Even during a pandemic, there’s nothing quite like a nice picnic when the weather warms up. And while Philadelphia sometimes seems like little more than a massive expanse of asphalt and concrete, we have plenty of woodsy, grassy areas to throw down a blanket and lunch.
In fact, Travel + Leisure once named us one of the best cities in America for picnicking, thanks to our great green areas and fantastic food scene. And yes, we beat New York.
So, where can you go around here for a good picnic? Here’s a few great places to picnic in Philly, the burbs, and in New Jersey:
In the city
With two fenced-in dog parks, a playground, and a community garden, Schuylkill River Park is a nice place to spend a day no matter what you’re looking for. It also happens to offer plenty of green space along the east bank of the Schuylkill to lay out your spread and lounge away in Center City. And if you can’t find a spot, don’t worry — hit the boardwalk and take a short jaunt over to the Schuylkill Banks for even more options.
This massive South Philly park has lakes, tennis courts, sports fields, and even a famous skatepark. But what you’re probably looking for is a spot at one of its 21 picnic groves and pavilions, many of which include BBQ grills (reservations can be made with a permit). Or just pack a blanket and head there on a summer weekend, when you can grab food from one of the vendors at the pop-up Southeast Asian Market on the park’s Broad Street-facing side.
Sprawling across 50 acres on the west bank of the Schuylkill River, this Southwest Philly spot is considered the oldest surviving botanical garden in the country. Bartram’s encourages picnickers to bring a basket of food to enjoy on the grounds, and features a number of prime picnicking areas — including a shady spot at the bottom of Eastwick Hill where you can take in great views of the water, or in its lush meadow.
Located in Fishtown, this park offers seven green acres of picnic-perfect, riverside space just off of Delaware Avenue. While it’s one of the smaller parks on this list, it is mostly flat and plenty spacious, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to lay out your blanket and relax. Plus, you’ll be able to take in some stellar views looking back toward Center City at the Benjamin Franklin Bridge (oh, and there’s a pretty sweet playground set up for the kiddos).
Tucked away in Northeast Philly, this mostly undeveloped spot is the lone state park within the city proper. But at 275 acres, there’s plenty of room to explore. It’s perfect for hikers, bikers, and wildlife enthusiasts — and, thanks to a large, dedicated field, radio-controlled model airplane pilots. No picnic areas or other amenities (besides restrooms) here, so if you’re looking to rough it a little, give this one a try. You can also check out its large, on-site community garden.
📍 15001 Roosevelt Blvd., 📞 215-639-4538, ✉️ email@example.com, 🌐 dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/BenjaminRushStatePark
If you enjoy a side of morbid curiosity with your picnic spread, this spacious 19th-century cemetery is the spot for you. At 54 acres, the Woodlands offers plenty of areas to explore, and it welcomes picnickers to respectfully nosh among its gravestones (and we do mean respectfully — it is still an active cemetery). No prior reservation is required for a visit, but if your group is larger than 10 people, you must email the facility first to get permission to use the site.
The enormous Fairmount Park offers about a million great places for a picnic, so it can be hard to pick where to go. But one of the most popular spots is West Philly’s famed Belmont Plateau, which — in addition to sprawling green space that is the perfect place to set down your picnic blanket — offers what is widely considered the best view of the Philly skyline in the city. Plus, if you’re up for it, you can take a short walk to the nearby Horticulture Center or Shofuso Japanese House and Garden.
When it comes to enjoying a leisurely outdoor meal in nature, it’s tough to beat the Wiss. Across its 1,800 acres, you’ll find several areas with picnic benches and grills, so feel free to BYO meats (but, please, don’t light grills or fires anywhere else in the park). Or, if you start at the park’s Ridge Avenue trailhead, you can grab takeout at Deke’s Bar-B-Que (it’s right next door) and tote in some real BBQ. But don’t fill up too much — after all, there’s more than 50 miles of trails to explore.
In the suburbs
Besides more than 2,600 acres of hiking, biking, fishing, and just plain relaxation, this Delaware County park has hundreds of picnic tables in 14 picnic-specific areas, each of which has charcoal grills and restrooms. Some are located next to fields and playgrounds, if you’re bringing the kids along. You can even reserve one of six picnic pavilions that hold dozens of people, if you’ve got a large group.
While Valley Forge will always be an important historical site from the Revolutionary War, it’s also a great place to have some lunch outdoors. Here, there are three official picnic areas, one of which (Betzwood, located on the north side of the park) offers grills — though all of them have picnic tables and permit fires. Or you can always hike into the woods to lay down a blanket, if you feel like earning your meal.
Sure, everyone knows that Longwood Gardens is the place to go to take in gorgeous flora or catch a nighttime fountain light show — but it also happens to have a fantastic picnic area. Located outside the main area of the gardens, it has 70 picnic tables and grills where you can stop for a pre- or post-visit outdoor meal, all under the shade of tall trees. It’s first-come, first-served, so stake your claim early — and please note, no outside food is allowed in other parts of Longwood.
This Bucks County nature preserve and botanical garden has 134 acres of native plants to take in, which, of course, also makes it a great spot to stop and have a bite to eat after you take a walk through. You can take a load off in the designated picnic area at the Captain James Moore Pavilion, situated near the preserve entrance, which has plenty of picnic tables and electricity should you need it (first-come, first-served, but rentals are available for particularly large groups).
In New Jersey
For folks looking for a picnic on the Jersey side of the Delaware River, just over the bridge is Camden County’s Cooper River Park. There are four picnic areas located within the park’s 346 acres, offering an ample amount of picnic tables and pavilions — plus nice views of the Cooper River and opportunities to check out some wildlife. Or, if you want to get active, check out the on-site driving range, take a walk by the Cooper River Yacht Club, or hit up one of four volleyball courts.
At 330 acres, this Gloucester County destination is considered the largest municipal park in all of New Jersey. Tire out the kids first at its three playground areas, paved and natural walking trails, koi pond, and basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts. Then, tuck into your picnic basket at one of several picturesque picnic areas and pavilions, where you’ll find grills to help get things cooking (and if you need to, you can apply to rent those areas out for the day).
Known as “the centerpiece of the Burlington County Parks System,” this spot is the perfect place for a South Jersey picnic. In addition to features like the Historic Smithville Mansion and Museum, a playground, canoe and boat launches, and a butterfly garden, you’ll find picnic areas complete with grills and pavilions (specifically in the Smith’s Woods Area of the park). And if you want something waterside, set up your blanket alongside Smithville Lake.
» READ MORE: Our best Philly tips: Read our most useful stories