7 Best Picnic Spots In D.C.

David Hatef


Modern English borrows frequently from other languages, and on a sunny day, one French word comes to mind: “pique-nique.” Dating back to the eighteenth century, the French pique-nique refers to an outdoor meal where everyone brings something tasty. Contemporary picnics remain true to tradition, so this fall, pack your favorite hors d’oeuvres and enjoy them alfresco at one of these incredible Washington, D.C., picnic destinations.


Meridian Hill Park’s lavish staircase waterfall will transport you to a European haven. Its stunning architecture, designed by George Burnap in 1912, is reminiscent of an Italian piazza and will have you craving cannoli on your midday picnic. This metropolitan park is a jewel that could easily be overlooked among the daily hustle of Columbia Heights, but let go of the day’s stresses with a drink and a pick-me-up snack in this serene setting. 

This romantic neoclassical garden feels like a movie set, so whether you perch on the park’s upper level or relax at the foot of the reflecting pool, you’re bound to enjoy a picturesque outing. Mosey around the grounds after you finish your picnic, and you’ll see four incredible statues: “Joan of Arc,” “Serenity,” “James Buchanan Memorial,” and “Dante.” If you time your trip right, you might get to participate in a bit of mealtime entertainment. A drum circle, which attracts professional drummers, dancers, and music enthusiasts, typically takes place on Sunday afternoons during the warmer months. 


What began as an effort to preserve Washington, D.C.’s, natural waterways has evolved into a mesmerizing display of natural beauty rich with history. This area is ideal for birdwatching, and the park provides several garden walks that educate visitors on wildlife and foliage native to the Anacostia River. Lily pads and lotus flowers spring to life once the weather warms up and are best visible between July and August. Keep in mind that both blossoms will close up each day before the harsh sun hits by 2 p.m., so make it an early lunch in order to best observe the blooms.

Feel free to explore on your own, but don’t be surprised if you spend upwards of two hours exploring the grounds with or without a ranger-led tour. Once you’re done snacking, be sure to snap some photos of the vibrant wildlife. And if you’re bringing the whole family, stop by the visitor center to learn how to become Junior Rangers. 


If you’re in the mood for an adult beverage on your picnic, then look no further than Chrysalis Vineyards. This oasis provides an escape from the city life yet is still close enough to home for a Saturday evening snack or a Sunday brunch. Less than 40 miles away, the pristine landscape is a breath of fresh Virginia air. And if you’re not into cold cuts, Chrysalis makes picnicking simple with an array of wines, charcuterie boards, and fresh baguettes available for purchase. 

The sprawling green fields of this vineyard are an idyllic retreat whether you bring the kids or leave them at home. The vineyards’ ample hospitality includes beautiful picnic areas, grills on a patio, and a family area available for patrons with little ones. Furry friends are also welcome – just don’t forget a leash!  


Don’t let a rainy day keep you from a picnic. Instead, head to the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard attached to the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The glass ceiling protects visitors from the weather while adding an ethereal, contemporary touch to the building’s Greek Revival architecture. Tables in the courtyard make it easy to stop in for a snack, and with any number of events and activities taking place in the courtyard or surrounding museums, it’s never a boring meal. Musical performances, art programs, and children’s activities keep visitors engaged until the museums close at 7 p.m. 

After your meal, meander through the two museums, which are free to the public. Learn about the impact of women in the 1800s at the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit “Storied Women of the Civil War Era” or peruse modern and contemporary art at the American Art Museum


Tree-huggers are welcome here. The Arboretum is your go-to picnic destination for a relaxed day out. The botanical garden is teeming with lush plant life, and picnicking is encouraged at the National Grove of State Trees. The onsite National Bonsai & Penjing Museum promotes the art of penjing and bonsai while supporting intercultural relations. Twenty-two Corinthian columns that were previously attached to the U.S. Capitol stand tall against the Arboretum’s pastoral backdrop. 

Because the Arboretum functions doubly as a research facility, preservation of the wildlife in these peaceful gardens is deeply important. Keep in mind that radios, barbecues, alcohol, and several sports activities are prohibited. However, feel free to bike along the pathways and bring pets on leashes to take in the scenery with you. 


For a taste of history, swing by the National Mall. Have a meal near some of our nation’s finest museums at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. Bordered by the Tidal Basin and the Potomac River, this lunch spot is perfect for picnickers who like a little bit of everything – waterfront views, national history, and an unbeatable reminder of why people love Washington, D.C., real estate. There is always something spectacular happening at the nearby National Mall, whether it’s a marathon or a festival, so prepare a light snack in case you get swept into the action. 

Brave the cooler spring weather to delight in the blossoming cherry trees or bask in the sun as the leaves start to change. With easy access to America’s front yard, it’s no surprise that a picnic at West Potomac Park will have you coming back for seconds. 


One of Washington, D.C.’s, oldest neighborhoods provides one of the best weekend picnic destinations. Ten acres of portside land are dedicated to providing an incredible experience for urban park-goers. Lay a blanket out on the lush green lawn and have a relaxing snack, and then splash in the fountain on the park’s eastern edge or rent a canoe for an afternoon paddle. 

Anticipate spending the better part of an afternoon exploring everything the park has to offer. A labyrinth helps visitors quiet their minds, the active pathways are excellent for cycling, strolling, dog walking, and river watching, and nearby trendy boutiques make shopping convenient. After a day out in the sun, rest in the shade of the pergola as the sun sets and watch the regattas glide by.  

​​​​​​​Washington, D.C., is overflowing with parks, gardens, and museums ideal for an alfresco treat. If you’re ready to dine out, contact me today to find Washington, D.C., luxury estates that suit your tastes. 


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