Picnics, America’s most adorable pastime, are an ideal way to check out well-maintained city parks and, normally, enjoy some cold cuts with your friends or family. Or maybe they just offer a good time to enjoy solitude with a book and a to-go salad — a more ideal situation at this time.
But picnic weather is sacred in central Arizona, meaning, toward the end of spring, we scramble to soak up the last few weeks of the al fresco dining season in the Valley. Now that you’ve dug the picnic basket and cooler out of storage, here are a dozen of the best picnic spots to take it.
Granada Park6505 North 20th Street
Though on the smaller side, Granada Park is a quiet, beautiful spot for a quick lunch or afternoon on the grass. A fishing lagoon occupies the middle of the park, while the towering Piestewa Peak dominates the backdrop. Picnic tables and grills help with a dedicated picnic, while trees and grass make for an ideal spot to plop down a blanket and yourself. Nearby restaurants include Los Taquitos, SanTan Brewery, Moto, and Sprouts.
Fountain Park12925 North Saguaro Boulevard, Fountain Hills
This 64-acre park is known for its iconic shooting fountain, but the aptly named Fountain Park also features various picnic tables, benches, and 35 acres of turf. That means grab the blanket and spread out your takeout. Tons of eateries line the edges of Fountain Park, including La Botana Tacos and All American Sports Grill.
Civic Space Park424 North Central Avenue
You might not know this three-acre downtown park by its official name — Civic Space Park — but this is the spot with the eye-catching Her Secret Is Patience sculpture by Janet Echelman. Imagine having a nice picnic under that big colorful net. It’s easy to do thanks to plenty of grass and the fact 70 percent of the park's surface area is shaded. There are a multitude of restaurant options in the downtown area. Grab a pasty to go from Cornish Pasty or a lunch from Phoenix Public Market Cafe, and you’re good to eat on the green.
The Farm Kitchen6106 South 32nd Street
Yes, the Farm at South Mountain is a venue and restaurant, but it’s also a farm — meaning you’re free to stretch out. The Farm Kitchen serves its lunches in picnic baskets so guests may sit on the garden patio or out in the five-acre pecan grove at the picnic tables. The restaurant sets up reserved tables in the dog-friendly grove for larger picnics or showers. Choose from sandwiches, soups, salads, and from-scratch baked goods to pack up in your picnic basket, then just pick your favorite tree.
Freestone Park1045 East Juniper Road, Gilbert
The 88-acre Freestone Park is packed with things to do — fishing, skateboarding, and of course, picnicking. There are three ramadas available by reservation, six shaded picnic tables, and seven picnic tables accompanied by those little barbecue grills. There are also additional standalone picnic tables and two lake areas for lunch by the water. Freestone Park is extremely close to Gilbert’s Heritage District, where you can pick up Postino, Liberty Market, Joe’s Real BBQ, and plenty more.
Indian Bend Wash GreenbeltScottsdale
The Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt is one of the better green areas in the city. It’s a linear collection of parks, lakes, and activity spanning 11 miles. Ride a bike or take a walk to the many ramadas and picnic tables along the greenbelt, or find a spot on the grass along the water to spread out a blanket. Just be aware of the Canadian geese and anything they may have “left behind.” Surrounding eateries include Duke's Sports Bar and Grill but we recommend you grab a wrapped sandwich from DeFalco's Italian Eatery.
Margaret T. Hance Park67 West Culver Street
Ever been to a food festival at Margaret T. Hance Park? If so, then you already know it’s a great picnic spot. The 32-acre park is relaxing and surrounded by history, making you completely forget the time you absolutely lost it in traffic in I-10's tunnel right below you. There are reservable ramadas, the grass is lush (most of the time), and there are more than a few neighboring restaurants. Think Match Kitchen & Cocktails, Fez, SoSoBa, and Pizza People Pub.
Papago Park625 North Galvin Parkway
One of the cooler-looking parks in Phoenix, Papago Park is certainly a place you’d like to find yourself on a beautiful sunny day. But the piping hot sandstone may not make for the best seat for a picnic, so you might want to snag one of the many ramadas along the roads or trails. You can even hike off your lunch with a quick run up to Hole in the Rock. And if you’d like to pack in lunch, nearby eateries include Honey Bear's BBQ, Ladybug Café, and Cafe Roma.
Riverview Park2100 West Rio Salado Parkway, Mesa
Neighboring Sloan Park, Riverview Park is best spotted by the 50-foot Genesis climbing tower. But once you wander the grounds, you’ll see the community fishing lake, open and shaded picnic areas with tables, reservable ramadas, and plenty of grass. There’s definitely a lot of activity, but it definitely makes for good people watching. Nearby restaurants include Henhouse Café, Matta's Grill & Cantina, and Makitto Sushi, or you could just pick up a box from Bosa Donuts.
Steele Indian School Park300 East Indian School Road
The historic Steele Indian School Park is one of those smack-dab-in-middle-of-the-city parks that provide a perfect urban view for your sunny picnic. There’s the chime of the light rail, skyline of midtown office buildings, and plenty of mature trees and grass. The 75-acre park offers attractions like Entry Garden and the Circle of Life, while nearby restaurants include George & Dragon, Clever Koi, and Pane Bianco.
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Encanto Park2605 North 15th Avenue
The 222-acre Encanto Park kind of has it all — a fishing spot, quaint boat house, pool, trail, sports complex, golf courses, the Enchanted Island Amusement Park, and an adorable surrounding neighborhood. The grass is up for grabs, the ramadas are first-come, first-serve, and the Amphitheater Island ramadas take reservations. But note: There’s no access to electricity in the park, so you’ll have to go with prepared food at this one. However, nearby restaurants include Original Hamburger Works, Persian Garden Cafe, and McGurkee's Italian Kitchen.
Tempe Beach Park80 West Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe
Yes, a dog or a Frisbee may suddenly end up on your picnic blanket, but the disruption may be worth it if you’re picnicking during sunset. The 25-acre Tempe Beach Park sits at the end of Mill Avenue, just north of Arizona State University, and it’s always bustling with life. Watch the scooters, bikes, and joggers zip by as you enjoy takeaway from nearby spots like Cornish Pasty, Ike’s Love and Sandwiches, Daily Jam, or a slice from Slices.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on April 23, 2019. It was updated on April 29, 2020.