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The best Memorial Day weekend picnic spots in Chicago

Bring your blanket and a basket of snacks for a sunny picnic in one of these lovely spots.

Emma Krupp
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Emma Krupp
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Memorial Day weekend holds the distinction of being both a three-day break (for some people, at least) and the unofficial start to summer in Chicago, when the city opens up its seasonal attractions and daily temps finally start to hit their warm stride. What better way to celebrate than spending some time outside? For a low-key afternoon in the sun, we recommend skipping the packed reservation lists at Chicago rooftop bars and restaurants in favor of planning a good old-fashioned picnic with a group of friends. From the city's many parks and gardens to best beaches in Chicago, you'll find a bevy of peaceful locales for lunching outdoors, whether you're looking for a meal with a view or a quiet place to relax for a few hours. Here are some of our favorite Memorial Day weekend picnic spots—don't forget to pack a blanket, sunscreen and a nice bottle of frizzante!

RECOMMENDED: Memorial Day weekend in Chicago 2021

Where to picnic in Chicago during Memorial Day weekend

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  • Literary events
  • South Shore

Looking to spread out a little? There's plenty of room among the lush grounds of the 65-acre South Shore Cultural Center, a former country club-turned-park anchored by its historic (and very beautiful) Mediterranean Revival-style clubhouse. For a fanciful meal, set up your blanket near the manicured formal gardens, and don't forget to take in stunning views of the lake on a walk through the Center's nature sanctuary after you've finished eating.

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  • Uptown

Eating at the beach can sometimes be a drag (lots of sand), but opening weekend at Montrose Beach is always a treat for Chicagoans looking to finally shake off the last vestiges of winter. Keep an eye out for migratory birds while you're there, and remember—it's totally safe to go for a swim after eating!  

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  • Hyde Park

You can skip the sand and still get incredible views of the water and skyline when you lunch at Promontory Point, a lakeside outcropping in Burnham Park designed by the landscape architect Alfred Caldwell. The Point is especially well-suited for spontaneous picnics—simply choose one of the massive limestone block steps and use it as a makeshift table.

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  • Parks and gardens
  • Hyde Park

Cherry blossom season might be over, but that doesn't make Jackson Park's Garden of the Phoenix—also known as the Osaka Garden—any less desirable for picnicking. Stroll over the moon bridge and find a tranquil place to lay down your blanket among traditional Japanese horticulture. You can even make a casual sport of trying to spot the pond's plump golden koi fish while you eat.

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  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Lincoln Square

You'll find a bounty of wildflower and native plant gardens at this Lincoln Square favorite, which spans around 40 verdant acres of twisting paths and other other recreational areas. Set up underneath one of the park's sprawling willow trees for a picnic in the shade. 

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  • East Garfield Park

It's not a requirement, of course, but the refined environs of the Grant Park Rose Garden would make for a proper tea time picnic spot—all sculpted topiary and pillowy blooms, like an English garden. Bring some cucumber sandwiches and a thermos of black tea and you're good to go. 

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Bridgeport

Hike to the tippy-top of the hill at this former working limestone quarry in Bridgeport for sweeping cityscape views while you picnic. Equally stunning are the wetlands and enclosed fishing pond below, which is still rimmed in the same dolomite limestone quarry walls that date back to the 1830s.

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  • Museum Campus

It's easy to see why Illinois is called the Prairie State when you walk through the man-made peninsula at Northerly Island, which is strewn with gorgeous prairie grasslands filled with more than 150 varieties of native plants, all foregrounding views of the skyline. You're sure to find space to set up a picnic among the park's 119-acre natural area, so feel free to walk around awhile and find your perfect view.

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