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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

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Written by
Michael Juliano
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L.A.’s perpetually pleasant weather (occasional triple-digit summer days aside) 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.

Need to bring some snacks along? Here’s where to stock up on picnic food.

The 20 best picnic spots in Los Angeles

  • 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.

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Malibu
  • price 1 of 4

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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  • 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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  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Hollywood
  • price 2 of 4

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. Make sure to brush up on the Bowl’s alcohol policy before you go (wine and beer are fine, but only at LA Phil-produced events), as well as this handy map of all the picnic spots.

  • Things to do
  • Angeles National Forest

Temporarily closed through September 22.

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 5pm.

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  • Things to do
  • Cultural centers
  • Los Feliz

Hollyhock House tours temporarily closed.

Roll out a blanket on the front lawn of the Hollyhock House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s finest hilltop homes. The views of Hollywood and the Griffith Observatory are fantastic from here, especially at sunset. In the summer, you can often booze it up a little at the park’s Friday night wine tastings.

  • 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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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Westside

L.A.’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 as well as a proper outdoor cafe, but we highly suggest sitting on the Central Garden-adjacent lawn instead.

  • 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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  • Things to do
  • Echo Park

After a massive makeover about a decade ago, this former reservoir 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.

  • Things to do
  • Downtown Santa Monica

Parking lots turned into parks—it’s one of the most welcome green space transformations to sweep L.A., and Santa Monica’s Tongva Park marks a particularly well-designed example. The 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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  • Attractions
  • Cemeteries
  • Hollywood
  • price 2 of 4

We won’t stop you from picnicking here on any given weekend if you’re into such a macabre outing, 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.

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