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Across the United States, there are endless spaces that invite a picnic, from local parks to national ones. Photo: Travel + Leisure

As long as the weather’s good, a picnic is always the right idea. It’s a wonderful—and inexpensive!—reminder that you can transform anywhere with a view into a temporary café on a blanket. It gives you a reason to explore as well as a chance to settle down and relax for an hour or two. We seem to be busier with each passing year, so any opportunity we have to take a moment and appreciate what the world has to offer is keen. Across the United States, there are endless spaces that invite a picnic, from local parks to national ones. So we thought we’d help narrow things down by finding the 7 absolute best places to pack a picnic. Enjoy!

1. Central Park, New York City

It’s no surprise that one of America’s (and possibly even the world's) most famous parks is on this list. Central Park in New York City is truly an urban escape. When you live your life in a 23 square mile cement jungle, it’s important to find a quiet piece of nature to get away from time to time and Central Park provides the place to do just that. Visit a local deli, greenmarket, or bakery and pack a picnic basket with your goods before taking a stroll through the park to find the perfect place for your relaxing afternoon. More than likely you won’t be the only ones with this idea but with a size of 843 acres, this park has plenty of room.

2. Point Dume, California

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Photo: Mapquest

Located near Malibu California, Point Dume offers the perfect opportunity to combine your picnic with some time at the beach. It’s only about an hour's drive outside of LA until you reach this beautiful state beach which features rocky cliffs, coves and tons of beach access. If you want a picnic with some scenery this is the place for you because at the top on a clear day you’ll have views of Santa Monica Bay, inland mountains, and the north Malibu Coast. During certain times of the year, you may even get the opportunity to spot California gray whales while enjoying your picnic treats.

3. Walden Pond, Massachusetts

What better place to enjoy a meal surrounded by nature than the birthplace of the conservation movement itself. From 1845-1847 American author Henry David Thoreau lived at Walden Pond which inspired his famous book ‘Walden’ which reflected on living a simple life surrounded by nature. Aside from being a beautiful and serene spot for a picnic, the reserve also has hiking trails and in the summer the pond is a very popular spot to swim.

4. Guadalupe River, Texas

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Photo: Mapquest

With miles of riverfront access, the Guadalupe River State Park is an excellent place to spread out your blanket and enjoy a nice picnic by the water. The park is home to tons of birds and wildlife so your picnic may also come with a free serenade courtesy of the local songbirds. After lunch, you can also enjoy a hike on one of the park trails, paddle a canoe down the river, do some fishing, or for a little more adventure try tubing down the river!

5. Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, Maine

Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park on the coast of Maine is a picnic destination that anyone can appreciate. Only a 40-minute drive north of Portland will get you to this picturesque park where you can spot wildlife including the many Ospreys who call a nearby island their home. Take an inland hike and find one of the covered picnic shelters or stick to the water’s edge for beautiful coastal views. No matter where you choose to layout your picnic spread in this beautiful park you’re sure to have a relaxing time.

6. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

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Photo: Canoeing

Covering 894 square miles in Lake Superior is the remote island of Isle Royale. The entire island is dedicated as a National Park and was also named as a National Biosphere Reserve in 1980. In addition to being located within one of the Great Lakes, the island itself is also full of smaller lakes, streams and rivers making it home to tons of wildlife including wolves, moose and many birds of prey. While this destination is still the perfect backdrop for a picnic, it’s more than just a day trip destination due to its remote northern location. To get to Isle Royal National Park you’ll have to take one of the 4 ferries that operate shuttle service to the island from either Michigan or Minnesota or book a flight with a seaplane operator. With some of the best hiking and camping, the country has to offer, it’s worth taking your picnic and turning it into a wilderness adventure in this amazing park.

7. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

The Columbia River Gorge spans the Northern Oregon/ Southern Washington border and the National Scenic Area covers a staggering 292,500 acres. The highway along the river is lined with dozens of waterfalls but the most impressive is the 620 Foot Multnomah Falls which is the second-largest year-round waterfall in the United States. This area provides an amazing picnic setting surrounded by some of Oregon’s most picturesque forest settings and natural water features. After lunch, you can even try windsurfing or kitesurfing in the gorge. The natural wind tunnel created by the rock formations makes this spot well known for this thrilling water sport.

Food safety

There’s no need to risk a funny tummy if you plan and pack carefully. Cold boxes and ice packs are essential to make sure that items normally stored in the fridge stay as cool as possible, so keep things like meat pies, fish or dairy dishes stowed away, and don’t delay tucking in once you’ve reached your destination.

While it may look appealing to layout your fare for all to see, keeping your food on ice for as long as possible will reduce the risk of having to throw out anything that’s sat in the baking sun all day. Assistant food editor Miriam suggests cutting dishes such as quiche into wedges and serving them up directly from the cool box. Finally, carry some hand wipes or anti-bacterial gel, and make sure that everyone’s hands are clean before they chow down.

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