Nothing quite says simple summer fun like a picnic with your littles. Whether spread out in the backyard over a plaid blanket with throw pillows for comfy seats, set up at a park on a picnic table or in beach chairs with your toes digging in the sand, there are so many places to enjoy a good summer picnic.
Plan your menu and the activities, then head to one of these gorgeous spots to savor a glorious summer day. We listed some of our favorite picnic spots in Chicago and the suburbs, as well as our top tips for picnicking with kids.
Looking for more kid-friendly activities? Check out our summer fun family guide!
Quick tips for family picnics
Picnics can be a relaxing way to enjoy a day outside with the family. But be warned: it only takes one simple mistake or leaving a few crucial items at home before your little one has a meltdown. Here are some tips and ideas for making picnicking a breeze with kids:
- Check your selected location’s hours. Even parks that are open to the public generally close at sunset, and if you plan on having a picnic dinner, you don’t want to overstay your welcome and get caught in the dark.
- Pack simple foods — ideally ones that don’t require too many utensils or dishes to create. Sure, a charcuterie board on a stylish picnic blanket makes for a great Instagram shot, but it’s a lot of work to set up — especially with kids! Prepare your food at home so you don’t find yourself meal prepping on a picnic table.
- Not a home chef? Skip the cooking altogether and pick up prepared foods like pasta salad, snack boxes, sandwiches, beverages and even desserts at your favorite grocer.
- Don’t forget the plates and utensils. Use disposable ones for quick, mess-free clean up, or bring a separate bag you can use to store dirty dishes until you get home. Extra garbage bags never hurt, either.
- Hand sanitizer, wet wipes and paper towels or napkins are essential, unless you want your kids wiping their messy hands (and mouths) on the grass.
- Pack water — more than you think you’ll need. Enjoy a juice box, sweet drink or adult beverage with your picnic meal, but be sure to hydrate if you’re planning to spend the day outside.
- Check the weather, dress accordingly and plan to spend some time in the sunshine. Wear hats and sunglasses, and apply plenty of sunscreen. It’s always best to stay out of the direct exposure to the sun to protect skin even with sunscreen.
- Bring a stroller or wagon. This will make it easy to load your picnic equipment, as well as make it simple to transport tired out kiddos back to the car.
- Speaking of equipment, having access to a picnic table is ideal, but not always an option. If you need a comfy seat, pack a camping chair or stroller.
- Plan for fun! A picnic isn’t just about the yummy summer food. Bring some outside games, especially a ball or bubbles, or pick a location that’s near a playground, walking trails or other kid-friendly activities. Happy picnicking!
Best picnic spots in Chicago
- Address: 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
It’s no surprise that the planetarium’s spectacular grounds constantly attract wedding parties as it’s considered one of the most magnificent city backdrops. You’ll find plenty of other picnic-goers watching the boats go by and taking in the view.
- Address: 1230 W. School St., Chicago
This popular Lakeview park features a Chicago skyline-themed playground, expansive Cubs-emblazoned turf field, splash pad with all the bells and whistles, shaded picnic tables and grassy areas.
- Address: 1700 S. Wentworth Ave., Chicago
Amidst Chinese design elements and a lovely view of the river, this 17-acre outdoor haven is a popular locale for concerts and movies. Plus, there are ample areas to picnic with friends and a playground for kids.
Best picnic spots in North/Northwest Suburbs
- Address: 418 Sheridan Road, Highland Park
Shake your groove thing with a dance party on the grass. Ravinia’s summer concerts for kids are the best place to picnic while listening to your favorite tunes. This season’s concerts for kids begin June 24.
More commonly known as Busse Woods, this 3,558-acre offers so much land to explore for the perfect picnic spot. You might be lucky enough to see a few model airplanes flying around! Boating and lake centers are open select days and masks are required in indoor spaces.
Address: 16400 W. Buckley Road, Libertyville
The trip to Libertyville will be worth the drive once you see this spot’s breathtaking nature views. Set up your picnic near the Children’s Grove, an accessible playground where the kiddos can run around.
Best picnic spots in South Suburbs
- Address: 15W400 Harvester Drive, Burr Ridge
This multi-age playground has a large tree house and a mini ravine for sand play. Set up lunch at one of the picnic tables or on the grassy fields. Located right off I-55, it’s a convenient spot for friends venturing from the city or ‘burbs.
- Address: 598 Thornton Lansing Road, Thornton
This location has always been a popular fishing lake. Get your family hooked on fishing or simply take advantage of the four large groves available for picnicking.
- Address: 7800 W. 171st St., Tinley Park
The largest park in Tinley Park gives you many options for your next picnic outing. After eating, take a scenic walking path or check out the Extreme Skate Park. Verify building closures before you go and maintain social distancing while in the park.
Best picnic spots in Western Suburbs
- Address: 4100 IL-53, Lisle
Yes, you have to pay for admission to get in, but we promise that a visit to The Morton Arboretum is always a great idea on a beautiful sunny day. The arboretum has plenty of space to find a picnic spot and while you’re there, make sure to explore the Children’s Garden for some fun interactive activities.
- Address: 100 N. Island Ave., Batavia
Located in downtown Batavia, take a stroll along a boardwalk leading to the North Point Pavilion with some great views of the Fox River. The Riverwalk is open for strolling, though patrons are encouraged to avoid congregating in groups.
- Address: 8 North Ave., St. Charles
Here’s another picnic spot located along the Fox River. Pottawatomie Park provides some great family-friendly fun including mini golf and a swimming pool. Note that some buildings and bathroom areas may be closed while reservations for putt-putt are recommended in advance.
Follow Chicago Parent on Instagram.