Once you’ve learned how to pack the perfect picnic, it’s time to grab your basket, head to one of these beautiful outdoor oases, and make it happen. Summer’s not over until September 21, so get packing!
The grassy slopes of Lincoln Park are home to one of the oldest zoos in America, but they’re also a great place to picnic. With the beach only minutes away, this manicured park is a scenic spot to cool off after a day in the sun. Bring the family and check out the new zebra foal at the zoo, or enjoy the lush indoor gardens of the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Visit the park on Wednesday or Saturday mornings and elevate your picnic game at the Green City Market, where local farmers offer a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and smoothies. 2045 N. Lincoln Park W.
While any spot along the 18 miles of shoreline offers magnificent lake views, Theater on the Lake, which sits just past the bridge on Fullerton, is the ideal starting point for a stroll before spreading a blanket. Head south and you’ll run into beaches and the edge of downtown, or go north for the scenic views at Belmont Harbor and rolling hills near the Montrose fields. Or simply stay put and enjoy the skyline view from right where you are. A word of caution: pack a blanket if you plan on a having a leisurely meal on the theater steps—the concrete can be rough. Lakefront Trail
Few places downtown remain undiscovered by tourists, but this quiet, tree-lined park is one of them. Tucked between Ohio Street Beach and Navy Pier, it’s the perfect place to take a date for a romantic picnic, or relax in the grass with a book. Make all your friends wonder how you captured that postcard-worthy Instagram of the skyline—or keep this hidden oasis all to yourself and enjoy a peaceful afternoon in the shade. Either way, rest assured that you’ve found one of the city’s best-kept secrets. 500 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Millennium Park may be the go-to when it comes to iconic Chicago green spaces, but its smaller (and less-crowded) sister to the east makes a much better spot to take a picnic lunch with the family. From the rock-climbing wall to the enormous curving slides to the wooden playground tucked into the hills, the park offers entertainment for both parents and children. Its location in the heart of the city also means easy access to staples like Navy Pier and the Bean. Consider this an antidote to a day of playing tourist in the hustle and bustle of downtown. 337 E. Randolph St.
Located further south along the lakefront, Jackson Park offers over 500 acres of open fields, shaded woods, a dog beach, and plenty of places to picnic. The sprawling park is tucked just past the Museum of Science and Industry, so you can rest and recharge after a long day of learning. While Jackson Park will one day be home to the Barack Obama Library, for now it remains less crowded than many other city parks—thanks in part to its expansive grounds. Best of all, the close proximity to the lake ensures that you’ll picnic with a view. 6401 S. Stony Island Ave.