Few things bring Northwesterners outside like a sunny day. Go to any park, waterfront or outdoor space when the temperature rises above 65, and you’ll find half the population (at least) out enjoying it with you, walking, running or simply kicking back and getting their annual dose of vitamin D. But the perfect way to enjoy a beautiful day may be a picnic. Kick back on a blanket with some snacks, a beverage, or a ready-made meal and enjoy the day as well as some of what the Northwest does best —scenery. No matter whether your picnic of choice features a waterfront view, a forest or a lake, Pierce County has got the perfect picnic place for you.
1. Point Defiance Park
Point Defiance is a massive park that includes picnic shelters and tables throughout its wooded areas, open lawns and beachside boardwalks alike. Choose your own picnic adventure here, but two especially ideal spots are Owen Beach and the open lawn area near the park entrance on Pearl Street.
The open grassy area near the park entrance is large and includes both sunny areas as well as shade under trees. Owen Beach offers less of a traditional picnic feel, but with tables right along the water, you can enjoy your meal with the sound of people playing on the nearby beach, waves washing onto shore, and you can even watch the Vashon Island ferry make its way back and forth across the Puget Sound.
2. Ruston Way Waterfront
Tacoma’s Ruston Way Waterfront includes a number of small parks and grassy patches right along the water, and all of them have the potential to be picnic spots. However, some of them offer better picnic potential than others. Marine Park just north of Duke’s Chowder House has several patches of grass as well as picnic tables if you prefer. The park is often filled with people enjoying the sun or playing Frisbee. If you want a quieter picnic, keep walking a bit north of the park and there’s an unnamed patch of grass on a hill overlooking the water. There’s rarely anyone else sitting there as there are no benches or tables.
3. Wright Park
One of Tacoma’s oldest parks is also one of the finest places to eat outdoors. Gently rolling, grassy hills provide mostly shaded spaces to spread out a blanket at Wright Park in Tacoma. The conservatory and duck pond complete with a fountain ensure lovely atmosphere surrounds you. There’s a playground and sports courts at the park as well, if you have kids that need some place to run around while you relax and ponder life. There are also several nearby places to purchase your picnic if you don’t prefer to pack one, including Stadium Thriftway, Shake Shake Shake and Subway.
4. Skansie Brothers Park
Located right next to downtown Gig Harbor, Skansie Brothers Park is small but has both open lawn as well as picnic tables. Grab a ready-made lunch at nearby Kelly’s or any other number of restaurants, or bring your own, and kick back to enjoy a view of boats and kayaks coming and going from the marina. If the maritime activity strikes your fancy, you can rent kayaks from the nearby Fly Shop for a reasonable rate. Heritage Distilling is also within a short walk if you want to cap your picnic off with a little something extra.
5. Bradley Lake Park
Bradley Lake Park in Puyallup is one of several parks in Puyallup with plenty of space for picnickers. At the center of the park is 12-acre Bradley Lake and there’s also a playground, walking trails, ballfields and lots of open lawn, ideal for families with kids. For picnickers, take your pick of shaded or sunny areas or even a covered picnic area.
6. Lakewold Gardens
Lakewold Gardens is a private garden located in Lakewood that’s not well-known as a picnicking spot, but the fact is you can bring a picnic with you. There are ample open grass areas, sunny and shaded alike, with views of the water, tucked into themed gardens, out in the open or hidden away from people wandering the grounds. There is an admission fee to get into the grounds, but you can stay the entire day if you’d like and wander the gardens at your leisure. There are also events throughout the spring, summer and fall that often bring in live music or performers. There are few finer ways to picnic than overlooking the water in a well-groomed formal garden with live music flowing through the air.
7. Places to Grab Ready-Made Picnic Foods
Perhaps you enjoy putting together your own picnic foods, but if you prefer the idea of someone else doing all the work, there are a number of stores that sell truly delicious ready-made foods perfect for picnicking. Metropolitan Market and Stadium Thriftway are ideal for North End Tacoma picnics. Both have excellent deli hot and cold cases. Met Market stands out for its soups, salad bar and wide range of hot and cold items, from unique ready-made sandwiches to samosas to sushi made in-store. If you’re near University Place, Harbor Greens has a great sandwich counter, cheese selection and selection of other locally made items. Beyond grocery stores, Tacoma also has a few eateries that make great to-go food ideal for picnics. Case in point is MSM Deli, which is known far and wide for their deli sandwiches. Keep in mind, though, that there’s often a wait, so call your order in ahead of time. Bahn mi, otherwise known as Vietnamese sandwiches, are also great picnic food and available at pho restaurants all throughout Tacoma — including Pho King, where you can snag the Vietnamese-style sandwich for less than $4.