With the pandemic in full swing, I know we're all tired of staying inside and desperately looking for ways to have fun safely. Before winter forces us all inside our cramped apartments, make sure to savor every smoke-free day we have here in the Bay. A great pandemic-approved activity is to spend the day unwinding in the sun surrounded by good food and drink. Use this guide to plan the perfect Bay Area picnic for you and your (socially distanced) friend.

The Essentials

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The amount of times I’ve extensively planned a picnic day, only to arrive without cutlery is a little ridiculous. Remember these essentials, so that you never have to try to cut an avocado with a spoon:

- Forks, spoons and knives, cups, plates, and napkins.

- A blanket or sheet (make sure it's big enough to fit you, your friends, and your food comfortably)

- A cooler, or something to keep your food and drinks cold. (If you don’t have a cooler, try making reusable ice packs with rubbing alcohol and water.)

- Activities like books, cards, a speaker, watercolors, or a coloring book and pencils.

- Some amazing food and drink! Not sure how to make outdoor eating fun? Keep reading...

The Food and Drink

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The best and most important part of a picnic is always the food, but not every dish is destined for outdoor eating (I’ve learned from unfortunate experience that soup is a much better indoor food). Here are some portable foods that are perfect for outdoor eating:

-Sandwiches or summer rolls are classic and easy to prepare in advance.

-Fruit like peaches, apples, berries, and grapes are all perfect for picnicking.

-Baked goods like cookies, cupcakes or croissants are super portable (and also great for showing off your baking skills).

-Snacks like pretzels, popcorn and chips won’t lose their crunch after sitting in the hot sun for a few hours.

-Bread and cheese (don’t forget a knife to cut the bread!), or crackers and hummus.

For drinks, cold sparkling water or lemonade are great go-to options. If your type of picnic involves any excuse to day drink, try spiked kombucha or cider, rosé, or bring a pitcher of your favorite cocktail to share. 

Remember that you definitely don’t need to do extensive planning to have a perfect Bay Area picnic! If it’s a beautiful day and you have some free time, just grab a bottle of wine, pick up a pizza and spend the afternoon enjoying the sunshine in one of the awesome parks the Bay Area has to offer. If you’re struggling to find the perfect location, don't fret! I've rounded up some of the Bay's classic picnic areas to help you decide. 

The Location

Location is everything for a good picnic. Here in the Bay we’re blessed with an abundance of amazing parks that are perfect for a full day of relaxing. Whether you’re in San Francisco, Berkeley, or Oakland, there’s definitely somewhere nearby to lay out a blanket in the sun. Here are a few of the best known Bay Area picnic spots for you and your friends to spend a safe and socially distanced afternoon at:

Mission Dolores

This is a classic Bay Area picnic spot and is always packed with people, but large enough to spread out safely between marked social distancing bubbles. This park is great for getting sun, but for a bit of shade try the trees on the corner of 20th and Dolores. Mission Dolores is also surrounded by amazing restaurants and markets to grab the best food and drinks for your picnic. Right next door, Bi-Rite Creamery is the perfect place to cool off after you’ve spent a few hours soaking up the sun in your social distancing bubble.

Golden Gate Park

Aislinn McGonagle

Golden Gate Park is the most obvious contender for picnicking in the Bay. It’s huge, so not only can you find secluded spots to eat safely, but there's also a variety of settings to choose from. Whether you want a shady wooded picnic, a view of Stow Lake, or a sunny meadow, Golden Gate Park has it all. If you want to be surrounded by gorgeous flowers for a picture-perfect picnic, try the area in front of the Conservatory of Flowers, the Rose Garden, or Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden. If you’d rather be somewhere grassy where you can spread out, try Lindley Meadow or Robin Williams Meadow. Don't worry if you come unprepared, because there’s a lot of food options surrounding the park. If you’re on the east end of the park, try Cindy’s Market for sandwiches and great picnic snacks!       

Willard Park

Willard Park is a local hotspot near UC Berkeley’s campus that's always filled with students and residents of the surrounding neighborhood. This park is a lot smaller than the others I’ve mentioned, so make sure you get there early, as it can get pretty crowded on a nice day. Willard Park is really sunny, so it’s great for those of us who like to spend a day melting into the grass with a good book. Check out one of the markets nearby like Crafts and Grapes, a few blocks South on Telegraph, for a variety of drinks and snacks. If you’re willing to walk a bit further, Timeless Coffee is a nearby vegan cafe with delicious coffee and pastries.

Emeryville Marina Park

If you want to picnic right by the ocean, then Marina Park in Emeryville is the perfect spot. Surrounded by calming ocean waves and a yacht harbor, the small park has just enough lawn area to lay out a blanket and spend an afternoon breathing in the salty air. The park gets a lot of sun, but can get cold from the ocean, so be sure to bring a jacket. If you forgot snacks, there’s a Trader Joes right by the entrance to the marina where you can pick up some hummus and veggies.

Memorial Glade

This is the go-to for every Berkeley student. Memorial Glade is right in the middle of campus, and the best spot for wasting time in between classes (back when classes didn’t consist of awkward Zoom meetings). Bring back some nostalgia from the pre-pandemic days by spending your afternoon soaking in the sun on the lawn of Memorial Glade with a good book (or lets be honest, one of the tens of readings you have to do for your online classes). The Glade is small and sunny, but there’s a few shady spots too. If you have a hammock, make sure to get there early to claim a couple trees. 

There’s really no better way to spend a cloudless afternoon than laying in the sun sharing an assortment of delicious snacks with your closest friends. With just a tiny bit of planning, you can prepare an incredible picnic that will take your mind off even the most draining online classes.