If you’re planning a visit to Southern California, don’t forget to pack a picnic, because along with a picture-perfect coastline comes some of the best sunny spots at which to recline an enjoy a warm afternoon in the entire country. SoCal is rich in oceanfront views, palm-tree-lined streets, and ideal weather conditions all year round. Ready to plan a visit? Don’t forget to pack a blanket, an assortment of snacks, and good company to enjoy – you’ll be absolutely blown away by the beauty of these top-tier recreation spots.
One of the most exquisite outlooks on the California coast, the Sunset Cliffs are simply breathtaking. These coastal cliffs overlook the Pacific Ocean and are home to all kinds of sea creatures, wildlife, and oceanfront beauty. Rock formations are intricate and feature caves that locals love to explore. This lookout is one of the best spots along the coast to watch the sunset and enjoy a warm summer evening. Watch as people do tricks when they jump off the cliffs and into the water—it’s some of the best entertainment San Diego has to offer!
Home to more than 16 museums, Balboa Park in San Diego is full of culture, nature, and everything in between. Street performers dance along the streets and artists can be seen painting pictures of the architecture and scenery around the park. The lush grounds are filled with fountains, playgrounds, and even modern art exhibits. This park is a local favorite for enjoying San Diego’s rich culture and performing arts scene. Bring a picnic to the lawns and enjoy everything that Balboa Park has to offer.
On the smaller side of picnic venues, this park is a perfect rest stop for those picnickers who are on a walk in the area. There are a handful of benches and a small neighborhood garden, but aside from that, this park is very intimate and just the right size for a small gathering. Be sure not to miss this place, it’s a hidden La Jolla gem that only a select few locals even know about!
This little park is located in the center of San Clemente’s charming beachside neighborhood. With only two benches, this spot is perfect for visitors looking for relaxation and privacy. Since it is perched above the water on a cliff, this is an ideal location to check out the surf or watch the sunset on the water. Surfers, neighborhood locals and beach-loving dogs enjoy coming here all throughout the day to catch a glimpse of the view.
Overlooked by abundant pine trees, Pines Park is one of the best shady spots for a picnic on a hot day. The coastal views have made this a local go-to spot for high school prom pictures and family Christmas card backdrops. With a large grassy area to walk dogs on and a trail right along the edge of the park, Pines offers coastal views that are uniquely picturesque. Perfect for families, this spot offers a large playground area complete with BBQs and picnic tables. Pines Park has been a Dana Point local favorite spot for as long as the small beach community has been around.
Lookout Point Park offers exactly what the name entails—a beautiful lookout onto the stunning Newport Beach Harbor. The spot provides a charming stopover at which to watch boats go by, fishermen fish on the jetty, and children swimming at the local Junior Lifeguards beach camp. With views overlooking Pirate’s Cove Beach, this park has been the backdrop to small, quaint weddings and many a tourist photo. Benches line the park so grab some snacks and snag a bench for a beautiful oceanfront afternoon.
Between ocean views, playgrounds, and a multitude of palm trees, this Redondo Beach park has just about everything to offer a visitor. With more six acres of grounds to explore, there are grassy hills to set up a picnic on and benches to view the water from. Well-kept flowers bloom year round and California flags fly high in the ocean breeze. Be sure to take a walk on the Redondo Beach Pier.
The popular location for the Beverly Hills Art Show, this park is a local favorite for those interested in cultural attractions. It features an assortment of art sculptures and numerous fountains all over the grounds and is also home to specialty gardens such as the Rose Garden and the Cactus Garden—ideal for those who enjoy botany. Have a picnic by the Beverly Hills Sign and enjoy the view of the lily pond. This park offers a great escape for the Los Angeles visitor who wants to enjoy some time in the great outdoors and learn more about the history behind the ever-changing city.
Located in Los Angeles, this park is one of the biggest municipal parks featuring urban wilderness in the nation and is home to all sorts of native Californian plants and wildlife species across its more than 4107 acres of natural terrain. The famous Hollywood Sign and Greek Theatre are located on the grounds and are highly recommended stopovers. Here, you can enjoy tours of L.A. and even some family-fun attractions.
With 10.5 acres of park to explore, you’ll find a wide variety of areas to wander. Fun fact: this is the first public park built in the urban L.A. area in more than 100 years! Take a walk on the trails or enjoy an afternoon lounging in the grassy meadows. You’ll also discover an outdoor amphitheater on the grounds. One of the best parts of the venue is the view of the Los Angeles cityscape and skyline you’ll enjoy.
Lauren Harano is a sun-kissed Californian living in New York City. The Editorial and Marketing Assistant for VINAZINE, she's also written for Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazines. In her free time, she enjoys finding the best Mexican restaurants in the city and reading in Central Park. Most importantly, she believes that every day is a good day to have a good day.