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Vista Hermosa
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Brian Champlin

The best picnic spots in Los Angeles

Roll out a blanket at these 20 picnic spots scattered around Los Angeles, from the beach to a mountaintop pavilion

By Michael Juliano
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L.A.’s perpetually pleasant weather means never-ending opportunities for outdoor dining. But sometimes, we don’t want to deal with the fuss of fine dining. For those occasions, we take advantage of the many beautiful picnic spots in Los Angeles. From a bench in a park to a blanket on the beach, here are the 20 best picnic spots in Los Angeles.

There are some important temporary rules about picnicking that you need to know. The state lists having a picnic with your household members as a permitted activity, but the local government orders and parks agencies have frowned upon picnicking. While the latest amendments to the beach reopening guidelines do permit picnics on the sand with members of your household, parks have not made any similar adjustments—we know, it’s sort of insane. All that said, you’ll find all formal picnic areas are still closed at parks, and face masks are required when out in public.

The 20 best picnic spots in Los Angeles

Griffith Observatory
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Cameron Venti

1. Griffith Park

Things to do Griffith Park

It’s easy to forget you’re still in Los Angeles as you trek through the mix of native chaparral and landscaped paths that cover Griffith Park. Where else could you encounter canyons, caves and coyotes in the middle of a city? Griffith is also home to a number of fantastic picnic spots, including in the Crystal Springs area, at the Old Zoo, along Fern Dell and on the Griffith Observatory’s front lawn. If you’re up for a hike, head to the hidden Amir’s Garden in the Valley side’s Mineral Wells area.

Point Dume, Malibu
Photograph: Courtesy Joel Mott

2. Point Dume State Beach

Attractions Beaches Malibu

If you’re willing to pay for parking, you’ll be rewarded with this wide and rarely crowded patch of sand and surf. You can repel up and down the beach’s namesake rock face or take an idyllic hike along its summit. With all of the parking spots only steps from the sand, Point Dume is the perfect place to pack a picnic for a beachfront meal as seals and dolphins frolic in front of the sunset—just watch out for those hungry seagulls.

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Vista Hermosa
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Brian Champlin

3. Vista Hermosa Natural Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Echo Park

Take the time to walk around the dusty garden trails and rocky adventure areas of this Westlake and Echo Park spot. But the real star here is its grassy central field, with stunning views of the Downtown skyline and a half-dozen dedicated picnic areas around its perimeter.

4. Hancock Park La Brea

Things to do Miracle Mile

Hancock Park—not to be confused with the affluent neighborhood of the same name—sits atop a literal mine of goo-soaked prehistoric bones. This free park sits between LACMA and the oily animal trap better as the La Brea Tar Pits. The green expanse between the two institutions is picnic and dog-friendly, and overall a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors within a stone’s throw of L.A. cultural icons.

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Photo courtesy Hollywood Bowl

5. Hollywood Bowl (temporarily closed)

Things to do Event spaces Hollywood

With the onset of summer concert season comes an L.A. rite of passage: picnicking at the Hollywood Bowl. The iconic amphitheater is a sublime place to see a show, but Hollywood Bowl regulars know that wining and dining outdoors before a show is the key to making the experience that much more memorable. Follow the link below to brush up on the Bowl’s picnic and alcohol policy before you go.

Angeles National Forest, Mt. Wilson
Photograph: Michael Juliano

6. Mount Wilson Observatory

Things to do Angeles National Forest

This one takes commitment. Drive about 40 minutes up Angeles Crest Highway and onto Mount Wilson Red Box Road and you’ll reach the observatory. Take a short walk from the parking lot to the shaded Skyline Park pavilion (also home to the Cosmic Cafe on weekends) and you’ll be rewarded with a lunch spot from 5,700 feet up. The one caveat: You can only access the parking area from April through November between 10am and 4pm.

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Grand Park
Photograph: Michael Juliano

8. Grand Park

Things to do Downtown

The slow, lumbering mission to turn Downtown L.A. into a vibrant cultural hub got a lift when Grand Park officially opened to the public in July 2012. Dotted with fountains, picnic lawns and plenty of nooks from which to sit and people-watch, Grand Park is a bright urban oasis that proves the city has a sense of romance. Roll out a blanket on the southern event lawn or take a seat at one of the many bright pink benches.

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Getty Center
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

9. Getty Center (temporarily closed)

Museums Art and design Westside

LA’s hilltop acropolis took 13 years and a billion dollars to complete, but the end result is a remarkable complex of travertine and white metal-clad pavilions. Its relative inaccessibility—you need to ride a monorail up to the museum—is more than compensated for by the panoramic views, from the hills and the ocean in the west all the way around to Downtown in the east. You’ll find proper picnic tables down the hill at the tram station, but we highly suggest sitting on the Central Garden-adjacent lawn instead.

Lake Hollywood Park
Photograph: Michael Juliano

10. Lake Hollywood Park

Things to do Hollywood

Carved into the hills above the Hollywood Reservoir’s walking paths but below a turnout of sightseeing vans, this grassy field feels like a dog-friendly Shangri-La. You don’t have to have four legs to enjoy the scenery, thanks to a small playground, shaded picnic benches and one of the most fantastic views of the Hollywood Sign.

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Echo Park Lake, lotus
Photograph: Rozette Rago

11. Echo Park Lake

Things to do Echo Park

After a massive makeover, the Eastside’s historic Echo Park Lake has finally become a family-friendly destination worthy of its bold backdrop: the Downtown skyline amid the lotus flower blooms and fountains. You can push your way through the lake in a pedal boat or stroll around the path that hugs its borders. Either way, make sure to bring along some snacks or stop at the revived boathouse, which now houses breakfast pit stop Beacon.

Will Rogers State Historic Park
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Adam Reeder

12. Will Rogers State Historic Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Pacific Palisades

The former home of writer, cowboy philosopher, trick-roper and the first honorary mayor of Beverly Hills has been maintained as it was in the 1930s. The 186-acre grounds give access to some good hikes and breathtaking ocean views, alongside picnic tables and grills.

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13. Exposition Park

Things to do USC/Exposition Park

Some of the majesty of past Olympics has faded, but Exposition Park still stands as one of L.A.’s most significant institutions. The most charming section of the USC-adjacent property resides in the fragrant Rose Garden. Rest in one of the gazebos or take a stroll around the central fountain, all the while admiring its beautiful brick neighbors, like the Natural History Museum.

Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Andrew Hall

14. Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area

Things to do Culver City

This huge Culver City-area park contains a lotus pond, fishing lake and sand volleyball court. But the urban oasis really establishes itself with more than seven miles of walking and hiking trails through Baldwin Hills, with views of almost every corner of L.A. You’ll find eight picnic rental shelters and 100 picnic tables throughout the park—though we’re all for just spreading out a blanket.

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Rancho Palos Verdes
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Andrew Sterling

15. Point Vicente Interpretive Center

Attractions Parks and gardens Rancho Palos Verdes/Rolling Hills Estates

You can explore exhibits on the natural and cultural history of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, but this spot’s real treasure is its stunning vista of the Pacific. You could roll out a blanket on the limited grassy areas, but we suggest snagging a picnic table as close to the seaside cliff as possible. The Interpretive Center’s small amphitheater is also a great spot to sit, snack, chat and watch whale migrations.

Lake Balboa
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Kara Brugman

16. Balboa Park

Things to do Event spaces Van Nuys

Balboa is a large family-friendly park known for its beautiful lake and serene picnic spots. Summers can get a bit toasty in the Valley, so stick to the springtime for a picnic; you’ll also be rewarded with a view of the park’s stunning cherry blossom bloom.

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Brookside Park
Photograph: Michael Juliano

17. Brookside Park

Things to do Pasadena

Just south of the Arroyo Seco’s most famous tenant—the Rose Bowl—this 62-acre park provides a scenic green space for locals and out-of-towners alike. Set against the stunning San Gabriel Mountains, you’ll find plenty of grassy open space along with shade underneath the park’s mature trees. Just remember to check the UCLA football schedule before heading there on a Saturday in the fall.

Tongva Park
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Joshua L

18. Tongva Park

Things to do Downtown Santa Monica

Parking lots turned into parks—it’s the latest transformation sweeping L.A., and who could complain after setting eyes on Santa Monica’s Tongva Park? This idyllic and well-designed ocean-adjacent oasis harbors a playground, meadows, waterfalls, walking paths and a conch-like, wireframe lookout to the Pacific. You’ll also find tons of benches, ledges and grassy fields perfect for a picnic.

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Cinespia
Photograph: Courtesy Cinespia

19. Hollywood Forever Cemetery (temporarily closed)

Attractions Cemeteries Hollywood

We won’t stop you from picnicking here on any given weekend, but we’ve included this Hollywood cemetery for its Cinespia screenings. It isn’t summer in L.A. until hoards of movie-lovers flock to Hollywood Forever toting folding chairs, picnic blankets, snack spreads and lots of booze. It’s an L.A. rite of passage; just be sure to arrive early.

Polliwog Park
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Urban Outbacker

20. Polliwog Park

Things to do Manhattan Beach

In addition to shaded play areas and a slew of activity centers at this South Bay park, you’ll find a picnic area with plenty of tables and barbecues, as well as three gazebos. At the center of it all is a large pond, home to ducks and geese.

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