The best spot for a picnic in the Bronx is undoubtedly Van Cortlandt Park because of its diverse landscape. Spread out a blanket on the lawn in the Allen Shandler Recreation Area, sit beside a stream in Croton Woods, or relax under the massive trees in the Northwest Forest. With over 1,100 acres to explore, it’s easy to remain socially distant from other park guests while enjoying an outdoor meal. The Barbecue Pit is a great place to order take out if you’re entering the park from the northwestern corner; it’s right across the street. Owner Rani Vaswani envisioned a local eatery that would blend her experience with eastern cuisine with American BBQ while simultaneously offering vegetarian options. She succeeded and her menu is full of eclectic food combinations. Choose from classic items like barbecued chicken and ribs or enjoy vegetarian samosas and biryani.
Up in Inwood, far from the tourist attractions in midtown Manhattan, lies a tranquil park with sweeping views of the Hudson River. Fort Tryon Park is a hidden gem and home to the Heather Garden, the largest public garden with unrestricted access in the city. Stroll around the 8 miles of walking paths and catch a glimpse of The Cloisters, a re-created medieval monastery and extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Steps from the north side of the park, Mamasushi has everything you need for a delicious picnic. This Mexican and Japanese fusion restaurant has some of the most creative sushi rolls in the city. Go wild and try a surf and turf style roll filled with steak, lobster, sweet plantain, avocado, spicy mayo, and chimichurri.
Get away from the bustle of FiDi by taking the ferry to Staten Island. Clove Lakes Park, adjacent to the Staten Island Zoo is a peaceful place to spend the day with family. The central lake is huge and ponds are scattered throughout the park so there’s no competition for shoreside spots to throw down a blanket. The grills near the southeastern corner of the lake don’t require permits for groups of four or fewer. Stop by Olive Tree Marketplace on your way into the park to pick up everything necessary for a grilling feast. Their butcher counter has organic and grass-fed meats and their pork sausages are made in-store. For picnickers that don’t want the hassle of cooking their own food, Olive Tree also has a vast array of prepared and prepackaged meals.
Prospect Park is the best place in Brooklyn to lay out a picnic. Bask in the sun on the rolling lawns, go boating on the lake, or let the kids frolic in the newly reopened splash pads. Athletes can work up an appetite by cycling or jogging the paved activity loop around the park. Prospect Park is surrounded by trendy neighborhoods which makes it easy to find a local restaurant with delicious take out fare. Near the southwestern corner of the park, Krupa Grocery is upping the gourmet game one dish at a time. They’re offering a pick-up only “Prospect Park Picnic Box” that’s bursting with surf and turf goodness. The box includes their Angus burger, Nashville hot shrimp burger, house-made chicken nuggets, faro and quinoa salad with the option to add yellowfin tuna poke, salt and vinegar fried fingerlings, and blistered shishito peppers. What a feast!
Gantry Park offers gorgeous views of Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. The 12-acre park has a stunning boardwalk that meanders along the East River, playgrounds, picnic tables beneath swaying willow trees, and plenty of space to spread out on the grassy lawns. Pick up a book at the Hunters Point library and spend the day reading beneath the iconic Pepsi Cola sign. One of the best places to pick up a picnic lunch in Long Island City is Cyclo, a restaurant specializing in Vietnamese sandwiches and noodles. The various bahn mi sandwiches are to die for and the vermicelli noodle salads with cucumber, mint leaf, and scallions are refreshing; perfect for the August 31 holiday.