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    > 10 Best Picnic Spots in the Bay Area

    10 Best Picnic Spots in the Bay Area

    Good food, blankets, green grass, fun friends, sunny skies –picnics are the very essence of lazy summers, family vacations or weekend adventures. In the Bay Area, my family usually picnics in the middle of a hike at a nice viewpoint on top of a hill or along a water stream. For my girls, it’s a welcome break where they can put down their backpack, kick back their shoes, roam free and explore the surroundings on their own.

    Picnics are also a great way to get together with friends and let the kids play games while the adults tend to the BBQ or chat the day away. Whatever your favorite picnic option is, here are the 10 best picnic spots in the Bay Area, to relax al fresco and bless our California weather.

    In no particular order, this list features Bay Area spots from all over, including San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Santa Clara, the Peninsula and the East Bay.

    #1 Picnic on the Beach at Crissy Field, San Francisco

    With views on the Golden Gate Bridge, a sandy beach sloping gently into the bay, few waves and nice weather, Crissy Field is a winner in the Bay Area for San Francisco families. Most picnic tables have BBQ grills and they are scattered on a the big grassy expanse next to the Warming Hut. No wonder people show up early to stake their claims for the day!

    Crissy Field, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog. Most picnic tables have a view on the beach.

    My favorite time of the day is mid-morning to mid-afternoon as Crissy Field tends to get windy in the afternoons. Don’t forget a change of clothes, kids will get into the water whether you think it’s cold or not!

    #2 Pioneer Picnic at the Log Cabin, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

    10 Best Bay Area Picnic Spots
    Pioneer Log Cabin in Golden Gate Park. Probably the most private picnic spot in all Golden Gate Park.

    When the coast or the bay is too windy, the Log Cabin right next to Stowe Lake is the place to be to grill skirt steak and have a cold drink. The four (independent) picnic tables are walking distance from the Stowe Lake boathouse so if the kids want to go on paddle boats or canoes before or after the picnic, it’s a great distraction. Otherwise a grassy meadow and a large tree stump provide ample room for nature play.

    #3 Mediterranean Picnic at Sonoma Plaza, Sonoma

    You won’t get closer to Mediterranean living than a picnic on Sonoma Plaza. A stone’s throw from the old Mission San Francisco de Solano and minutes way from dozens of fantastic wineries, the plaza features big grassy lawns shaded by century-old trees next to a playground and a duck pond.

    Sonoma City Hall

    Since the plaza is surrounded by shops and restaurants, you can even do some last-minute shopping on site to supplement your meal. And for a grand finale, take the kids to the Sonoma Traintown railroad, a mini-amusement park a mile away where kids can ride a miniature train over bridges, through tunnels and play at a miniature town.

    For more Sonoma hiking ideas, check out Sonoma Trails & Grapes, a selection of hiking trails along winery road trips.

    #4 Ranch Picnic at Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve, Cupertino

    Easy trails, beautiful trees, old winery on site, picnic tables on a lawn and a wandering peacock – what else can you ask of a picnic day? A rare combination of open space and commercial winery, Picchetti Ranch is a great place to bring small kids and hike the trails overlooking Stevens Creek Reservoir.

    Picchetti Ranch picnic area. Source: Yelp

    A seasonal pond is easily accessible from the trailhead and when it dries out, you can still wander underneath gigantic oak trees on the Zinfandel Trail. Once at the picnic area, you can taste the Picchetti Winery wines and bring them outside.

    #5 Bay View Picnic at Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley

    Right in the San Francisco Bay Area with a view on two bridges and Alcatraz, Cesar Chavez Park offers 90 acres of fun with an off-leash area for dogs, nice paved trails for little ones on two wheels and picnic tables under the trees.

    Cesar Chavez Park. Source: Visit Berkeley

    If the kids feel like some water or adventure fun, simply head to the other side of the Berkeley Marina where the Adventure Playground offers the ultimate kid fun day. In front of the playground, a small sandy beach offers water splashing opps for all ages. Beware: the area can get very windy.

    #6 Creek-side Picnic at Sunol Regional Wilderness, Sunol

    If your kids are like mine and love walking knee-deep in a cold creek on a sunny day, head over to Sunol Regional Wilderness now.

    Western Sycamore trees along the creek at Sunol Regional Wilderness

    Besides the fact that the park offers some seriously beautiful hiking trails, you can access an area known as Little Yosemite where cold water cascades from pool to pool between big boulders. It’s heaven on earth but you need to hike to get there. For car-accessible fun, pick any of the creek-side picnic tables and unleash the kids’ energy!

    #7 Pacific Ocean Picnic at Drakes Beach, Drakes Bay

    Formerly site of the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm, Drakes Beach is a great family-friendly picnic spot in Point Reyes, with picnic tables overlooking Drakes Bay, miles of sandy beach and mini-hikes from the parking lot.

    View on Drakes Beach and the Pacific Ocean

    Close to the Point Reyes Lighthouse (shuttle bus option), Drakes Bay is a favorite picnic spot in Marin as kids can play in waves, build sand castles or run around. It can get chilly, so bring a few layers, and it’s definitely a lovely spot to unwind (no cell phone reception) and stop by the beach cafe & bookstore to stock on nature guides before heading out for some whale-watching from the cliffs.

    #8 Island Picnic at Angel Island State Park, Angel Island

    Angel Island deserves a medal for offering the only ferry-accessible picnic spots in the entire Bay Area. Start the day with a short ferry ride and once on the island, decide on your best picnic option. Most families simply claim a table at Ayala Cove by the ferry landing where a large lawn area offers great views on the bay.

    Angel Island — only a day trip away from the City, yet feels like a vacation

    For a more adventurous option, hoof it up a mile and a half to Camp Reynolds and lay your blanket on the sandy beach where the kids can watch kayakers paddle by. Last but not least, take the tram to the island’s immigration station and picnic before or after visiting the historical buildings.

    #9 Exploration Picnic at Coyote Point Recreation Area, San Mateo

    Between the boat marina, the nature CuriOdyssey museum, the massive Magic Mountain Playground and the beach, Coyote Point Recreation Area is a kid heaven on all points. Since you can’t do it all in one day, you may have to come back but the view on the bay and the eucalyptus groves can’t be beat for scenery.

    Coyote Point’s marina, a Bay Area classic

    A big plus for kids who are plane-maniacs: Coyote Point faces the San Francisco International Airport runways and provides great views on taking off and landing flights.

    #10 Waterline Picnic at Shoreline Park and Lake, Mountain View

    Come for a picnic, stay for the water sports. Shoreline Park and Lake offer a lot of fun options for families besides picnic tables on grassy lawns.

    Shoreline Park in Mountainview

    From the boat-themed playground to the pedal boats or the beach, Shoreline is water-fun-central but bring the bikes in case the kids want to ride along the San Francisco Bay. Tons of flat trails to be enjoyed!

    Have fun picknicking!

    Note: This piece was first published on Well Kiddos on May 15, 2012. Well Kiddos™, a Half Moon Bay organization led by Manuela Hipkins, advocates providing children with healthy food choices when dining in or out. The program is designed to help both restaurants and parents.

    6 thoughts on “10 Best Picnic Spots in the Bay Area

    1. What a great list! Makes me want to get out of town more!
      Don’t forget about the Lafayette Reservoir as well! Lots of spots for picnics as well as some beautiful hikes, fishing spots, and boats for rental! One of my favorite spots for adventuring.

    2. It should be added that picnic tables in Golden Gate Park are a hot commodity and often reserved months ahead. If you want to make sure you have a table for your event, head to the SF Rec & Park to find your spot, then call or stop by their office to make your reservation (they cannot be made online).

    3. Hi Marie, the first photo with the daisies was taken at Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. A lovely spot with a short hike to Alpine Pond for kids.

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