Best Mother’s Day Picnic Spots in the Bay Area
It’s time once again to celebrate a very special woman in your life. That gal who makes you chicken soup when you’re sick and kisses your boo-boos all better. Yes, it’s a lady we all know and love: Mom. Whether she’s the mother of your children or your fur children, this year celebrate her with a Mother’s Day picnic at locales around the Bay Area.
While impromptu picnics are always fun, sometimes a little forward thought and planning makes for an even better time—especially when there’s a familial hoard to worry about. So, we’ve put together some of our top tips and tricks to make your Mother’s Day picnic seamless … well, as seamless as we can anyways.
Where to buy:
- Bi-Rite Market: Pop into any of the Bi-Rite markets in the city to pick up lunch fixin’s, grab a made-to-order sammie and salad inside the store, or stop by the Bi-Rite Cafe at Civic Center Plaza for an “easy button” option.
- Lunardi’s Market: With locations across the South and East Bay area this local chain has got you covered. Not only is there a deli counter where you can eat your weight in pasta salad, but some spots serve up fresh sushi as well.
- Piazza’s Fine Foods: The locally-owned and -operated food stores in Palo Alto and San Mateo take quality very seriously. (They even have an in-house sausage maker!) Pick up a sandwich, load up a hot plate, or get a carnitas burrito all in one place.
- Freddie’s Sandwiches: This classic North Beach deli is a gem. Create your own sandwich, or choose one from the extensive menu. You can order ahead so those glorious meals are ready for you to grab and go. Just don’t forget the chips.
What to pack:
- Sunscreen: Nothing puts a damper on a good time like a classic sunburn, so lather up and reapply accordingly. And if it’s an overcast day, throw on some ’screen anyway, because anyone who’s lived in the Bay Area long enough knows, that sun could peep out at any moment.
- Water: A little H20 never hurt anyone, and it’s especially important to stay hydrated (whether you’re thirsty or not) when you’re running around outside having fun.
- Hand Sanitizer: You know why…
- Games: An absolute must for anyone with kiddos. Grab a frisbee, football, or paddle ball to keep those munchkins entertained.
- Compostable tableware: Let’s be real. Mother Earth is the OG mama, so treat her nice on Mother’s Day too by using compostable plates and silverware.
Keep it cool:
- Ice pack it up: Wrap a paper towel around a frozen water bottle to…
- Warm is bad: If food, particularly meats and cheeses, has been out of the fridge for 4 hours, you should probably toss it. Try and keep food temps hit below the 40°F mark whenever possible.
Best Picnic Spots in San Francisco
Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time for some fun and adventure. Check out our favorite picnic spots in the Bay Area.
John McLaren Park
Where: 100 John F Shelley Drive, San Francisco
With more than 312 acres to choose from, San Francisco’s second-largest park has ample space for you and your family to spread out for your picnic. Hang out on the playgrounds, picnic areas, and game courts, or meander through any microbiome you like in the miles of scenic meadow, grassland, or wetland habitats. Hunker down in a cool grove of redwoods or camp out right next to McNab Lake to bite into that perfectly-balanced turkey sammie. Post lunch, if you are feeling a little more reflective, consider a walk through the park’s labyrinth. There’s also the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater for you to explore or even catch a performance at. And for all those dog mom’s out there, this is a doggo’s paradise—there’s even a designated park for your fur babies to socialize. For more information visit sfrecpark.org.
Golden Gate Park
Where: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco (don’t worry, Google knows where it is)
OK, so you’ve probably been to Golden Gate Park before, but the 1,017 acre open space has so much to offer that we would be remiss not to include it on this best Bay Area picnic spot list. This park has every type of mom covered. For the arts and culture lover hit up the de Young Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden. (Fun fact: The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest one in the United States.) For moms who like a bit of scientific discovery, absolutely check out the California Academy of Sciences, Conservatory of Flowers, or San Francisco Botanical Garden. And for those mamas looking for something a little more active, consider renting a boat for a paddle around Stow Lake (plus, there’s a snack bar in case you can’t wait for your picnic). But if a nice grassy knoll is calling your name the Marx Meadow is a prime picnicking locale with space for sunny lounging and a pick-up game of soccer or two. For more information visit sfrecpark.org.
Corona Heights Park
Where: Roosevelt Way and Museum Way, San Francisco
For a spectacular view of the city, take a hike through Corona Heights Park. It takes a bit of cardio and perspiration to get to the peak, but that elevated heart rate is well worth the unobstructed, panoramic view at the top (fingers crossed Karl is out of town that weekend). Located between the Castro and Corona Heights neighborhoods, this spot is more of a granola bar and apple kind of picnic, but nab a seat on the peak’s benches that face out towards the city and it might be the best snack you’ve had in a while. It can be a bit breezy at the top so pack a light layer or windbreaker. For more information visit sfrecpark.com.
Photo Courtesy of Mia Rain T on Yelp
Where: California Coastal Trail, San Francisco
For a super Instagram-worthy Mother’s Day (hey, no judgement…we all do it for the ’gram sometimes) the best spot to picnic on the sand is obviously at Baker Beach. Not only is this stretch of beach picture perfect (you get an up-close-and-personal experience of the lovely Golden Gate, and a great shot of the Marin Headlands and Lands End in the distance), but it’s super family- and dog-friendly, too. If you don’t like the occasional grain of sand in your chicken salad there are also picnic tables and grills nearby. All picnic spots are on first come, first served basis, and be prepared for crowds and parking congestion on sunny weekends. Because of large waves and rip currents this is a strict “no swimming” beach, but there’s nothing wrong with a little sunbathing or beach play. And just a little FYI, this is a popular nude beach. If you’re into that sort of thing, rock on. Just be advised that clothing-optional sunbathers camp out towards the end of the beach closest to the bridge. For more information visit parksconservancy.org.
Best Picnic Spots in North Bay
Where: 1301 Fort Cronkhite, Mill Valley
Just across the bridge, this beautiful piece of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is primo for a Mother’s Day celebration. The impressive landscape was once inhabited by the Miwok tribe and was home to an old military base during World War II. For some positive ions pack a picnic and head to Fort Cronkhite and Rodeo Beach. Bring your pooch to this dog-friendly beach and sit back to watch the surf. If you are feeling like a car picnic is more your style, take a drive on Conzelman Road to Point Bonita. The five-mile stretch of road offers spectacular sites of the Pacific Ocean and SF. And if you’re looking for something that’s a bit more educational for the kiddos—because let’s be honest they’re important on Mother’s Day—visit The Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates, and releases injured or sick marine mammals. Pro tip: After reading this you’ve probably realized you’d like to experience all the headlands have to offer (including miles and miles of scenic hiking trails), so hop on and off the free shuttle to maximize your time. For more information visit parksconservancy.org.
Photo Courtesy of Brian W on Yelp
Photo Courtesy of Hog Island Oyster Company
Hog Island Oyster Company
Where: 20215 Shoreline Highway, Marshall
So, this spot is definitely an outlier when it comes to the more traditional parks in this best Bay Area picnic spots roundup, but Hog Island Oyster Co. is absolutely one of the best places for a picnic around. A leisurely drive up US-101 and boom you’re out of the city and ready to celebrate Mom at this quaint and welcoming destination. Call ahead and reserve a 3-hour seating and claim a highly-coveted picnic table and grill along the mud flats in Marshall. Not only is the setting awesome, but for $5 per person you get to shuck and grill your own oysters. The oyster company will provide all the necessary accoutrement including shucking tools, lemon, its famous Hogwash, and shucking lessons (only upon request). Guests are encouraged to bring their own picnic supplies, but the eatery can also provide cheese and charcuterie boards, as well as beer and wine from The Boat Oyster Bar adjacent to the picnic tables. For more information visit hogislandoysters.com.
Best Picnic Spots in South Bay
San Jose Municipal Rose Garden
Where: Dana Avenue and Naglee Avenue, San Jose
Instead of buying Mom a bouquet of flowers, take her to see 5.5 acres of roses instead. With more than 3,500 plantings of 189 rose varietals, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden is a not-so-secret garden in the heart of the Silicon Valley. And lucky for you, May is the best time to visit the garden as the roses will be their most beautiful bloomed-selves. Tuck yourself under the shade of giant redwoods or lay a blanket out on the lawn to take in the intoxicating floral aroma that fills the garden every year. If you are running low on food, or you quite simply forgot your lunch (hey, it happens to all of us), take a quick detour to Zanotto’s Market on Naglee Avenue. The sandwich line may look intimidating, but stick with it for fresh paninis and house-made deli fare. Trust us, a few-minutes wait at this grocer to chow down on a killer sandwich in the rose garden is so worth it. For more information visit sanjoseca.gov.
Photo Courtesy of John D on Yelp
Photo Courtesy of Santa Clara Country Parks
Sanborn County Park
Where: 16055 Sanborn Road, Saratoga
To escape from the extremely teched-out South Bay Area, you can pretty much pick anywhere in Saratoga and feel a little more secluded and immersed in nature. Sanborn County Park is a great place to hang out or go for a redwood-shaded hike. The park is tucked into the Santa Cruz Mountains and sprawls across almost 3,500 acres. If you are going on a hike make sure to pack plenty of water and some light snacks before heading back to the car for a proper lunch. Feel free to camp out on the lawn or at any of the picnic tables. FYI, there is a $10 entrance fee so bring cash. For more information visit sccgov.org.
Best Picnic Spots in East Bay
Tilden Regional Park
Where: Entrances off of Wildcat Canyon Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard, Berkeley
A fantastic spot for families of any size or age, Tilden is an absolute jewel in the East Bay Regional Parks system. Tucked into the Berkeley Hills, this wildlife haven has everything for the perfect picnic. Go for a twirl on the park’s carousel, sit on the shores of Lake Anza, stroll through the Botanic Garden, ride the steam train, or check out the animals at Little Farm. Tilden has thousands of acres ripe for exploration, but also offers the convenience of a more structured outing. For some John Muir-esque action on Mom’s Day, don’t miss the miles of trails through Wildcat Canyon, but for some easy picnicking, reserve a spot at any of the sites throughout the park. For more information visit ebparks.org.
Photo Courtesy of Nette Kjendlie
Photo Courtesy of Cèline Glasier
Redwood Regional Park
Where: 7867 Redwood Road, Oakland
Don’t get us wrong, Muir Woods just might be one of the most magical places in the area, but for a Mother’s Day away from the crowds explore Redwood Regional Park. Just a few miles from Downtown Oakland, this redwood forest is hidden in plain site. Enjoy a sip of water or light snack under the shade of the 150-foot coastal redwoods. The park has several staging areas, including the Redwood Main Entrance, Canyon Meadow, and Skyline Gate, as well as reservable picnic areas in secluded glades or open grasslands. There is a small parking fee of $5 per vehicle at the Redwood Main Gate, but that’s a small price to pay for a bit of peace and quiet on Mother’s Day. For more information visit ebpark.org.
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