Spring is in the air! But, unfortunately, so is Covid (still). Luckily, San Francisco has an incredible arsenal of parks to rendezvous outside and enjoy a variety of pandemic-proof activities this season.
While choosing your favorite picnic spot in San Francisco is like being asked to choose your favorite child—you love all of them the same (only in different ways, for different reasons)—it can be done.
So, if you’re wondering where to picnic in San Francisco, we’ve got you covered. Guaranteed there’s something for every person and pandemic bubble.
Here’s the ultimate list of where we like to picnic in San Francisco.
1) Mission Dolores Park
DoLo isn’t just one of the best picnic areas in San Francisco, it’s one of the most sought-after spots in all of California. We hear you, it’s basic. But! It’s basic for a good reason. Dolores Park is the backyard of the Mission District, making it easy to satisfy the wants and needs of multiple palates. There’s an abundance of restaurant choices that boast amazing take-out dishes that you can pick up to pop a super customized picnic. Whether you want Mexican food, Thai food or fried food, or vegetarian options, there’s a spot for that. The possibilities are endless. Not only is the food selection incredible, but the weather is also usually pretty consistently excellent, too. Even when parts of San Francisco are overcast, you can count on the Mission District to be clear skies, with excellent people-watching, to boot.
2) Flower Conservatory in Golden Gate Park
A less conventional choice for a picnic would be the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. Since new parameters have been put in place and Golden Gate Park is mostly blocked off for pedestrians during the weekends. This makes it safe for families with young children. The Conservatory of Flowers is temporarily closed but the building makes for a gorgeous backdrop to your picnic. Their front lawn is adorned with flowers and littered with trees throughout the grass area, leaving you with a variety of sunny or shady spots. It’s a great area to stroll around with many different outdoor exhibits. Take a glance at the new Ferris Wheel or art installations, bring your favorite burrito, and call it a great day.
3) Palace of Fine Arts
If you’re in need of a more romantic spot for a picnic date, this iconic green space is the answer. Located in the Marina District, the Palace of Fine Arts was constructed to resemble the ruins of Ancient Rome. Surrounding the building is a lagoon that reflects the architecture and often has some neighborhood ducks swimming around. There are narrow strips of grass along the walkway facing the Palace, perfect for a couple of people who are looking to get to know each other. As for food, there are a variety of little delis around the park, or restaurants within walking distance to pick up a meal.
Get your “Always Be My Maybe” moment with a walk down the Embarcadero. The Embarcadero runs on the Eastern shoreline underneath the Bay Bridge. Though there is a small grassy area under The Cupid’s Bow, the concrete benches along the entire road are better for a sit-down meal. This is perfect for small groups who are looking to walk around after their picnic supper. Saunter through the Ferry Building for local goods and head to Pier 7.
5) West Bluffs at Crissy Fields
Social distancing is made easy with so much space. Crissy Fields sits in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and expands for almost four miles. There is a walkway that many people use for their running or biking track. The best spot to enjoy the West Bluff picnic area. The space is situated with picnic benches and barbecue grills. If you’re hoping to snag a table, it’s best to go early, as there’s not reservation system. Once you’ve picked your spot, you can enjoy views of Marin Headlands, Alcatraz, and Angel Island.
6) Washington Square
In the middle of San Francisco’s Little Italy, Washington Square Park (which is not actually shaped like a square) makes for a great go-to to escape from the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood. Pack a Frisbee, put out your picnic blanket, and enjoy basking under the sun with some take-out from Little Italy or Chinatown.
7) Yerba Buena Gardens
Due to stay-at-home orders and fewer people buzzing around downtown, the Yerba Buena Gardens have become a great spot to picnic. Well, they were before, but now it’s even better with fewer people to compete with. Food trucks pull up there regularly and there are a plethora of awesome options still open around the area.
8) John Mclaren Park
Did you know that John Mclaren Park stretches for over 300 acres of San Francisco? Following behind Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, Mclaren is the third largest park and perfect for picnicking. There are picnic tables, grills, and different playgrounds all throughout the park. So no matter which side you start on, you can find a suitable spot for your picnic. We recommend visiting the pond then making your way down the grassy hill where you’ll find a play structure that’s just close enough to keep an eye on the children, but far enough to have time for yourself.
9) Balboa Park
The most underrated secret spot would definitely have to be Balboa Park. It’s near one of the biggest transportation hubs of the city, many buses pass through or rest at this stop. You want to picnic in front of the Balboa Park Swimming Pool. There is a large patch of grass where families roam and play catch. There is enough space for you and your bubble of friends to hang out and enjoy each other’s company in safe proximity. Unlike the Sunset or Richmond, the weather here is consistently sunny and warm. On the hottest days, don’t forget to bring some libations to cool down.
10) Alamo Square Park
If you’re looking for a place to have the perfect San Francisco Instagram moment, Alamo Square Park is your spot. Abundant green space and blooming flower beds make the scene even better. Up on a hill, it also offers great views of the city and a plethora of activities, including a tennis court, walking trails, and a kid’s playground.
11) Baker Beach
If views of the Golden Gate Bridge are what you’re after, Baker Beach is your spot. This is more of a BYOP (bring your own picnic) situation, as there aren’t any nearby food options. On sunny days, you definitely want to head there early as the parking lots fill up quickly.
12) Ocean Beach
Another beachy favorite, Ocean Beach is great for social distancing since it’s so expansive. Stretching for miles, if you’re looking for good food options to bring with you, it’s best to plan your picnic closer to the Outer Sunset around Judah Street.
13) Sutro Heights
Sutro Heights at the end of Anza and the Aves is a favorite among the Outer Richmond set. The best part about this spot—in addition to amazing views of the ocean—is that not many people know it’s there. Put down your picnic blanket under a redwood tree and revel in the fact that you found the perfect spot to picnic.
14) Aquatic Park
With bleachers, beach, and grass, Aquatic Park is great for people who like plenty of options for seating. With a view of Alcatraz and Angel Island State Park, this iconic Bay Area spot has a plethora of good food options, from dim sum to pizza. And with the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop nearby, it’s a great place to play tourist for the day.
Wherever you go, remember to stay safe.
We also recognize that it has been extremely challenging during these times, and we appreciate the efforts that the City and its residents are putting into keeping everyone safe.
With this list, we hope that we can equip you with a variety of locations to try. It’s exciting to see friends and family we haven’t seen in a while and with picnics, there is a way to do it safely.
So, with that, please remember to wear your masks and social distance from other gathering parties. With the weather warming up, we hope to see more of you out and about. Which park are you headed to first?
Guest Blog: Written by Tina Y of www.tinastastytravels.com