Thanks to its sun-splashed weather, Los Angeles is one of the best cities in the country to have a picnic at any time of the year. From cultural attractions and state parks to the zoo and even a cemetery, here are some of the best places in LA to gather your friends, spread out a blanket and have a picnic.
A pre-concert picnic at the landmark Hollywood Bowl is as much a part of the concert experience as the show itself. Picnic areas are located throughout the grounds that surround the Hollywood Bowl. Some picnic areas open as early as four hours before each concert. Tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Large groups (30+) may reserve selected areas through the Hollywood Bowl Group Sales Office: 323.850.2050.
General ticket-holders can pre-order gourmet picnic baskets for two from Patina Group for pick-up at the Bowl. The dishes are made with local ingredients and packed just before the gates open. For those fortunate enough to have box seats, Patina Group can deliver a variety of meals to you, including a three-course meal, a picnic basket for two, a family-style platter for four, and more.
Now open in Downtown LA, Grand Park is an urban oasis that stretches from Grand Avenue at the Music Center to Spring Street at City Hall. Throughout Grand Park, open spaces are available not only for casual sitting and leisurely strolling, but also for public and private gatherings. The 12-acre park has four distinct areas, featuring the restored Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, an intimate performance lawn, a community terrace, and a grand event lawn. The Music Center, in conjunction with the county, oversees and operates Grand Park and offers a dynamic, inclusive environment for community events, cultural experiences, festivals and holiday celebrations. Visitors can enjoy a picnic or purchase food and beverages on site. Selected events include food trucks and other food vendors. The park is open to the public every day from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Celebrating its 20th year at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Jazz at LACMA is a free Friday night event that showcases LA’s finest jazz musicians. The program is one of LA’s best outdoor music series and continues to be one of LACMA’s most popular offerings, having previously featured such legends as Wayne Shorter, John Clayton, Kenny Burrell, Les McCann, Billy Childs, Arturo Sandoval, Cannonball-Coltrane Project and Ernie Watts. During the season, Jazz at LACMA takes place at 6:00 p.m. every Friday at the central BP Pavilion, near Chris Burden's iconic Urban Light. Bring a picnic, blanket and chairs and settle into a spot on one of the various grass areas surrounding the pavilion.
Centrally located across the street from The Grove, Pan Pacific Park is one of the most popular, family-friendly parks in the city. The park is located on the site of the landmark Pan-Pacific Auditorium, which opened in 1935. Before its destruction in a 1989 fire, the venue hosted everything from political events to the Harlem Globetrotters and Elvis. Today, a recreation center sits on the former Pan-Pacific Auditorium location, and behind it is a public swimming pool. Picnic tables and barbecue pits are located throughout the 28-acre park, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. A paved path winds through the length of the park, perfect for those seeking a leisurely stroll or a gentle bike ride. For more vigorous exercise, the park features baseball diamonds, basketball courts and indoor-outdoor gyms. Kids will love the play areas in Renée’s Place, located near the north entrance.
Launched in 2002, Cinespia hosts on-site screenings of classic films in and around Los Angeles. Cinespia shows films from the 1930s through the 1990s, mostly in open-air settings at historic locations. Its most popular series runs weekly between May and August at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and is one of the best places in LA to watch outdoor movies. Cinespia also screens films at other locations throughout the year.
The Hollywood Forever screenings take place on the Fairbanks Lawn, where guests are invited to bring picnic dinners and drinks (beer and wine only). Cinespia suggests bringing blankets, pillows or low chairs that have a seat which rests on the ground with a low back. A small tarp underneath your blanket is recommended. Films are digitally projected against the west wall of the Cathedral Mausoleum, which houses the crypt of Rudolph Valentino among many others.
Echo Park Lake reopened to the public in June 2013 after a two-year, $45-million restoration. Improvements included draining the lake, planting 376 lotus plants, sprucing up walking paths, and restoration of the fountains and the boat house. The famous Lady of the Lake statue - known formally as "Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles" (Queen of the Angels) - was returned to her original location on the north end of the lake. The Echo Park Recreation Center features picnic tables, barbecue pits, children’s play area, community room, year-round pool, and numerous lighted sports areas, including a baseball diamond, basketball courts, soccer field and tennis courts. The Echo Park Pedal Boats Concession offers pedal boat rentals, guided canoe and gondola rides.
Perched atop Olive Hill on the cusp of Hollywood and Los Feliz, Barnsdall Art Park is centered on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, named to the National Register of Historic Places, a National Historic Landmark and a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. In 1927, Oil heiress Aline Barnsdall donated the Hollyhock House and 11 surrounding acres to the City of Los Angeles in memory of her father, Theodore. In addition to the Hollyhock House, the park includes the Barnsdall Art Center, Junior Art Center, Municipal Art Gallery and Gallery Theatre.
The 2013 Summer Wine Tastings take place every Friday night from May 24 through the end of the summer. Gather your friends for a picnic, and enjoy the sunset and beautiful views from the gated gardens in the West Lawn of the Hollyhock House. At each tasting, Silverlake Wine presents four selections of boutique, small production, artisanal wines from around the globe. Tickets are $25, include a limited edition wine glass, and are available online only. All sales are closed one hour prior to the event, and there are no tickets for sale at the door. All profits from the wine tastings benefit Barnsdall Art Park Foundation programs and projects.
Located in Griffith Park, the Los Angeles Zoo welcomes guests who want to bring their own picnics into the zoo with them. There are picnic areas throughout the zoo that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The zoo requests that guests do not bring aluminum cans, glassware or any other breakable materials, and to avoid using any small plastic items such as straws and cup lids that might accidentally find their way into an animal's exhibit. Coolers and picnic baskets are permitted, but the zoo does not have storage lockers available for rent.
The Los Angeles Zoo was originally located at a different site and opened in 1912 as the Griffith Park Zoo. The original zoo closed when the Los Angeles Zoo opened in November 1966. Located off Griffith Park Dr., the abandoned Griffith Park Zoo is known today as the Old Zoo, with its cages and stone caves left nearly intact. There are tables, BBQ grills and a large grass area for picnics - one exhibit area even has tables within the enclosure, without a doubt one of the most unique places in the world for a picnic. Anchorman fans will recognize the stone pens as the setting for the climactic scene with the Kodiak bear.
Founded in 1998, the Independent Shakespeare Co. has presented its summer festival at Griffith Park since 2010. Taking place from June to September, the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival is performed on a stage that’s built on the slopes of the Old Zoo’s natural amphitheater. Audiences arrive early to picnic and enjoy pre-show performances by local artists, the Salon Series (conversations about the intersection of Shakespeare and contemporary culture), and family-friendly, pre-show workshops about the plays. All of these summer events are entirely free.
The world famous Getty Center welcomes 1.3 million visitors a year to its hilltop location in Brentwood, where guests can admire the masterpieces of art, stunning architecture and panoramic views. The Central Garden, created by renowned artist Robert Irwin, is located at the heart of the Getty Center. The 134,000-square-foot design features a natural ravine and a tree-lined walkway that leads visitors through a beautiful landscape. Irwin's statement, "Always changing, never twice the same," is carved into the plaza floor, reminding visitors of the ever-changing nature of this living work of art. Bring your own lunch and enjoy a picnic on the lawn adjacent to the Central Garden, or at any of the Getty Center's public seating areas. Picnic tables and lawns for lounging are located at the Lower Tram Station (T1). The picnic area is open every day until 30 minutes before the museum closes.
Will Rogers was one of the world’s best-known celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s, a multi-talented cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist and movie star. He began buying land in Santa Monica, and eventually acquired 186 acres in what is now the Pacific Palisades. Rogers developed a ranch where he could relax with his family and friends, pursuing his favorite pastimes of riding and roping. At the time of his untimely death in a plane crash in 1935, the ranch consisted of a 31-room ranch house, a stable, corrals, riding ring, roping arena, polo field, golf course and hiking trails. After his widow, Betty, died in 1944, the ranch became Will Rogers State Historic Park. Park staff and docents offer tours of the historic ranch house.
The park is a popular destination for equestrian activities. The Will Rogers Polo Club plays matches every weekend from April to October on LA County’s only outdoor polo field, which Trekkies will recognize as a stand-in for Golden Gate Park in Star Trek IV. Riding lessons are available Monday through Saturday, and equestrians are invited to bring their horses to the park for day-use. A large picnic area with grills is available, whether you’re watching a polo match or simply enjoying the pastoral scene.
Malibu Family Wines is a joint endeavor between the Semler and the DeJoria families. Its unique vineyards are ideally positioned at the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains - the rocky terrain and steep, south-facing slopes provide the perfect environment for growing premium wine grapes. Planting started in 1997 with 14 acres of Cabernet and Merlot. Today the hillside vineyards consist of approximately 61,000 vines on 61 acres with eight varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Mourvedre, Grenache, Viognier and Malbec.
The Malibu Wines tasting room is located about 25 miles north of Santa Monica, six miles into the mountains from either Pacific Coast Highway or the 101 Freeway. Admission to the tasting room is free. Guests are invited to bring a picnic or non-alcoholic drinks for their enjoyment. A minimum of one bottle purchase is required for each group of 2-4 people. Absolutely no outside alcohol is allowed on the premises. Because the tasting room is completely outdoors, and the area climate can be unpredictable, Malibu Family Wines recommends bringing a sweatshirt or a blanket to leave in the car. The Malibu Wines tasting room is open from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily, with extended hours from Memorial Day through Halloween. Live music is performed on Saturdays and Sundays year-round. Valet parking and a free shuttle lot are offered on the weekends.
Located at the corner of Redondo Avenue and Manhattan Beach Boulevard, the 18-acre Polliwog Park is the largest park in the South Bay area. The focal point of the park is a large pond, bordered by a natural wildlife refuge that’s home to migratory birds and other wildlife. The amphitheater that overlooks the pond is a favorite site for concerts, performances, weddings and other special events. The picnic area features 15 tables, eight of which can be reserved for a minimum of two hours and a maximum of six. The picnic area is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to dusk. Three gazebos, which can be reserved in advance for two-hour periods, are also favorite spots for birthday parties, anniversaries and family reunions. Other park attractions include children’s play areas, the Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden, City Historical Museum, 9-hole disc golf course, and the Polliwog Park Dog Run.
Covering 61 acres, Brookside Park is Pasadena’s largest park, located just south of the world-famous Rose Bowl Stadium. Brookside Park features numerous picnic tables; barbecue pits in most picnic areas; two lighted softball diamonds; a lighted field for flag football and soccer; tennis, badminton and handball courts; and a play area. The park's regulation baseball diamond, the Jackie Robinson Stadium, has grandstand seating for 4,200 people, team rooms, showers and lockers. Brookside Park also features two of Pasadena’s Hidden Gem attractions, the Rose Bowl Stadium Tours and the Kidspace Museum, where children can discover the excitement of learning while engaging in creative play.