Some of our favorite spots to put out a blanket and enjoy a relaxing lunch outside.Less
Shortly after Marjorie Merriweather Post, the cereal heiress, bought her Northwest DC mansion, she decided that someday the property would be open to the public. And open it is: Hillwood, with 25 acres of spectacular gardens and woodlands, not only welcomes picnickers, but the visitor center will lend you a blanket and a picnic map. You can bring in outside food (though not alcohol); beer, wine, and other beverages and food are for sale at the Hillwood Café.
Pointing a camera in any direction at Chrysalis Vineyards frames a view like a wine-country postcard. Lay out your picnic at one of the many tables that dot the rolling landscape, fringed by wooden fences, grazing cattle, and green mountains in the distance. More tables are available on a large patio, and grills are set up for patrons’ use on a covered pavilion. Wine by the glass or bottle, fresh baguettes, and assorted cheese and charcuterie are available for purchase.
This Montgomery County park has all the essentials for an exhaustingly full day with the family: a miniature train, a historic carousel, and a huge, state-of-the-art playground crowned by a rubbery hill—all in view of clusters of picnic tables with grills you can use. (You can also reserve picnic shelters for large groups.) For an extra-special alfresco meal, walk about a half mile through the wooded area to Pine Lake, where you can unpack your picnic on a bench next to the quiet five-acre lake.
Wedged between the chaos of Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights, Meridian Hill Park could easily be overlooked when driving along 16th Street. But the park offers a variety of nice picnic spots. The upper level of the park is a long rectangular lawn with benches, statues, and trees around the perimeter. Staircases lead down from there along a spectacular, cascading fountain—the largest in North America.
This Maryland park offers more than just a shady picnic area overlooking the Potomac River across from George Washington’s Mount Vernon. A short distance from the often empty picnic tables is a fishing pier extending into the river. The park has an easy three-mile loop trail to walk, two small boat launches, and a historic farm with calves and sheep for kids to see—plus it’s one of the premier spots in the region for bird-watching.
At the lush arboretum, abundant tables adjacent to a parking area make for an easy, impromptu picnic. Located at the National Grove of State Trees, the picnic area, ironically, offers more sunshine than shade. While this grove is the only part of the arboretum where you can picnic, the 412-acre preserve also features gorgeous floral gardens, wooded trails for walking and biking, a collection of bonsai trees, and the National Capitol Columns—22 Corinthian columns that once formed part of the US C
You can ride your bike to this lovely spot along the Virginia side of the Potomac River. Lady Bird Johnson Park—which offers ornamental trees and expanses of tulips and daffodils in spring—is actually an island on the river, and part of the District. The Mount Vernon Trail cuts through the park. Lay a blanket on the shallow, grassy slopes and enjoy the view of Memorial Bridge and Washington’s monuments. You can also reach the park by parking at the Columbia Island Marina.
Most visitors come to Kenilworth to experience the gorgeous plants and animals that thrive in these marshes on the Anacostia River. But in addition to watching the birds (ducks and geese and egrets and herons aplenty), photographing the water lilies and lotuses, and strolling the boardwalk that zigzags the ponds, you can bring a picnic to the well-shaded bank of tables in a grassy field just past the visitor center—a peaceful spot at the edge of the ponds.
With rolling hills, serene ponds, and shaded pathways, Meadowlark Gardens is more of a nature preserve than a botanical garden. It would be wonderful to sit on a grassy hill and open a picnic basket. Unfortunately, carry-in picnics aren’t allowed in the gardens. A designated picnic area with tables, surrounded by trees and next to an expansive lawn, sits just outside the entrance. So you can take a walk and then enjoy your outdoor fare.