Nothing says summer more than a picnic under the shade of a tree, or better yet, under the stars. Grab a blanket and a basket brimming with goodies and you’re set to go! Chicago is full of hidden corners ripe for picnicking – here are my top five favorite picnic spots:
Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park
201 E. Randolph St.
The Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park is host to an almost-daily selection of concerts. The lunchbox music series features live bands, DJs, or open rehearsals in a different genre of music each and every day. Not only are Pritzker events usually free—but the lawn is just green and comfy enough for picnicking—making for the best (and cheapest!) date ever. The awesome sound system and incredible city views round out the experience. Alcohol is permitted at the park but glass bottles and aluminum cans aren’t so now’s the time to fill up that thermos with some chilled Chardonnay.
Osaka Garden in Jackson Park
Located on Wooded Island (Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary) in Jackson Park.
Recommended parking is south of the Museum of Science and Industry, the Columbia Drive lot – at Lake Shore Drive and Science Drive (5800 South).
Open daily, dawn to dusk!
This peaceful picnicking oasis is actually a picturesque Japanese garden located on a wooded island in the middle of a lagoon. You can’t find a park more Zen than the Osaka Garden. This park is one of my favorite spots in the city to get away from it all: it’s quiet, serene, and complete with gardening elements that transport me directly to Japan without having to catch that long flight from O’Hare. I adore the moon bridge and the sound of the cascading waterfalls relaxes me. Why not carry on the Japanese theme and make it a sushi picnic?
2021 North Burling Street
Open daily, dawn to dusk
This charming park is ideal for a family picnic: ample fields for playing ball, a lovely flower garden (the best spot for spreading out your picnic blanket) and a wooden Emerald City play park make for an entire afternoon of family fun. My kids and I have been coming here for picnics since they were toddlers. We always start our afternoon by setting out to find the cast of the Wizard of Oz: whimsical statues of the Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow are found at each corner of the park. Save room for dessert—there’s an Orange Julius just across from the park on Larabee and Webster where you can find their signature ice cream treat—orange juice mixed into a shake with vanilla ice cream.
Green City Market
Located at the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive
(approximately 1790 N. Clark)
Open every Wednesday and Saturday
May – October
7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Green City Market, located on the south end of Lincoln Park, makes life easier on picnickers: you can gather all your yummy goods at the market, and spread out your blanket there on the spot. Catch cooking demos by some of Chicago’s greatest chefs or even an impromptu musical act. You’ll also find the freshest organic fruits and veggies in the city, and a variety of lunch items: the food vendors alternate so check the market’s website to see what’s on offer for the day.
Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool
Located south of Fullerton Avenue, directly north of the Lincoln Park Zoo.
There is a north entrance on Fullerton Avenue.
Open daily, dawn to dusk
This small, prairie style park with a lovely lily pond at its center is one of the quietest and most romantic parks in the city, perfect for catching an afternoon picnic with your partner. Designed during the 1930’s by Alfred Caldwell, the park pays homage to the natural landscape of Illinois, and features graceful stonework and paths. There are no picnic tables or trash receptacles, so be responsible and carry just what you need. My husband and I have enjoyed sharing a thermos of Chardonnay and some snacks while sitting on the stones overlooking the pond. This is the spot for a picnic that includes a lot of quiet conversation and kissing.