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lurie garden, lurie gardens, millennium park, skyline, park, outdoors, nature, downtown, chicago
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 12 best picnic spots in Chicago

Pack a blanket and don't forget the food! These peaceful picnic spots in Chicago offer a break from reality.

By Morgan Olsen
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Here in Chicago, we don't have many months of favorable weather, which is why we never take a beautiful day for granted. While the city boasts plenty of great restaurants with outdoor seating, there's something wonderfully old school about going on a picnic. The best part? You don't need a reservation—just grab a blanket, pack up some food or order takeout and find your way to one of the most peaceful picnic spots in Chicago. You'll find them hiding in Chicago parks and gardens, outside of cultural landmarks and along the lakefront. The fresh air and city views are on the house!

Note: Not all city parks are currently open. Check ahead before you go and stay safe by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. 

Best picnic spots in Chicago

ping tom memorial park, ping tom, chinatown, park, chicago park, river, chicago river, water taxi
ping tom memorial park, ping tom, chinatown, park, chicago park, river, chicago river, water taxi
Photograph: Shutterstock

Ping Tom Memorial Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Armour Square

Originally a railroad yard, Ping Tom Memorial Park is named for the Chinatown resident who was the leading force behind the creation of this community green space. What makes it a perfect picnic destination? Accessible by the Chicago Water Taxi (as well as public transit), the park is a stone's throw from popular dining destinations Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings, Kung Fu Tea and BBQ King House.

lurie garden, lurie gardens, millennium park, skyline, park, outdoors, nature, downtown, chicago
lurie garden, lurie gardens, millennium park, skyline, park, outdoors, nature, downtown, chicago
Photograph: Shutterstock

Lurie Garden

Things to do Millennium Park

Whether you work in the Loop or you're in the area to visit one of the city's best museums, the Lurie Garden is an idyllic spot for an afternoon picnic. Boasting just over three acres of land, the garden is home to more than 350 plant species, many of which are native to the area. Walk along the winding wooden boardwalk until you find a quiet place to sit down, relax and take in the stellar skyline views.

Note: Only the outer walkways of the garden are accessible at this moment. Visitors are required to wear a face mask at all times. 

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humboldt park, humboldt, park, green space, outdoors, outside, nature, lagoon, water, beach, shutterstock
humboldt park, humboldt, park, green space, outdoors, outside, nature, lagoon, water, beach, shutterstock
Photograph: Shutterstock

Humboldt Park

Things to do Humboldt Park

Sandwiched between Humboldt Park and Ukranian Village, this sprawling city oasis offers up almost 200 acres of green space that surrounds a sizable lagoon. And now that we don't have to worry about Chance the Snapper hiding out in the park, we're free to enjoy its many picnic nooks. Before you go, grab provisions at nearby pie shop Spinning J or Puerto Rican spot Diana's.

Fall Foliage in Chicago
Fall Foliage in Chicago
Photograph: Katie Kullen

South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago

Museums Art and design Grant Park

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue, this shady green space sits atop a parking garage—but you'd never know it. Equipped with a small fountain, lots of trees and several flower beds, this secret garden has plenty of places to sit down and take a load off while enjoying spoils from nearby eateries like Toni Patisserie, Shake Shack and Dollop Coffee.

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bahai, baha'i, Bahá'í House of Worship, temple, Baha'í House of Worship, nature, outdoors, outside, park, garden, shutterstock
bahai, baha'i, Bahá'í House of Worship, temple, Baha'í House of Worship, nature, outdoors, outside, park, garden, shutterstock
Photograph: Shutterstock

Bahá’í House of Worship

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Suburbs

This pick isn't within city limits, but it's worth the trip to nearby Wilmette to see one of just eight remaining Bahá'í temples in the world. The perfectly manicured grounds of this otherworldly house of worship contain nine gardens, a handful of reflecting pools and plenty of places to sprawl out with a good book and lunch.

LincolnPark.Venue.jpg
LincolnPark.Venue.jpg
Photograph: Mark Wright

Lincoln Park

Things to do Lincoln Park

After an afternoon spent traipsing across the Nature Boardwalk and visiting the residents at the Lincoln Park Zoo, head north to the walking paths that wrap around the North Pond Nature Sanctuary. Away from the tourists and strollers, you'll be able to find a quiet place to settle in for a casual picnic.

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Osaka Garden at Jackson Park
Osaka Garden at Jackson Park
Photograph: Steven Kevil/Wiki Commons

Jackson Park

Things to do Literary events Woodlawn

Designed by famous landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Jackson Park became the chosen site for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Today, the 500-plus-acre park offers golf, baseball, a fitness center, basketball, a playground, tennis courts and paths for walking, jogging or biking. Coincidentally, it's also a prime picnic destination—especially the serene Osaka Garden, which boasts a stunning moon bridge and traditional Japanese horticulture.

South Shore Cultural Center
South Shore Cultural Center
Photograph: Eric Allix Rogers courtesy Chicago Architecture Center

South Shore Cultural Center

Things to do Literary events South Shore

Originally an early 20th century country club, this gorgeous property was acquired by the Chicago Park District in 1975 and lovingly restored. These days, the main building hums with classes in the arts, culinary workshops, day camps and cultural programs; the grounds include a nature sanctuary, golf course, butterfly garden and plenty of beautifully maintained open spaces—making it the perfect backdrop for an impromptu picnic.

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Chicago Riverwalk
Chicago Riverwalk
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Chicago Riverwalk

Things to do Loop

If you like your lunch with a side of breathtaking views, there's no better spot than the Chicago Riverwalk, which hugs the main branch of the Chicago River and provides a continuous walkway with restaurants, bars and urban attractions at every turn. Clever design features throughout offer areas to lounge around and enjoy the city from a stellar angle.

606, bloomingdale trail, bike, biker
606, bloomingdale trail, bike, biker
Photograph: Adam Alexander/courtesy of The Trust for Public Land

The 606

Attractions Parks and gardens Humboldt Park

There are some places to sit down and catch your breath on this 2.7-mile path that connects Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park and Bucktown, but it's an even better option for those who like to nosh on the go. And with plenty of coffee shops within walking distance of the trail, it's the ideal backdrop for a mobile morning picnic, complete with lattes and pastries.

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Promontory Point

Things to do Hyde Park

Promising one of the best skyline views in town, it's no wonder that Promontory Point is a popular destination for sun-bathers, sunset-watchers and picnickers alike. The massive stones that line the lakefront park make for the perfect impromptu kitchen table—find a stable spot to sit down before unpacking your alfresco feast.

northerly island, chicago, skyline, park, northerly, outdoor, outside, nature
northerly island, chicago, skyline, park, northerly, outdoor, outside, nature
Photograph: Shutterstock

Northerly Island

Things to do Museum Campus

Most folks only head to Northerly Island to visit the Adler Planetarium or see a concert at Huntington Bank Pavilion, but the man-made peninsula is also home to beautiful prairie grasslands, a 5-acre pond and winding strolling paths that give way to striking skyline views. Grab a sandwich at Eleven City Diner or a doughnut from Stan's before hitting the trail.

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