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Picnic Perfection in San Diego

Grab some goodies and head outdoors

San Diego’s year-round fantastic weather is a boon for outdoor lovers of all types and, for foodies, sets the stage for year-round picnic perfection.

Top Picks for Picnics

San Diego’s year-round fantastic weather is a boon for picnic lovers and for foodies, as it sets the stage for year-round dining alfresco perfection. For those who love nothing more than picking up a few tasty treats and scoping out the perfect patch of emerald grass or sparkling stretch of sandy beach, the following are suggestions for picnic perfection in San Diego.

Farmers Markets & Specialty Shops

You can pick up most of the supplies you need at San Diego’s Farmers Markets held daily in communities throughout the region or with a visit to some of the great Specialty Shops in the area.  But here are a few other ideas:

Bread

Picnic like a local and pick up a loaf at one of San Diego artisan bread shops.  Nothing beat a picnic of freshly baked bread, artisan cheese and a cold San Diego Craft brew. Here are a few of our favorite bread shops: 

  • Bread & Cie, Hillcrest
  • Charlie’s Bread, Pacific Beach
  • Con Pane Rustic Breads & Café, Point Loma
  • Frank’s Bakery, Little Italy
  • Darshan Bakery & Café, Encinitas
  • DZ Akins, La Mesa

Cheese

Top that perfect slice of fresh-from-the-oven bread with fantastic fromage from Venissimo, with locations in Mission Hills, downtown’s East Village and Del Mar. Venissimo has a great selection of artisan and farmstead cheeses as well as delicious accompaniments like rustic pates, cured meats, olives and imported mustards, vinegars and oils. Between the three locations, you’ll find literally hundreds of delectable domestic and imported cheeses to choose from plus everything you need, from bacon jam to fresh honeycomb, to perfectly pair with your cheese for a taste sensation.  Another local favorite is The Cheese Store of San Diego in Little Italy.  The store primarily carries American-made cheese but they also carry bread, olives and salami – a great picnic combo.  

Take Out Sandwiches

If sandwiches are more your style you’ll find no shortage of great bites in San Diego.  Here are a few local favorite sandwich shops around town:

  • Seaside Market, Cardiff 
  • Rubicon Deli, Mission Beach & Little Italy 
  • K Sandwiches, Clairemont
  • The Marketplace, Bankers Hill
  • Supernatural Sandwiches, Miramar
  • The Kebab Shop, Multiple Locations
  • DZ Akins, La Mesa
  • Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, Multiple Locations
  • Grab & Go Subs, Little Italy & Downtown
  • Hillcrest Sandwich Co, Hillcrest

Ethnic Fare

For an internationally-inspired picnic, San Diego boasts amazing ethnic stores. If you’re feeling like Italian, drop by the deli at Mona Lisa in Little Italy where you’ll find fresh mozzarella, a huge selection of olives, imported meats, marinated vegetables and seafood salads. If the flavors of Germany are more your speed, check out Tip Top Meats in Carlsbad. Family-owned, Tip Top boasts a full-service butcher shop and restaurant, but picnic fans will find the deli especially worth a stop for delectable cold cuts, sausage, breads, cheeses and more. If you are a fan of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare, check out Vine Ripe Farmers Market in La Mesa where you’ll find fresh-made dolmas, hummus, fresh salads and a wide range of imported olives, feta and more. Should Asian flavors be what you crave, head to the Clairemont Mesa neighborhood and 99 Ranch or check out Mitsuwa or Nijiya for Japanese fare. All three offer fresh fruits and veggies, exotic packaged snacks and on-site restaurants where you can pick up easy-to-eat items like sushi to go. 

Desserts

For an over-the-top finale, stop by Extraordinary Desserts in Hillcrest or Little Italy or the French Gourmet in Pacific Beach for a sweet finale to a perfect picnic.  

Top Picnic Spots

Now that you've packed your basket, you only have to decide where to spread out your feast. Of course any of the area beaches make perfect picnic spots but there are many beautiful parks that you might also want to consider. Really, no matter where you lay down a blanket and choose to break bread with friends and family on vacation is wonderful. To get you started, here are a few of our favorite picnic spots:

Along the Coast

Mission Bay (2 spots) - Mission Point Park, 2600 Bayside Lane, Mission Beach.  Plenty of grass and shade trees and children's playground. Plus, it's rarely crowded and offers beautiful views of the bay, boats and rock jetty. You might also stop by Tecolote Shores Park on East Mission Bay Drive (just south of the Hilton Resort). The park offers a large grassy area, playground, picnic tables, barbecue grills, fire pits and popular kite flying area. 

Bayview Park, 413 First Street, Coronado. A small, quiet spot with grass and benches to sit on, the park offers great views of the downtown skyline that is particularly stunning a dusk.  

Ellen Browning Scripps Park, 1133 Coast Blvd, La Jolla. Hailed as one of the most photographed destinations in San Diego, this gorgeous park overlooks the La Jolla cove and offers plenty of grass, some shade and plenty of nearly places to explore.  Here you'll find couples and families strolling the walking path that runs along the coast, picnicking, relaxing and enjoying the stunning views all year long.  

In the City

Balboa Park, 1549 El Prado, San Diego. One of the most beautiful parks in American, this 1,200-acre park is a must stop on any visit to San Diego. In addition to offering fifteen museums, restaurants, performing arts venue and housing the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park features sweeping gardens, beautiful architecture, children's playgrounds and plenty of perfect picnic spots. Lay a blanket down next to the koi pond in front of the botanical building, take a seat at the outdoor organ pavillion (even when it's empty), or find a shady bench at the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden. Throughout the park you'll find wonderful spots to stop for a picnic. 

Amici Park, corner of State and Date Streets, San Diego.  Featuring a dog park, amphitheater and bocce ball courts, this Little Italy gem offers plenty of hardscape options for seating and shade. Grab a take out lunch on India Street and hang with the locals. 

Waterfront Park, 1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego.  Located across the street from San Diego's Big Bay and surrounding the County Administration Center, this city park is a great spot for a family picnic. The park features a large children's play structure, shallow splash fountain, gardens and plenty of grass. With the harbor across the street, there's also lots to see and do once you put your basket away.

North County

San Dieguito County Park, 1628 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Del Mar. This is a beautiful park not far from the coast with large grassy areas, mature shade trees and a lovely pond. San Dieguito features all of the amenities you'd want including picnic tables, playgounds, sports facilities and plenty of wide open spaces to relax and play.  

Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park, 6200 Flying LC Lane, Carlsbad.  Once a working ranch owned by actor Leo Carrillo, this secluded spot encompasses 27-acres of landscaped grounds including great spots to picnic. The ranch also features a collection of historic buildings to tour and explore. But the best part about this location is the dozens of peacocks who roam freely on the grounds creating a magical environment for all who visit. 

Kit Carson Park, 3333 Bear Valley Parkway, Escondido. Rub elbows with the locals in San Diego's North Inland neighborhood at this wonderful park where over 100 acres are developed and another 185 acres have been preserved as natural habitat. This park is home to the wonderful Queen Califia's Magical Circles sculpture garden created by acclaimed artist Niki de Saint Phalle (look online for the schedule of when it's open). The park features beautiful hiking trails, a 5-acre arboretum, 3 ponds, playgrounds, sports facilities and of course, plenty of areas to enjoy a picnic.  

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