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Chicago’s Best Picnic Spots for National Eat Outdoors Day

As obscure national holidays go, National Eat Outside Day is one of the lesser-known but easiest to celebrate. On August 31, grab a basket, a blanket, some favorite goodies and join the festivities. Celebrate with a PicnicWhere Traveler has pinpointed some of the best spots in Chicago to spread out for a sunny meal with your quarantine buddies.

Nestled between Ukrainian Village and Palmer Square, Humboldt Park is a gorgeous green oasis surrounding a peaceful lagoon. The park is nearly 200 acres of prairies, lawns crisscrossed with walking paths, woodlands, and an inland beach. Since Chance the Snapper has been apprehended, the shoreside areas are safe for picnickers once again. Stop by Pie, Pie My Darling for vegan baked goods to help celebrate the holiday. Pie, Pie My Darling is only a 15-minute walk from the southeastern corner of Humboldt Park. Female-owned, PPMD bakes cakes in 2 sizes in delicious flavors like cookies and cream, funfetti, and chocolate peanut butter pretzel. Every cake is 100% vegan and lovingly made from scratch.

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If a calm and serene picnic is more your style, head over to the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. Situated just north of the Lincoln Park Zoo, the shaded gardens are filled with bird song and the quiet burble of waterfalls. The meandering stone walkways follow water features designed to flow like natural rivers with plenty of neatly placed rocks to perch for a peaceful picnic. Order takeout from nearby French Bistro, Mon Ami Gabi for a refined outdoor repast. Select chic menu items like duck confit, baked goat cheese in tomato sauce with warm herb and garlic bread, or a summer tomato salad with Corsican feta cheese, torn basil, and red wine vinaigrette. Mon Ami Gabi also has a selection of house cocktails, delicious wine, and beer available to customers 21 and over. It’s best to sip adult beverages en route to the park as alcoholic drinks are not permitted inside Chicago public parks.

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Logan Square is the northbound terminus for the 29-mile Chicago Boulevard and Parks system. The boulevards that extend from Logan Square to nearby Palmer Square Park have shady, manicured pathways lined with benches. Large trees keep the grassy lawns out of the hot sun and make for a cool spot to throw down a blanket. Lula Cafe is a trendy, farm-to-table restaurant adjacent to Logan Square. Order a Lula Lunch box that includes an entree, seasonal salad, and a house-made pastry for a complete outdoor lunch. Vegan and gluten-free options are available. If this is a solo picnic, stop by City Lit Books (only 1 block from Lula’s Cafe) for a great book to keep you company all afternoon.  

(©Danielle Fisher)

Rogers Park isn’t usually a top tourist destination, but that keeps it a hidden gem for the locals. Tobey Prinz Beach Park is a secluded spot on the Lake Michigan waterfront where willow branches sway just feet from the shoreline. A long jetty extends out into the lake and strolling pathways line the beach. Twisted Tapas, barely a block away, is the go-to local spot for international fusion tapas. Order pick up and snack throughout the day on bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed mushrooms, seared shrimp, or Asian-style pork tacos.


Originally the site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition (World’s Fair), Jackson Park is now a spacious green haven between the Hyde Park and Woodlawn communities. There are more than 500 acres to spread out and enjoy a picnic while safely staying 6 feet away from other park goers. Osaka Garden, an authentic Japanese style garden within the park, has ornate pavilions, bridges, and traditional Japanese horticulture; it’s a gorgeous sanctuary to sit and enjoy the day. Seoul Taco can provide all the best finger foods for your outdoor meal. They specialize in Korean-Mexican fusion like tacos made with Korean-style beef, burritos stuffed with kimchi fried rice, and gogi bowls with spicy Gochujang pepper sauce. They’re currently accepting donations with each order to help feed frontline health care workers and first responders.

(©Jes Farnum/Shutterstock)

The South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago is quietly hidden on top of a parking garage. Built in the mid-1960s and opening out onto bustling Michigan Avenue, the garden is a testament to its creator, landscape architect Dan Kiley. Lounge beside a bubbling fountain and leave the crush of downtown behind. Before visiting the garden, pick up a bento box or some fresh sushi at Hot Wok Cool Sushi. The Michigan Avenue location is a few blocks north of the garden. If you’re not a fan of sushi, they also offer an assortment of Thai noodle dishes, ramen noodle soups, and Hawaiian poke bowls.