The 21 Best Picnic Spots in L.A., According to the Pickiest Outdoors Lovers
A typical picnic is a delish portable meal on a blanket on a green lawn, right? Think again, because the best picnic spots in L.A. have a lot more than that to offer. There are sea views, world-class art installations and delightfully kitsch swan paddle boats. We’ve compiled the best from the east side to the ocean, with input from locals who love to eat en plein air. Now if you can only decide which wine to decant into your HydroFlask.
1. Palisades Bluff Park
“Truly along the ‘way of the Waves’ is this neighborhood stroll with the sunniest, sweeping views along the Malibu coastline and the Pacific...splendor and glorious Santa Monica below,” says one happy visitor. There are a few benches and some grass to loll in, but you’ll find yourself continually looking over the edge of the bluffs to enjoy the view. Since the park is closed sunset to sunrise, it stays clean and manicured.
301 N. Mt. Holyoke Ave, Pacific Palisades
2. Beverly Gardens Park
You’ll recognize this as the park with the big “Beverly Hills” sign looming over the duck and carp pond. It was designed in 1911 by landscape architect Ralph D. Cornell, the then college-age California newcomer who would go on to design the grounds of UCLA, the La Brea Tar Pits and the University of Hawaii. After its 2014 renovation, this park looks better than ever. And because this contemporary art-packed park lets you nosh next to Yayoi Kasuma tulips or Magdalena Abakonowicz’s sitting figure, we chose it as the best picnic spot for art lovers.
N. Santa Monica Blvd And N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills
3. Exposition Park Rose Garden
“This rose garden is a little L.A. treasure. I discovered it many years ago while going to the California Science Center,” says one fan of the seven-acre site. “It is pretty big, with many types of roses, row after row, nice to walk through and check them out. Their perfume floats in the air.” While you’ll want to stick to the shady areas in the midsummer heat, and the park is closed during the winter rose hibernation period, this flowery destination is a favorite for people watching for a quiet, not-too-crowded outdoor hangout spot.
701 State Dr., Los Angeles
4. USC Fisher School of Art
Want to picnic while sitting in the middle of not only art but also vivid plantings? Just outside the gallery, artist Jenny Holzer’s Blacklist commemorates the motion picture artists who were denied employment in the 1950s after they refused to testify in the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings. Ten marble benches (for the “Hollywood Ten” who were shut out of the industry) are surrounded by text of the First Amendment, as well as quotes from people affected by blacklisting, are etched into stone benches and walkways. A central tree lets you enjoy a shady meal while you contemplate “how quickly civil liberties can fall away, right in front of our eyes,” says one visitor.
University of Southern California University Park Campus, 823 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles
5. Averill Park
In this fetching 10-acre park at the southern tip of Los Angeles, you’ll find barbecue pits and picnic tables, as well as more unusual elements like a manmade pond and a gazebo (which is great for your IG grid). There’s a stone bridge arching over the little waterway in the park, and hills where you can put a blanket to watch the ducks splashing around, as well as the occasional sea bird taking an inland break after being out on the deep water.
1300 Dodson Ave., San Pedro; laparks.org
6. Barnsdall Art Park
When groovy arts patron Aline Barnsdall moved to Los Angeles in the early 1900s to start a theatre company, she had emerging starchitect Frank Lloyd Wright build a home (dubbed “Hollyhock House”) for her on the crest of Olive Hill. Then, in 1927, she deeded the home and land to the City of Los Angeles as an arts center, where everything from kids’ art classes to dusk wine tastings take place. Today, the beautifully manicured grounds are the ideal place to unroll a blanket under a cedar tree and take in the Hollyhock House.
4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; laparks.org
7. Tongva Park + Ken Genser Square
This former parking lot is now a tidy and futuristic park that’s a welcome departure from a sandy picnic at the nearby beach. While traffic streams past the large steel globes on the Observation Hill portion of the six-acre area, there are hidden depths that include grassy stretches, braided pathways and picnic tables.
1615 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; tongvapark.smgov.net
8. Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
The viewpoints from the park’s bluffs let you see all the way over to Catalina on a clear day, and there’s a long trail that leads down to a pristine beach below that’s a protected marine sanctuary. Go for a swim in the water, then hike up to the upper picnic area at sunset for an unforgettable end to a Southern California day.
5970 Palos Verdes Dr. S. Rancho Palos Verdes; Rpvca.gov
9. Lake Balboa Park
In the Valley, we love lounging on a blanket near the 27-acre lake and watch the people paddling by on rental swan boats. The size of this park (80 acres total) and the wide variety of specialty areas in the park—a Japanese garden, a bike path, an archery range and playgrounds—means that you’ll have room for a peaceful lunch there on the shore, watching giant fiberglass birds float by.
6300 Balboa Blvd., Van Nuys; laparks.org
10. Vista Hermosa Park
The view, the site, the…snake sculpture? “Such an amazing view of DTLA,” says one visitor. “There's a little area where kids can play and also a beautiful little waterfall.” And it gets even more kid-friendly: there’s a massive slithering serpent they’ll have tons of fun climbing on. And there’s a short trail looping around the park, if you want to take a relaxed post-prandial walk.
100 N. Toluca St.; laparks.org
11. Grand Park
This 12-acre park located in front of City Hall downtown was updated ten years ago to have wide stretches of green lawn perfect for picnicking, an interactive fountain to splash around in and a Starbucks, among other lures. Grab a distinctive powder-coated pink chair and sit for a quick bite or to enjoy one of the outdoor concerts or art exhibits staged here.
200 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; grandparkla.org
12. Valley Glen Park
Go for the copse of mature live oaks to the south of this pocket park, where you can see locals walking their dogs, jogging the path or joining in a training session for everything from tai chi to track. Recently renovated, this park is now “a little jewel with bunches of lavender, kangaroo paws and native grasses blooming around the perimeter” of the central grassy area, says one frequenter.
Erwin St. and Ethel Ave., Van Nuys; laparks.org
13. Douglas Park
Sidle up to one of the lawn bowling pitches or by the three reflecting pools at this sweet West Side park that is in Santa Monica but has more of a countryside feel than a beachy vibe. It’s not too crowded, and has a clubhouse to rent in case you want to make your picnic a more formal affair.
2439 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; laconservancy.org
14. Old Griffith Park Zoo
In a shady area toward the middle of 4,210-acre Griffith Park, the remains of animal enclosures from a zoo that closed in 1965 stand in all their rocky glory. Built by the WPA in the 1930s, the zoo’s faux naturalistic design is “delightfully part Bat Cave, part Tiki bar” according to one visitor. You can climb the monkey bars still in place, or just sit at one of the picnic tables facing the zoo and imagine what it was like to experience the place with roaring lions and bears.
4801 Griffith Park Dr., Los Angeles
15. Lake Hollywood Park
An expanse of grassy lawn where you can not only put down a picnic blanket but also (unofficially) let your dog run around off-leash? That’s the happy arrangement at Lake Hollywood Park, where you can chill and nosh under the protection of the Hollywood sign watching over you.
3160 Canyon Lake Dr., Los Angeles; Laparks.org
16. Ernest E. Debs Regional Park
Picnic tables and 20 (!) barbecue pits beckon in this tree-dotted, pond-enhanced park in East L.A. It’s a happy shaded glen out there, with lots of snack vendors and kits playing, the quintessential family park experience.
4235 Monterey Rd., Los Angeles; laparks.org
17. Pan Pacific Park
Right in the middle of a bustling, West Hollywood-adjacent length of Beverly Boulevard, generations of Little League and soccer players learn their moves, while just a short stroll away, there’s peace and quiet on a roomy stretch of lawn. Dogs on leashes are the style parade here, and the squirrels are pretty brazen…so don’t make eye contact or that bite of PB&J you just took may be your last before your sandwich is liberated by wildlife.
7600 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, laparks.org
18. Chavez Ravine Arboretum
Old growth trees aren’t common in our new-growth city, but this pocket of Elysian Park is like picnicking in an alternate universe. From 1893 to the 1920s, the Los Angeles Horticultural Society planted more than 100 varieties of trees from around the world, including what are believed to be the Cape Chestnut (native to South Africa), Kauri (Australia) and Tipu (Bolivia) trees. You can identify which tree is which using the diagrams here.
929 Academy Rd., Los Angeles; laparks.org
19. Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
The 401-acre park has a lot to offer, even if most people know it as those oil wells in the Baldwin Hills Mountains visible on the way to LAX. You can fish a stocked lake, hike north to the Hollywood sign or east to downtown, enjoy the Japanese garden or sit among the trees planted to commemorate the 1932 Olympics (fun fact: this was the first Olympics village ever built). The well-maintained picnic area with tables make this a great spot for all ages.
4100 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles; parks.ca.gov/
20. Echo Park Lake
The large spout in the center of the lake is a refreshing destination if you hire one of the paddle boats, but even if you just lay a blanket on the lawn or snag a picnic table, you’re going to enjoy this little splash of blue-green in the Echo Park area. There’s a concession stand for chi-chi snacks, or “there are also vendors as you walk along the park so you can get a delicious elote and other Mexican treats,” says one visitor.
751 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles; laparks.org
21. Silver Lake Meadow
A 2.5-acre manicured stretch of grass butting up against the Silver Lake, and across from a wild meadow and native grasses garden, this quiet pocket park welcomes small groups. You can throw a Frisbee or play hacky sack, but anything more strenuous is just not the vibe here. And the no-dog policy is a revelation for some: “We had the best time on the lawn; running barefoot and not worrying about dog [waste] is quite lovely,” says one regular.
2300 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles; silverlakereservoirs.org