Now that summer is here, "eating out" has taken on a whole new meaning. Instead of restaurant manners and table servers, families can look forward to finger-lickin' food and outdoor fun. Thanks to longer daylight hours and great weather, the Bay Area is a picnicker's paradise from morning 'til evening. All it takes are some sandwiches and drinks (and a treat or two) packed in a basket, a blanket, and a drive to one of these great Bay Area picnic spots:
Stern Grove, San Francisco
Stern Grove has a magical way of making your cares disappear. Maybe that's because it's surrounded by tall redwoods, nasturium and eucalyptus trees, giving the grove a sense of peach and solitude right in the heart of San Francisco. There are plenty of walking trails to make sure you work up an appetite and a sweat before spreading a blanket and relaxing. Take a sweater to ward of chills and enjoy a picnic underneath the shade of the trees as you take a break from the sun and the rest of the urban madness. On summer weekends, the Grove comes alive as thousands descend upon the ampitheatre to enjoy live music and dance performances of the Stern Grove Festival. On those days, parking becomes more of a challenge, but don't let the crowds deter you from enjoying a beautiful day at the park.
Tilden Park, Berkeley
There's something for everyone at Berkeley's Tilden Park: miles of hiking trails for the adventurous, a botanical garden for the green thumbs, a lake for swimmers, as well as a steam train and carousel for the young (and young at heart). Multi-generational families can spread out and pursue their interests, then gather at one of the park's many picnic areas to rest, refuel, and reconnect.
Vasona Lake County Park, Los Gatos
Every weekend, thousands of South Bay families flock to Vasona Lake County Park to spend the day, but it never seems to feel crowded, thanks to a full 150 acres of space, including 45 acres of lawn for frisbee tossing, softball, or soccer. The rest of it is devoted to miles of hiking and biking trails, walking paths, fishing ponds, a lake and reservoir for rowing or paddling boats, and multiple picnic areas. Little ones and their families will love the giant playground, carousel, and railroad train at the adjacent Oak Meadow Park, just across the road. Don't miss the Vasona Vibrations summer concert series with local artists performing a variety of music styles to entertain you as you munch on a picnic dinner!
Hidden Villa Farm, Los Altos
Hidden Villa isn't just a farm where schoolchildren come to see baby cows and chickens or learn about sustainable, organic farming. It's also a wonderful place to relax, explore, and spend a summer day. The farm stretches over an incredible 16,000 acres of open space; venture beyond the goats in the barn, and you'll find over eight miles of trails through the Santa Cruz Mountains to hike and explore. Adobe Creek bubbles and spills its way around the hiking trails and through the farm itself; even in the summertime, water runs merrily through the creek for children to splash and wade into. There are plenty of sunny spots to dry out on, as well as shady areas for a picnic lunch and a snooze.
Kelley Park, San Jose
For a park with no playground, Kelley Park attracts more than its fair share of children and families. That's because it's located right beside San Jose's Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, and many families like to escape the confines and the crowds for an hour or so for lunch. Fortunately, Kelley Park has no shortage of picnic areas; there are plenty of tables, lots of shade and space for little legs to run. In fact, there's a lot for families to do at Kelley Park without having to set a foot in Happy Hollow: little ones can take ride on the Kelley Park Train, wander through the picturesque bridges, and koi ponds of the Japanese Friendship Garden or hop on the California Trolley at History Park. Both History Park and the Japanese Friendship Garden are free and open to the public, so a day of fun at Kelley Park doesn't have to cost more than the price of a picnic lunch.
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