Chicaco picnic

Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out! 9 Places to Have a Perfect Chicago Picnic

Published on April 27, 2022

Although we should know by now to never rule anything out, another lengthy Chicago winter seems to be finally past us. As we put away our parkas and scarves for the season, our thoughts turn to how to maximize the glorious weather that’s in store over the next few months. In particular, we’re wondering where to have a spring picnic in Chicago.

While it would be easy to grab some leftovers and a blanket and head down to the nearest park, a picnic that the family will remember for years requires careful planning, starting with the right location. You need picturesque spot that also offers other activities in which the family can participate once lunch is complete. In addition to the usual suspects, like Grant, Lincoln and Millennium Parks; as well as the Chicago Botanic Garden; Morton Arboretum; Garfield Park Conservatory, or Forest Preserves of Cook County, you may also want to consider the following options.

Humboldt Park

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Want to picnic near the water without going to the Lakefront? Humboldt Park is ideal. Its lagoons offer Chicago’s only inland beach, as well as fishing, swan-shaped pedal boat rentals and a gorgeous Prairie-style boathouse, which was built in 1907 and renovated in 2005. Two other historic structures grace the park. The Fieldhouse contains a fitness center and two gymnasiums. The stables were restored in 1998 and, in 2001, the stables were turned into the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture.

Harvester Park

Named after Burr Ridge’s original name, Harvester Park includes a mile-long nature trail through a wetland featuring a rain garden, fishing deck, observation points, sport and fitness courts and fields. The park is in the process of constructing a Route 66-themed playground, which includes a zipline, a climber to represent the Painted Desert and a slide coming out of a 30-foot replica of the Willis Tower. It is expected to open in June 2022.  In the meantime, Route 66 buffs can take eATLAS’ A tour of Route 66 in Chicago.

Winnemac Park

With five baseball fields, this 22-acre park on the grounds of Amundsen High School in Ravenswood offers plenty of space to spread out and toss a ball or Frisbee, even on the busiest of days. In addition, the park has more than 200 trees (i.e., plenty of shade), a playground, tennis court and a 2.7-acre native prairie habitat with local plants and wildflowers.

The Grove

Glenview’s sprawling 145-acre park is ideal for a family with an interest in local history. The Grove is not only devoted to educating the community about the vegetation and wildlife on display, but it also takes visitors back in time to the mid-19th century. It’s located in the spot where Dr. John Kennicott settled with his family in 1836.  The location includes his home, a blacksmith shop, log cabin, schoolhouse, Native American village, and greenhouse. The Grove was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Promontory Point

The southern tip of Burnham Park on the lakefront is a tree-lined peninsula offering beautiful views of the Chicago skyline. You can include the picnic as part of a trip to the nearby Museum of Science and Industry or walk down the Lakefront Trail a little farther to Jackson Park, where you’ll find a driving range, golf course, and a dog park.  There’s also a Japanese garden located on Wooded Island that contains a sculpture by Yoko Ono.

Pottawatomie Park

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Pottawatomie Park is situated adjacent to the Fox River in St. Charles, where folks can enjoy a 45-minute cruise on a paddlewheel riverboat after picnicking. For those who want to burn off their lunch with more activity, they can walk along the river, rent kayaks and pedal boats, bike along the park’s trails or enjoy a round of miniature golf.

Ping Tom Memorial Park

Located along the South Branch of the Chicago River, Ping Tom Memorial Park reflects its Chinatown setting with a pagoda-style pavilion, bamboo garden and Chinese-inspired landscaping. The boathouse offers kayak rentals in the summer and the fieldhouse contains a swimming pool and a patio with skyline views. The park is named after the civic leader whose efforts led to its creation but passed away before construction began.

Independence Grove

This preserve in Libertyville has a 115-acre lake as its centerpiece, and fishing boats, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and pedal boats can be rented. The park also has 7.5 miles of trails for walking, biking and in-line skating; a dog park; a large playground and a garden with a fountain, pergola, and gazebo.

Oz Park

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What family wouldn’t want to picnic surrounded by characters from The Wizard of Oz? This Lincoln Park spot features statues of Dorothy (with Toto, of course), the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. Dorothy’s Playlot has swings and climbing equipment, and the Emerald Garden offers lush greenery and flowers.

With summer just getting started, there will be plenty of sunny days to plan a stop at a few of these great parks around the greater Chicagoland area.

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