We all felt a little ripped off by summer 2020: postponed weddings, canceled travel plans, a sun obscured by wildfire smoke in the season’s waning weeks (though if our only hardship from the fires was having to stay inside for a while, we count ourselves very, very lucky). But this early fall weather offers a reprieve: a chance to eat, drink, and be merry in the great outdoors before our options dwindle to takeout and Netflix on the couch. Here are a few spots for a park picnic, whether it’s a solo affair to contemplate a view or a shared meal with others in your bubble.
Pier Park’s pool remained closed this summer, but the disc golf course, skate park, and winding trails on its 85 acres in St. Johns still offer plenty of distanced fun. Grab cart takeout from the St. Johns Food & Beer Porch (we would certainly never also suggest you bring a to-go growler to the park, as that would be against the law), tacos from Santa Cruz, or, if you’re really missing movie popcorn, some snacks from the St. Johns Twin Cinema’s to-go window.
Surrounded by a fortress-like stone wall, this flat, two-acre park atop Rocky Butte hosts stunning views of downtown Portland, the airport, the Columbia River, and Mounts St. Helens, Adams, and Hood. With so much to look at, this is a great spot for a solo picnic. Consider some curry from Wok Shop on NE 82nd as you contemplate distant peaks.
Named “the most beautiful park on the west coast” by the Pacific Coast Parks Association way back in 1919, this historic 26-acre space stretching west from SE César E. Chávez Boulevard between Ankeny and Stark is packed with picnic-perfect spots. From rolling green grass and a spring-fed pond to actual picnic tables to a virtual arboretum of tree types, there’s no shortage of spots to bask in the sun or, if these 80-degree days are too much, find a spot of shade—all at a safe distance from other picnickers. For chow, try a pie from Apizza Scholls or Balkan bites from Two Brothers.
One of the highest perches in Portland, Council Crest sits at 1,073 feet above sea level, with an uninterrupted view of the Cascade Mountain Range. Large grass fields let you dine while you gaze. Cars aren’t allowed along the main loop, but street parking is easy to find before the short hike to the top. On your way out, load up on dumplings from Duck House near Portland State University.
For the most history-filled views of downtown, consider having lunch on the expansive lawns of Pittock Mansion. The mansion itself is a fun excursion (in the pandemic timed tickets must be purchased in advance), but anyone can enjoy the surrounding views on the 46 acres of well-kept land. Banh mi from Lela’s Bistro on NW 23rd Avenue would only heighten the experience.
For a $5 fee, you can spend hours in these manicured gardens (or at least until they close at 4 p.m.). Follow signs for the trail and stop along the way on benches or soft grass for views of the lakes, and of Westmoreland Golf Course next door. If you don’t mind curious ducks, this is a pristine spot for a snack with friends, or by yourself. Since you’re sure to spend hours here, a delicious bowl from Malka will keep you satiated.
From the manicured lawn at its center to the four diamond-shaped rose garden to the north, south, east, and west, the parks of Ladd’s Addition have a semisecret feeling. Beautiful houses line all corners, and the blooms of the varied roses last for months. Picnicking is encouraged, but perhaps a handheld crêpe from Frog & Snail just up SE Hawthorne would let you stroll through the beauty of the gardens.
Its swim beach and boat rentals might be closed due to COVID-19, but this Metro-managed lakefront park off NE Marine Drive in Fairview is still home to a gold-level 18-hole disc golf course, easy accessible walking paths, and a fishing pier. On the way there, see what food carts are set up in the parking lot of Level Beer or grab a pizza from Migration Brewing’s Gresham pub. (Blue Lake has a $5 parking fee.)
Named after a mountain in Israel, this giant park contains three large water reservoirs that are all well over a century old. Lush fields surround them, with expansive hiking trails on all ends. Tabor sits on 176 acres and is a personal favorite for twinkling views of Southeast at night. A full spread from Oma’s Takeaway on SE Division would ensure ultimate enjoyment.