14 fun and pretty spots for a family picnic in Seattle or the Eastside
Editor's note: Updated June 2018
There’s something so relaxing and fun about a picnic in one of our beautiful Northwest parks. The kids can play, while grown-ups enjoy a leisurely meal and conversation. We’ve rounded up 14 picnic-perfect places around the Seattle area, so grab a blanket, pack up some picnic-friendly food (or stop at a deli on the way) and go find your favorite spot!
Golden Gardens (Ballard)
A longtime favorite for Northwest families, Golden Gardens offers a spectacular view of Puget Sound and the Olympics. Unpack your meal on the grassy lawns, snag a picnic table or spread out on the long stretch of sandy beach. Check out the large playground, grab a popsicle at the snack stand, explore the stream at the south end of the beach, or just sit back and watch the trains go by. It’s always a good bet to pack beach toys, and a kite if it’s windy. For a real outdoor adventure, bring firewood and s’more makings and build a campfire in one of the beach fire pits (first-come, first-served basis).
Picnic Pointers: If it’s a hot day, pack sunscreen and a sun umbrella. Though there is a shaded area with picnic tables, sunshine brings the crowds so you may not find a shady spot. Speaking of crowds, Golden Gardens knows how to draw them, so if it’s possible, plan your picnic on a weekday, or, on weekends, get there early. Park at the northern end of the park for easy access to the play structure and the beach house with the restrooms. On the west side of the beach house, there's an outdoor shower and foot wash to get off sand before going home.8498 Seaview Place NW
Ballard Locks (Ballard)
A Seattle must-see, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (better known as the Ballard Locks) offers a fascinating view of big and little boats being lowered and raised in the locks when going to and from Lake Washington and Puget Sound. You can also get a close-up look at migrating salmon at the fish ladder (best viewing is throughout the summer, especially mid-late August). Check out the Visitors Center for some maritime history and plan to picnic in the gorgeous Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens.
Picnic Pointers: Since the Ballard Locks are a Seattle tourist destination, summer weekends can get busy. If you’re able to, plan to visit during the week. The Locks are free to visit, but you’ll pay for parking.3015 NW 54th St
Tucked away at the bottom of a winding, tree-lined road lies one of Seattle’s best beach parks. Carkeek Park offers acres of wetlands and hiking trails, an impressive beach (accessed via a train overpass and some pretty spectacular views), a playground and plenty of prime picnic spots. Check out the cool salmon slide, take an easy hike along Piper’s Canyon Story Trail, and search for crabs, shells and other treasures along the rocky beach.
Picnic Pointers: Since access to the beach includes trekking the overpass and a steep set of stairs, your best bet is to picnic around the play area, then venture down to the beach afterwards. There is plenty of parking, but the lots are situated in various areas along the main road in, so try for the lot closest to the playground (directly across from the beach). Restrooms on site.950 NW Carkeek Park Rd
Ella Bailey Park (Magnolia)
Somewhat of a hidden gem, Ella Bailey Park spent its early years as the former Magnolia Elementary School playground, but has since been updated and is now a family-friendly fave. The park boasts large, picnic-perfect lawns, an awesome play area and unsurpassed views of the Seattle skyline. The playground has structures for both big and little kids, and a smooth path that circles the park makes for prime scootering. There’s also a handful of picnic tables and BBQ pits.
Picnic Pointers: There are no bathrooms here (just a port-a-potty), so plan ahead. Also, it’s one of the best places to watch the fireworks.2601 W Smith St
Volunteer Park (Capitol Hill)
A gorgeous urban oasis, Volunteer Park is a Seattle institution. Acres of open lawn encourage red checkered blankets and baguettes, and a large playground with climbing structures, a sandbox and a rock wall promise a post-picnic romp. Cool off in the wading pool (opens in June), explore dahlia gardens and koi ponds, or climb the water tower’s 100 steps for a 360° view of the city.
Picnic Pointers: Picnic tables are scattered throughout the park. Nature buffs should check out the botanical wonders in the Volunteer Park Conservatory. The Seattle Asian Art Museum also is in the park.1247 15th Ave E
Lincoln Park (West Seattle)
Lincoln Park covers over 135 acres and offers prime picnic locations on lush lawns as well as at the beach. The park also has wooded trails down to the beach, a playground (zip line included) and a seasonal wading pool (opens June 25) and Colman Pool, an outdoor saltwater swimming pool (open weekends starting late-May, daily starting late-June).
Picnic Pointers: Got a large group or future b-day party? Reserve on of the park’s five picnic shelters. Easiest playground access: Park in the lot closest to the ferry terminal and head northwest along the trail. This is a huge park and it's easy to miss out on all it has to offer. If you are a first-time visitor, you might want to read up here.8011 Fauntleroy Way SW
Meridian Playground (Wallingford)
Meridian Playground may be smaller than many Seattle parks, but it packs big charm. Romp around the open grassy area, explore the orchards and P-Patch (operated by Seattle Tilth), set up a picnic in the gazebo and check out the playground. The storybook-inspired sculptures and stone entryway give this park a “secret garden” feel.
Picnic Pointers: There are picnic tables, grills and sheltered space for rainy days.4649 Sunnyside Ave N
Warren G. Magnuson Park (NE Seattle)
Magnuson’s sprawling waterfront park is great for summer BBQ’s and has plenty of picnic space, from grassy lawns to picnic shelters. For large groups, snag one of three reservable picnic shelters. After lunch, fly kites on - you guessed it - Kite Hill, check out The Junior League Playground, or explore the Children’s Garden.
Picnic Pointers: If you happen to come on a windy weekday, sign into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Campus just north of the park to visit “A Sound Garden,” a sculpture of tall wind vanes attached to organ pipes that hum in the Lake Washington breeze.7400 Sand Point Way NE
Discovery Park (Magnolia)
As the biggest park in Seattle, Discovery Park definitely has its share of picnic spots. Choose your perfect lunch location from over 500 acres of woods, trails and beachfront, and admire sweeping views as you chow down. After lunch, take a hike, ride bikes along the paths that run through the park, or trek down to the beach to search for prime rock-skipping and shell-searching. There’s also a play area (with zip line), a lighthouse and an Environmental Learning Center where kids can interact with hands-on exhibits.
Picnic Pointers: Grab a parking permit from the Information Center so that you can drive down to the beach and park there. Permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis and saved for those with kiddos under 8 as well as seniors (and anyone who cannot physically trek the 1.5 miles down to the beach). Also: Read about the newly opened Capehart section of Discovery Park.3801 Discovery Park Blvd
Marina Park (Kirkland)
If you’re on the Eastside, head down to Marina Park for a lovely picnic with waterfront views. The small beach is perfect for tots, with prime rock-skipping and duck-viewing opportunities.
Picnic Pointers: Pack your own lunch or grab some subs from Jimmy John’s (across the street), and stroll Park Lane for some gelato or a treat from the Sweet Cakes bakery. And starting in June, the Kirkland Wednesday Market brings local produce, artisan treats and crafts to Marina Park. (Wednesdays 2-7pm)25 Lakeshore Plaza Dr, Kirkland
Grass Lawn Park (Redmond)
This huge Redmond park features two separate play areas with tons of equipment for both big and little kids, from climbing structures and swings to slides and a play house. Grass Lawn also has an awesome splash pad for a pre- or post-picnic cool-down. There’s tons of grassy lawn (get it?) for picnicking, plus shelters and even a pavilion for larger groups or parties.
Picnic Pointers: There are a couple of parking lots for the park, and if you want to be closest to the splash pad, park on the east side (148th).7031 148th Ave NE, Redmond
Crossroads Park (Bellevue)
A huge spray park, awesome playground and rolling lawns make this Bellevue favorite an ideal place to spend an afternoon. Crossroads Park has lots of picnic tables (some with shade), or reserve the picnic shelter for larger groups.
Picnic Pointers: This popular park gets super busy on hot days, so come early to beat the crowds. Also, check out the annual Strawberry Festival, happening at the end of June, for some sweet family fun.999 164th Ave NE, Bellevue
Idylwood Beach Park (Redmond)
This Lake Sammamish location is a perfect picnic spot for hot summer days. Idylwood Beach Park is sandy, the water is clear and shallow, and there’s a playground for after-lunch shenanigans. Find shade in the picnic shelters or spread out on the wide, grassy lawn. There’s also a bathhouse with restrooms and showers.
Picnic Pointers: The small parking lot fills up quickly, so come early, or find side street parking.3650 W Lake Sammamish Parkway NE, Redmond
Juanita Beach Park (North Kirkland)
A wide sandy beach and shallow water make this Eastside park a summer go-to. Grassy lawn, picnic tables and BBQs are first come, first served. A wide, smooth path that circles Juanita Beach Park is great for riding bikes, or get adventurous and rent a stand-up paddle board. More pluses: A playground, wrap-around dock, and small marsh area with wooden bridges, perfect for viewing birds such as great blue herons.
Picnic Pointers: Check out the Juanita Farmers Market for you picnic purchases, happening every Friday 3-7pm June-September.9703 NE Juanita Dr, Kirkland