AAA Travel Tips / Best Picnic Spots in the U.S.

Best Picnic Spots in the U.S.
By Samantha Brown, Host of “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love”
November 12, 2019
Picnicking is one of summer great pleasures. It’s a perfect family activity; can easily skew romantic for couples (especially if you enjoy a glass of wine); or serve as a fun activity to reconnect with friends over a homemade cheese, meat and olive platter. I’m sure you have your favorite hometown picnic destinations, but if you’re looking to up your game, check out these epic picnic spots.
Hildene Estate in Manchester Vermont
flickr / CC BY /Shiran Pasternak

Manchester, Vermont’s Hildene Estate

Honest Abe may have been born in a log cabin, but his son Robert Todd Lincoln’s tastes were anything but rustic. As the chairman of the Pullman Company, the largest manufacturing corporation at the turn of the 20th century, Lincoln made serious bank, and showed it off with this Georgian Revival mansion. Built in 1905 in the scenic village of Manchester, the estate spans over 412 acres and includes a farm, school house, barn and more. Enjoy a picnic in the sprawling gardens. Pick up delicious salads and sandwiches at Zoey’s in Manchester Center. They do specialty subs and sandwiches, or you can build your own, and all come with homemade chips and a pickle spear.
Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord Massachusetts
flickr CC BY / Amy Meredith

Concord, Massachusetts’ Walden Pond

I personally don’t think holing up in the woods for more than two years would be up my alley. That said, I’d happily spend a few hours along the shores of Walden Pond. This iconic, quiet place Henry David Thoreau made famous continues to draw urban dwellers who crave a relaxing day in nature. In addition to picnicking, you can take a dip in the waters formed by a melted glacier, take a hike on one of the park’s trails, or visit a replica of Thoreau’s one-room cabin. The Concord Cheese Shop offers a big selection of sandwiches, salads, cheese, olives and more for a perfect lunch, dinner or afternoon snack. If you are a literature lover or want to spend more time in Concord, check out this article from AAA.
Cleveland skyline along lake Erie in Ohio and Patty Thomas

Cleveland’s Edgewater Beach

When you think of urban beaches along the Great Lakes, Chicago probably comes to mind. However, Cleveland’s shoreline along Lake Erie offers incredible spots to hang and dine al fresco. Hit up Westside Market to stock up on picnic goodies, like cheese and crackers from the aptly named Cheese Shop; pickles and olives from Rita’s; freshly baked bread from Christopher’s; and even delicious Middle Eastern from Maha’s Falafel. Enjoy your haul at Edgewater Park, which offers endless lake and skyline views.
Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines Iowa
flickr / CC BY SA/Todd Van Hoosear

Des Moines’ Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Enjoy a little culture with your picnic at this beautiful greenspace. Open since 2009, the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park features artwork by 27 of the world’s most celebrated artists. The 4.4-acre park, located in the city’s downtown, is the perfect place to lay out a blanket and enjoy a leisurely meal. You’ll find a few great take away options nearby, including Fighting Burrito —a fast casual spot serving fresh and delicious Mexican food; Ritual Café, which specializes in healthy, vegetarian fare; and La Mie Express, which does yummy pizzas, sandwiches and salads.
Point Dume in Malibu California


It’s one of the most iconic spots in Malibu—complete with beaches, hiking trails, majestic cliffs, surfers and even the occasional sea lion. Bring your beach blanket and enjoy views off the western edge of the continent, all while mowing on delicious food and beverages. Nearby Sun Life Organics offers smoothies, acai bowls, and other healthy options that are oh-so-LA. Local favorite Malibu Seafood, just south of Point Dume on the Pacific Coast Highway, offers delicious ceviches, seafood salads, sandwiches and grilled dinners to-go. There’s usually a bit of a line, but that’s what happens when a restaurant is this good.
Oakville Grocery in California
flickr / CC BY /Thomas Hawk

Oakville Grocery

Founded in 1881, Oakville Grocery is the oldest continually operating grocery store in California. For more than 130 years, it’s served as a hub for farmers and purveyors to sell fresh produce and food to the community and tourists alike. In 2012, the crumbling store underwent a massive renovation that retained the aged grocery store’s character. The foundation was replaced, as were all of the building’s bones, but builders saved and reinstalled the original ceiling, hodge-podge of light fixtures and tin roof. Today, it’s the perfect place to get a taste of the local bounty. Buy wines, meats, cheeses, breads, salads, ice cream and more, then enjoy on their picnic grounds. You may also take your goodies to one of the local vineyards that allows outside food, though alcohol must be purchased from the wineries—OK, twist my arm!
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About AAA Travel and Samantha Brown

New places, different perspectives and heartwarming people around the world sharing their day—what’s not to love? That’s why AAA Travel is sponsoring Season 2 of “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love,” offering you added insight that brings our trusted travel information to life.