New York and San Francisco are two of our most popular destinations at any time of year, but there’s nothing like summer in the city. A laid-back picnic is a great way to relax when the heat takes its toll, so stock up on some local goodies, hunker down on a blanket and soak up the sights and sounds of urban life. Here’s our pick of places to unpack your hamper…
Around Bow Bridge, Central Park
Bow Bridge arches elegantly over The Lake, connecting the wild and heavily wooded Ramble to Cherry Hill. It’s one of the prettiest locations in all of Central Park, offering serene views of water, trees and greenery. Framed by the Dakota building and the celebrated skyline of the Upper West Side, it’s a popular spot for sunset-watching and proposals, and a magnet for TV and film directors on a location hunt. To find the bridge, take a clockwise walk around the lake from the Loeb Central Boathouse, or enter at 77th Street opposite the American Museum of Natural History and follow the road round to the left.
Just off the southern tip of Manhattan lies Governors Island, and it’s open to the public every day between 1 May and 31 October. Catch the ferry from the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan, or, on weekends only, from Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s free on Saturdays and Sundays before midday, or a three-dollar round trip at other times. From the ferry terminal head straight to Picnic Point: eight acres of open green lawn with hammocks and picnic tables and views across to the Statue of Liberty or the Financial District skyline. If you go on a weekday and feel the need to do something active to earn your lunch, Blazing Saddles are offering an hour’s free bike rental between 10am and noon – a fantastic way to explore and work up a hearty appetite.
A sandy beach, restored tidal marshes and dunes, abundant wildlife, a wide promenade and designated picnic areas just about sum up Crissy Field. With outstanding views of Golden Gate Bridge, the park is a favourite with holidaymakers taking a break from their bike rides over the bridge into Sausalito, or with anyone seeking respite from the crowds. The park-operated Warming Hut café and bookstore serves coffee, pastries and sandwiches to take away, including a kids’ menu with the all-American peanut butter and jelly favourite. In 2008 an overlook was opened offering a brand new vantage point from which to take in the city, with panoramic views of the Palace of Fine Arts, Alcatraz and Angel Island. Take some extra layers if you’re planning on sticking around – the wind picks up in the afternoon.
This undulating city park between the Mission and Castro districts is not necessarily a place to come if you’re seeking peace and quiet – especially on a sunny day – but it’s the perfect spot for an impromptu picnic and a little local hipster-watching. The Mission District’s own special microclimate means it often escapes the mist that hangs over other parts of the city, and on a really hot day a post-picnic trip to the nearby Bi-Rite Creamery will be in order. For the more energetic, there are six tennis courts, a basketball court and a couple of football (soccer) pitches, as well as a children’s playground.