or plum.
During July, which is National Picnic Month, we’ve rounded up six picnic ideas – places to picnic along with picnic tips for simple foods.
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6 Picnic Ideas – Places to Graze and Grub
Check out some of the best places to have a picnic and some picnic food ideas to pair with your outing.
Point Vicente Interpretive Center
31501 Palos Verdes Drive West, Rancho Palos Verdes
The Point Vicente Lighthouse is a gorgeous gem along the jagged cliffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, but visiting is only allowed on certain days and times. For the best anytime up-close look at this pretty attraction, visit the Point Vicente Interpretive Center park and museum right next door and settle in for a picnic with an unbeatable backdrop. (If you visit between December and April, keep an eye out for whales on their annual migration route.) Spread out on the park lawn or snag a picnic table, and then take a nature walk on one of several beautiful waterfront trails. Lower Point Vicente is part of the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve.
Picnic Food Ideas: If you’re including a hike in your visit, you’ll want to pack light. Think peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you don’t need to keep cool in a cooler, trail mix or nuts, individually packaged cheeses, and sliced apples or peeled oranges.
Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve
The entrance is behind Arthur Johnson Memorial Park – 1202 W. 170th Street, Gardena
One of the area’s best-kept secrets, Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve, is an oasis of calm and beauty, chockfull of beautiful native plants and flowers in a wilderness-like setting. The preserve is only open at certain times each month, so check the website before your visit to make the best plan. New this season: take advantage of “Willows at Dusk” on select Friday evenings in July and August, and just before your stroll on the 3/4-mile trail, picnic in the adjacent Arthur Johnson Park. Be sure to register for all Gardena Willows activities in advance – you can find more information, including contact information, here.
Picnic Food Ideas: KISS (Keep It Super Simple) – pack chips and salsa, and on the way, stop by your local haunt for your favorite burritos. Trust us, this combo is a crowd-pleaser every time!
2600 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach
Another picnic idea is Bruce’s Beach. It’s the perfect spot to plop down with picnic food under a big shade tree, and it comes complete with a gorgeous ocean view at the end of the plush grassy lawn. Bruce’s Beach is the oldest park in Manhattan Beach. It has a history that recently made national news headlines. The property has just been reinstated to the descendants of a Black couple who were run out of Manhattan Beach decades ago.
If you’re unfamiliar with the past story of this beautiful piece of land, there is a plaque onsite with the details, making Bruce’s Beach a beautiful setting for a picnic and a good conversation starter. And, after indulging in your picnic food, you can hit the Strand to get in some steps, burn a few calories and breathe in that refreshing ocean air. If you hit Bruce’s Beach and decide to take your picnic to the beach, go for it – the sand is only a two-minute walk away.
Picnic Food Ideas: Beach-ready finger foods, just in case once you get there, the sandy beach is calling. Think bars – granola and fruit bars – plus sandwiches, chips, grapes, and apple slices.
2521 Valley Drive, Hermosa Beach
This park, the largest in Hermosa Beach, has it all. Space to run around and play games, picnic tables, playsets for kids, a large lush lawn, grills for barbecuing, a basketball court, close-by restrooms, free parking, and more. Dogs are also happy and welcome at Valley Park, a big plus! While you’re there, check out the native vegetation at the park’s small Theodore Payne Native Flora area. It was installed in 1966 by the Hermosa Garden Club and today is maintained by volunteers of all ages.
Picnic Food Ideas: Take advantage of the park’s grills and make hot dogs or burgers. Pack a cooler on wheels with chilled accompaniments like pasta salad, potato salad, freshly cut up fruits, and a fun, refreshing, and special dessert, like lemon bars or blookies.
Whether in a nearby park or on a beach, or at the Hollywood Bowl, you know that your summer concerts are simply not complete without picnic foods. Don’t make prep complicated: Go for the super convenient takeout pizza or hit up your favorite grocer or restaurant for made-to-order picnic boxes. And two “neat” picnic tips for all voyages – first, bring a small trash bag to make cleaning up a cinch or reuse any plastic baggies that you packed your sandwiches or celery sticks in as trash bags. And second, stock up on plenty of wet wipes – more than you think you will need because chances are, you’ll never have enough!
Picnic Food Ideas: Pack an insulated cooler with your favorite homemade salads or use them to supplement and bring a healthy addition to prepared foods from your local grocer or restaurant.
Take advantage of the perfect summer evening temps and take a picnic dinner into your backyard for a fun and easy treat that kids will love. Set up a portable projector for a movie night or a portable speaker for your own concert night. And here’s a picnic tip: you can let the kids pick the movie or music for the night and have them come up with a picnic menu that ties into the theme. Plus, you’re off the hook for dinner, and there’s built-in entertainment to boot! The starry sky truly is the limit.
Picnic Food Ideas: Go for a charcuterie board and let the kids pick what goes on it. If they need suggestions, consider crackers and pretzels, veggie sticks and the dips of their choosing, trail mix, grapes, popcorn, favorite deli meats, cookies, etc.