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11 Places to Plan Picnics in San Diego

11 Places to Plan Picnics in San Diego

Pick a spot, pack your basket, and invite a few of your gal pals to tag along—you’re going to love these places to picnic in San Diego.


5 min read

May 21, 2021

Enjoying a picnic in San Diego after a long week of work sounds like the perfect way to revive and reinvigorate. As luck would have it, America’s Finest City spoils for choice when it comes to destinations for outdoor recreational activities. The best picnic spots in San Diego can take many forms—from beaches and bluffs to lawns and parks, you get to choose your own adventure.

Pick a spot, pack your basket, and invite a few of your gal pals to tag along—you’re going to love these places to picnic in San Diego.

Organized and have a checklist? Your picnic will be a delightful change of scenery from your dining room, a restaurant, or your own backyard.

Everything you Need for the Perfect Picnic in San Diego

Before you get going, make sure you have everything you need for a hassle-free picnic in San Diego. After all, you don’t want anything to get in the way of your cute outdoor date or romantic SoCal adventure.

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Besides your healthy snacks and basket, these are the necessities to make note of:

  • A picnic blanket: This would ideally be waterproof to avoid grass stains. If your picnic spot has tables, skip this step
  • Plates, glasses, and utensils: Opt for eco-friendly or reusable ones to make your outing a little greener
  • Bottle opener: This is usually forgotten, yet ever-so-important
  • Ice pack: You’re going to want to beat the SoCal heat
  • Sharp knife and cutting board: You need a clean surface to cut all the fruits and cheeses you’re packing
  • Sunscreen: All skin types could use a little extra protection with mineral-based sunscreens
  • Masks and sanitizer: Following safety regulations allows you to have another picnic without worrying about the pandemic
  • Trash bags: Clean your space and leave it cleaner than you found it
Kate Sessions Park is a dog-friendly recreation area boasting sweeping hillside views, sports fields, and a playground.

Unparalleled Picnic Spots in San Diego

1. Kate Sessions Park 

Named after the inspiring botanist and horticulturist, Kate Sessions Park is a dog-friendly recreation area you’ll love. You’ll be surrounded by views of sweeping hills and the magnificent city skyline. The weekends are usually busier at this picnic area in San Diego, but visiting during the weekday gives you enough room to wander around and throw a frisbee.

2. Ellen Browning Scripps Park

Ellen Browning Scripps Park is one of the best places to have a picnic in San Diego because it embodies the outdoor culture of the county in the best way. Open green space, panoramic views, and plenty of seal sightings make this an awesome picnic spot. Lay your blanket on the large green area, and you’ll have the ocean and sands below serving as your backdrop. 

If you’re not pre-packing food, you’ll find plenty of restaurants near this San Diego picnic place. Keep in mind that Scripps Park is pretty popular, so you’ll be sharing the lawn with others.

Chollas Lake Park is ideal for picnicking since it's pretty big and open. There's a lake in the middle with a path to walk around.

3. Chollas Lake Park 

Dining by the lake in San Diego? Totally possible. The beautiful 16-acre Chollas Lake is located right in the middle of urban San Diego. While it’s somewhat of a hidden gem, Chollas Lake Park is one of the best places to picnic in San Diego for families seeking serenity.

You’ll be surrounded by eucalyptus trees and feel like you’re miles and miles away from the city. The park boasts many amenities such as hiking trails, playground areas, and a basketball court to keep all ages entertained.

4. Mission Hills Park

Also known as Pioneer Park, this small picnic destination is tucked away in a residential community right off of College Drive. Mission Hills Park features a well-kept grassy area, super fun splash pad for kids, and plenty of picnic tables. Due to its relatively hidden location, you’ll likely find a large stretch of grass all to yourself.

A fun fact about this picnic area in San Diego is that it was one of the first-ever cemeteries in San Diego; hence the name Pioneer Park. 

Picnic Areas in San Diego Worth Visiting

Sweeping panoramas from an expansive lawn with benches—Centennial Park in Coronado boasts a rose garden and a small beach.

5. Centennial Park

Located in the beautiful resort town of Coronado, Centennial Park offers breathtaking views of Downtown San Diego and the Bay. The park’s incredible location and skyline views make this place a popular choice for weddings and photoshoots. Right outside Centennial Park, you’ll find the Coronado Ferry Landing, one of the coolest shopping and dining areas with plenty of takeout options. What more could we want from a San Diego picnic spot?

6. Presidio Park 

Presidio Park is where the San Diego Presidio and Mission were founded in 1769. The incredible historic park has plenty of must-see exhibits to check out after your picnic, including the Junipero Serra Museum. While it's a great place to have a picnic in San Diego, this locale doesn’t provide many amenities other than picnic tables, so make sure to come prepared.

Harbor Island Park is a classic San Diego gem. It features a shoreline path for walkers and joggers, a route for bikers, and views for days.

7. Harbor Island Park 

Across the water from Centennial Park is another beautiful waterfront destination with sweeping skyline views: Harbor Island Park. The lively space has picnic features including tables, covered spaces, and public lavatories. Lay down your blanket and watch the sailors go by as you enjoy the tranquility of this picnic spot in San Diego.

8. El Monte County Park

El Monte County Park is the ideal location for a picnic if you're looking for a more rustic atmosphere in San Diego. One of the first county parks, El Monte is situated near Lakeside and is a well-liked destination for family vacations. You will have more than 80 acres of area to explore, with the stunning El Cajon Mountain as your background. This park has a ball field, play area, reserved picnic areas, and many recreational options.

Top Destinations for Beach Picnics in San Diego

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a 68-acre regional park with natural cliffs overlooking the Pacific. You might catch a glimpse of an occasional diver.

9. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

This picnic spot in San Diego is among Southern California’s favorite dog beaches. Having earned its name for being a spectacular spot to watch SoCal sunsets, Sunset Cliffs is the beach picnic spot of everyone’s (and every canine’s) dreams. But be ready to get sand everywhere because this awesome San Diego beach doesn’t offer any picnic tables. But, don’t let that stop you from enjoying a picnic in San Diego at this fantastic spot.

Mission Bay Park consists of over 4,235 acres in roughly equal parts land and water, with 27 miles of shoreline and eight swimming areas.

10. Mission Bay Park 

Not to be confused with Mission Hills, Mission Bay Park is a great spot for picnicking and splashing around San Diego. Enjoy the 27 miles of shoreline and plenty of recreational opportunities at this prime destination. Fly a kite, ride a bike, play volleyball, and picnic in San Diego like never before.

11. Coronado Tidelands Park 

Another Coronado destination makes the list with Tidelands Park. Providing a small beach, recreational fields, and lots of open space, this place to picnic in San Diego has something for everyone. The bike paths and play area make picnicking here an easy choice. It’s also a model of inclusive design for people with disabilities, so you can invite the whole family.

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