Have lunch in a Japanese garden, on a wooded island oasis, or next to sun-basking turtles – all without leaving town. Browse from our favorite picnic spots and grab a basket!
Tell us your favorite picnic spots – comment below!
Located on Wooded Island (Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary) in Jackson Park, the Osaka Garden is a Zen-inspired picnic destination. Walk under the moon bridge and stroll on winding pathways past peaceful, lily-pad spotted lagoons and Japanese-inspired greenery in this quiet oasis within the city. Bring a picnic blanket and perhaps some sushi-to-go in keeping with the Japanese theme (check out Sit Down Sushi Bar, 1312 East 53rd St., Hyde Park for sushi-to-go). Just a short walk from the Museum of Science and Industry, park south of the museum in the Columbia parking lot. Bring your binoculars and see if you can spot the more than 48 species of birds that have nested on the island.
Osaka Garden in Jackson Park
The open lawn at the Pritzker Pavilion is a perfect spot to spread a blanket anytime of year, but for a special treat, try a twilight picnic banquet at one of the many free concerts offered on summer evenings. Remind the kids that good behavior equals a nighttime splash around the Crown fountain and they’ll be angels. Visit the Grant Park Music Festival’s website to get started.
Shop for your picnic goodies at the Green City Market in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Held every Wednesday and Saturday from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. on the southeast corner of the park, this picture-perfect outdoor market brims with the freshest organic fruits, veggies and cheeses. Handmade crepes and fresh-off-the-grill burgers are also available. Check the market schedule for information on live entertainment and demos by visiting chefs at chicagogreencitymarket.org. Don’t miss a visit to the Lincoln Park’s Farm in the Zoo, just across from the market, where kids will learn about the farmers who grow all our tasty fruits and veggies.
Set off to see the Wizard! Or at least the group of friends who set off to see him. The Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow,Dorothy and her little dog Toto all reside at Chicago’s very own Oz Park, on the corner of Webster and Larabee streets on the city’s near north side. Head to the four corners of the park and search for the Oz five, then spread out your blanket in the charming Emerald Garden, where you’ll be surrounded by colorful flowers.Kids will love climbing on the wooden Emerald City and swinging on the tire in Dorothy’s Playlot. For dessert, pick up an Orange Julius-a delightful mix of orange juice and vanilla ice cream-at the Dairy Queen window located on the northeast end of the park, across from the Emerald Garden.
Escape to a hidden garden for a prairie school-style picnic: the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond located at the north end of Lincoln Park Zoo at Fullerton Parkway. Designed in the late 1930s by Alfred Caldwell, one of the Prairie School masters, this tranquil, enclosed little park is the ideal respite after a busy day at the zoo. Set up camp on one of the stone outcroppings overlooking the lily pad pond and enjoy watching the swans and ducks that call this picturesque pond home.
Enjoy a picnic at a Chicago treasure, Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest fountains in the world. Overlooking the magnificent skyline, a summer picnic at the fountain is unforgettable. Set up your picnic blanket in the lovely surrounding gardens. Consider a late night visit when a light and music show set to the water’s ebbs and flows is on display. Too lazy to pack a picnic? Drop into Buckingham Café (just northeast of the fountain) and select a sandwich or salad to go. Located at Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway (500 South) in Grant Park, the fountain runs from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.