The Best San Diego Picnic Spots to Visit This Spring
April 9, 2019
Spring is here and it’s time to bust out the picnic basket, boxed wine, and sunnies! The County of San Diego oversees over 50,000 acres of parks, historic areas, and open spaces. There are literally hundreds of established spots to have a picnic, so skip the crowded beaches and head to one of San Diego’s best parks for an afternoon picnic in the sun.
San Diego Picnic Spots
On your lunch break or just don’t want to travel too far for some R&R? Explore these inner-city gems for the perfect spot to unwind and refuel.
An iconic San Diego location, you can picnic in Balboa Park over and over without visiting the same spot twice. If you’ve come unprepared, head to The Marketplace on Fifth Avenue to stock up on chips, sandwiches, and ready-to-eat deli salads. Check out the expansive, open grassy area just off Sixth Avenue for an easy-to-access spot to lay down your picnic blanket. Take in the stunning architectural scenery and maybe even catch a few jetliners flying overhead.
Balboa Park also has a few areas where you can legally imbibe in an afternoon treat, like a glass of rosé or local craft beer (just skip the glass bottles). To get away from the crowds while you turn up the relaxation, head over to either of the east or west lawns outside the Botanical Building. Take in the beautiful view of the lily pond, or head over to the international lawn surrounded by idyllic cottages representing countries around the world.
Kate Sessions Memorial Park
Bring your on-leash pup for a picnic and some of the best views in San Diego. The gently sloping grassy area is perfect for picnicking and watching the sun set over the Pacific.
If you’re looking for a little getaway inside the city, head to Presidio for beautiful place to take a timeout. The charming museum, stunning gardens, and many statues and landmarks offer plenty to explore. When you’re ready to set up lunch, head to the Arbor, a little area on the top of the hill between Presidio Drive and Cosoy Way. If you’re packing a picnic and want to bring some booze, no need to hide your wine or beer in coffee mugs! It’s legal to drink in Presidio Park during the hours posted on signs around the park.
Pioneer Park in Mission Hills
This piece of San Diego History dates back to the late 1800s. It is known for being one of the first cemeteries in San Diego, with tombstones and graves of pioneers still at the park. Enjoy a picnic on the large grassy area before exploring a piece of San Diego history. Like Presidio, Pioneer Park allows you to bring a bottle of wine or your favorite IPAs in your picnic basket, provided that you drink them during the approved hours on park signage.
Heritage County Park
Another staple of the history of San Diego, this charming park features several restored Victorian homes and the city’s first synagogue, the Temple Beth Israel. Sprawl out on the beautifully maintained lawn and take in views of the bay while you nosh.
If you prefer your picnic with a side of warm salty air, head to the coast to one of these stunning city parks.
La Jolla Hermosa Park
Perfect for a date, this is one of the San Diego area’s hidden gems. Set up your picnic at one of the tables and take in the amazing views of the open water. Albeit a small park, it is cozy and romantic for an afternoon with your special someone.
Considered by some locals to be one of the best-kept secrets in La Jolla, La Jolla Natural Park—also known as the Viewpoint—spans 42 acres of green and chaparral overlooking the sea. Park on Brodiaea Way and walk to the top of Encelia Drive, where you can enjoy a picnic on the grass with a panorama view of the setting sun.
Scripps Park near La Jolla Cave
One of the most scenic spots in La Jolla, Scripps Park features paved paths and trails leading up to incredible viewpoints over the Pacific. If one of the green Belvederes is available, these sweet, little covered huts are the perfect picnic spot with unparalleled views.
Mission Bay Park
All of Mission Bay Park is great for a picnic but check out the Model Yacht Pond for an especially chill area to enjoy the sun. Bonita Cove and Mariner’s Point offer gazebo seating and BBQs. Crown Point Park and Tecolote Shores on the east side offer plenty of picnic amenities, as well as bike paths that run all around the bay.
Tidelands Park in Coronado
The largest San Diego Bay area park, Tidelands, features a grassy area for picnics as well as a small beach for a dip in the bay. The park offers Instagram-worthy views of the Coronado Bridge, in addition to plenty of areas for post-lunch activities like in-line skating and frisbee.
Outside the City
Sometimes you just have to get out of town. These parks offer charming amenities and majestic views without the inner-city crowds.
Nestled between Bonita, Chula Vista, and Paradise Hills, Rohr Park is the perfect place to unwind. Spend your lunch break watching the ducks glide on the pond, have a heart-to-heart with bae, or post up for a solo picnic in the park.
Chollas Lake in Oak Park
Located eight miles from downtown San Diego, this 16-acre lake is surrounded by groves of eucalyptus trees. Head to the far end of the park away from the parking lot for a quiet, peaceful picnic in the middle of the city.
Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores
Take your lunch on the grassy knoll before taking a stroll on the soft white sands of Kellogg Park. You might get lucky enough to spot some wildlife, including sea lions, leopard sharks, and dolphins.
Palomar County Park
If you really need to beat the heat, get out of the city and head to Palomar County Park. With four acres of scenic views, including the historic Palomar Mountain Observatory, Palomar offers a beautiful and peaceful respite from the San Diego heat.
With so many San Diego picnic spots to choose from, leisurely lunches in the park can be a weekly activity all season long—and why shouldn't they be? Pack yourself a thoughtful bevy of snacks and sips, a cozy blanket, and your favorite eyewear before heading out to enjoy the fresh air and daily dose of vitamin D.
Written by Jacquelyn Nause for Knockaround