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Fun Places That'll Bring Your Fall Picnic Ideas to Life

Fun Places That'll Bring Your Fall Picnic Ideas to Life

Whether you prefer beachside brunches or forested feasts, there are endless picnic places for your next California excursion.


7 min read

October 29, 2021

Piles of leaves lie playfully on the ground, just waiting to be jumped in; warm flannel button-ups are layered on along with cozy sweaters and soft scarves; pumpkin-spice lattes can be found everywhere you turn; the desire to stay in with warm apple cider and loved ones overwhelms your senses. It’s the most magical time of the year, when the important things start to make themselves clear and nature comes alive with brilliant colors. 

This means there’s no better time than now to plan a picnic with that special someone. Whether you prefer beachside brunches, picnics in the park, or forested feasts, there are innumerable destinations for your next fall picnic excursion. So pack your picnic basket with a blanket, delectable comfort foods, and hot cocoa from your favorite Bay Area chocolatier, and make your way outside for an experience you’ll remember for years to come.

Life needs a few more polka dots and picnics. And when the Golden State is your playground, the opportunities are limitless.

The Ideal Destinations for Each of Your Fall Picnic Ideas

Whether you’ve been spending your days cozied up with a good book, surrounded by delicious smelling candles, or exploring the local fall foliage, if you love the autumnal season, you’ve probably imagined where you’d like to picnic in the months to come. With the weather beginning to cool slightly and pumpkin spice everything starting to pop up, it’s officially time to start planning your autumn picnics. Though there are innumerable picturesque picnic spots in the Golden State, these are a few of our favorites.

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Autumn Picnic Idea #1: Beachside Brunch 

With hundreds of miles of coastline meandering along California’s western border, there are unlimited possibilities for good picnic spots along the shore. While it may seem like the beaches would only be good places to have a picnic during the summer, the cooler (but not cold) autumnal weather means fewer crowds and a more pleasant ambience for a cozy picnic. 

When it comes to brunch, it’s hard to go wrong. Toast slices of bread before leaving the house and pack up the avocados, lemon wedges, salt, and pepper to make avocado toast that tastes like it's from your favorite restaurants; swing by your favorite brunch spot and grab eggs Benedict, or head to a beach with firepits to make the freshest potato hash you’ve ever eaten. However you do brunch, make sure you throw off your shoes and enjoy the sand between your toes as the cool ocean breeze flows through your hair. This picnic spot is all but guaranteed to be a success in the Golden State. 

The best picnic spots include the sunny shores of Malibu and the small island sands of Coronado in Southern California along with the serene coastline of Half Moon Bay up north.

Whether enjoyed before an afternoon excursion or after a long morning hike, a picnic in the forest can be magical.

Autumn Picnic Idea #2: Forested Feast

The Golden State is full of forests just waiting to be explored. Stepping underneath the shaded canopy instantly transports you to another world that rids you of everyday stress and fills you with a sense of wonder. Whether you plan to take a long hike before chowing down or to simply nestle in amongst the trees, forests make for some of the best picnic sites

A smorgasbord in the forest begs for nuts, berries, and honey—and nothing goes better with these goodies than cheese and charcuterie. So grab your backpack and gather up a couple of cheeses, salumi and prosciutto, fresh fruits, and a board before taking off on your adventure. 

The best places to have a picnic in the forest include the Arcata Community Forest just off the Humboldt State University campus, along the Shasta Cascade mountain range near Redding, and by the iconic granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park.

When the weather starts to cool, spice things up by having a cozy picnic in the desert with that special someone.

Autumn Picnic Idea #3: Dinner in the Desert

Southern California’s landscape is surprisingly diverse, which makes having dinner in the desert a serious possibility. From multi-night camping trips to remote hotel vacations, there are so many ways to appreciate the desert’s vibrance. 

Tapas are ideal for a fall picnic because of their self-contained nature. Pack up some olives; a bowl of fresh beets with sliced almonds and burrata; homemade pickles; baguette slices; and meatballs with garlic mashed potatoes. The multiple courses of the picnic feel extra decadent, but with some toothpicks, everything is easy to eat. 

Ideal picnic places in the desert include Joshua Tree National Park and nearby Pioneertown as well as the coveted vacation destination of Palm Springs

Enjoy a fall picnic by the lake with your closest friends to welcome in the new season. Life's a picnic, so make the most of it.

Autumn Picnic Idea #4: Lunch at the Lake 

Sitting by a lake and enjoying the scenery is a perfect way to evoke vacation vibes whether you’re camping lakeside for the weekend or just visiting for the day. With typically calmer waves and clearer waters, lakes boast an air of childhood nostalgia, making them some of the best places for picnics.

There’s also something magical about bringing all the fixings with you and assembling sandwiches by the water. Fill up several containers with cheeses, meats, condiments, produce, and a few slices of bread. Stack the layers higher than you would at home, make a mess (and then clean it up), and appreciate the fresh air between every bite of that delicious sandwich. 

Good places to have a picnic include the sparkling shores of South Lake Tahoe, the mountainous escape of Big Bear Lake, and Northern California’s Shasta Lake.

After completing a challenging hike up the mountain, reward yourself with a light picnic and savor the views.

Autumn Picnic Idea #5: Snacks at the Summit

There are few things more refreshing than rewarding yourself with a craveable snack after a rigorous workout. Filling your lungs with mountain air somehow feels so much more satisfying than huffing and puffing anywhere else, so go on, climb that mountain—but make sure you’ve got the perfect picnic waiting for you at the top. 

Since you will still have to make your way back down the mountain at some point, it’s important to take it easy on the heavy foods. Instead, indulge in cheese-stuffed dates, salty pickles or olives, and water-filled fruits (like peaches or plums) that will satiate your hunger without giving you stomach cramps on the way down. 

California’s top picnic grounds in the mountains include the East Bay’s Mount Diablo, Northern California’s Mount Lassen, and Mount Whitney along the John Muir Trail.

Food tastes better when you're enjoying it on a picnic blanket. Combine that with killer views and you got yourself an awesome day.

Autumn Picnic Idea #6: Lunch at a Lookout

Sure, looking at your friends’ faces at a picnic is pleasant—they’re your friends, duh—but it doesn’t hurt to have good views to go along with your lunch either. Whether you’re way up north in San Francisco or down south in Los Angeles, chances are you have a favorite lookout spot to admire the city from afar. If you’re ready to share the coordinates of said prime spot with a date or your friends, it can turn out to be a pretty awesome fall picnic idea.

What’s great about choosing a lookout spot as a picnic place is the fact that you won’t even need to leave your car to enjoy it! So, no need to pack blankets, cutlery, plates, and anything else you go out of your way to grab for a bite at a traditional picnic site. Pack your easy-to-eat-and-share snacks and treats, lower the windows for ventilation, and put on your favorite playlist—lookout spot picnics for the win. 

Who said you have to drive pretty far to get to a picnic spot? The best place is right in the heart of the city—parks, gardens, rooftops...

Autumn Picnic Idea #7: City Center Supper

Don’t have the time and energy to go to a remote location for a picnic? You can still enjoy grabbing a bite al fresco with your loved ones (or solo, no judgement here) without straying away from your daily route at all. If you’re living in California, chances are you have beautiful parks, boardwalks, and gardens not too far away from where you live or work. And, while you probably haven’t considered them before, they make for some of the best places to have a picnic.

Your usual go-to spots—whether that’s the rooftop of your own building or the hidden back garden of your favorite museum downtown—can become the best picnic grounds if you want. What’s more? Since you’re keeping your picnic site closeby, you can make the entire process even easier and just grab takeout on the way. With no food preparation needed in advance, no post picnic cleanup after, and no need for travel, you literally have no excuse not to seize this fall picnic idea.

Now that you’ve explored all your favorite fall picnic ideas, it’s time to bring them to life. So gather up a blanket and a basket, and start planning your menu because the best season is upon us.

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