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Mar 10, 2008 12:53 PM

Best picnic locations SF including Napa

I need help with suggestions for the best picnic locations in and/or around SF including Napa. Looking for scenic, alcohol permitted ideas. How picinc friendly are the wineries?

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  1. I don't know about the best, but I noted picnic facilities on the Place records. If you look at the websites you might have a feel for how good or bad they might be.

    One nice, out of the way place is Point Richmond. The beaches are fabulous and there is one point where you can see all three bridges.

    Wherever you go, hope you will report back about how you liked it.

    20 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      I'm not really well-versed in the Napa area, but I lived in Sonoma for a few years.

      My favorite place to picnic was Bartholomew winery (very close to town). They have lovely hiking trails, and lots of picnic tables, and the grounds link to Buena Vista Winery, which has an area that has lots of picnic tables lined up in the Shade.

      You can picnic at most wineries. Many have picnic tables and grassy areas that are meant for it. The Square (the center of town) is a nice, grassy, tree-filled park that many tourists and locals alike enjoy picnickng. Tuesdays in the late spring and early summer are Farmer's Market nights, and it's one big, family filled party. They have music, vendors selling produce and everything from hotdogs to Thai food. Many people bring blankets and baskets full of food and wine, and just relax and socialize.

      Man, I really miss living there. It's a great lifestyle.

      1. re: wineaux73

        You can picnic at most wineries in Sonoma, but not in Napa, due to some rather arcane zoning/permitting issues. Napa wineries where picnicing is allowed usually mention it in their information, so if it isn't mentioned, I wouldn't count on it.

        My family does a gourmet picnic every April for my mother's birthday, and we try to do something different every year, so here are some things to consider:

        What time of day and year -- both weather conditions and scenic qualities can vary a lot depending on what time of year it is, what's blooming, what's dry, what's foggy, etc. Since April weather is pretty unpredictable, we often plan for good weather and not-so-good weather alternatives to be decided on the day.

        How far do you want to go from where you're starting? Less than an hour? Less than two hours? Etc.

        Do you want to be able to park near where you eat, or are you willing to walk in for 15 to 20 minutes with your picnic gear?

        Do you want to be able to buy picnic food and drink nearby, or are you going to bring it all with you?

        Do you want to combine your picnic with other activities (hiking, swimming, antiqueing, wine tasting, places of historic or cultural interest, etc.)?

        We're so lucky in the Bay Area to be blessed with a greenbelt that provides endless varieties of picnic options, so your question is really hard to answer!

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          My birthday is in a couple of weeks, and I was wondering what to do... This seems like a lovely idea! I've been wanting to check out the Oxbow Public Market... is there any place to picnic near there? I'm thinking we could pick up some food there, and drive/walk somewhere? Also, if we kept the picnic lunch light, is there somewhere to do a little light hiking/walking, and then have a nice dinner?

          The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of a nice "day trip". Any and all rec's/suggestions appreciated.

          1. re: chemchef

            My birthday is exactly two weeks from today! March is Mustard Festival time in the Napa Valley, so you should check the calendar and see if there are events you want to either attend or avoid.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Is there anything you recommend (or recommend avoiding) at the Mustard Festival?

            2. re: chemchef

              You could sit on the patio at the Wine Bar at Oxbow Public market .. order some wine and pick up what you wanted at other vendors. I'm sure they would be fine with that.

              This is a lovely location. Someone mentioned some construction nearby and on my last visit I specifically checked for it and didn't see any.

              1. re: rworange

                THAT'S lovely?????

                Ohmigod, you have no idea of the beauty here in Napa Valley.

                The real pastoral beauty of the valley doesn't begin till just north of Yountville, unless you are on some backroads. Many wineries allow picnics but you must buy a bottle of wine, and sometimes get prior permission. Jfrye5, there is a previous thread on this board specifically about picnics and wineries and recs of each (not just a list). Do a search.

                Avoid the Mustard Festival. Overpriced, disappointing events. It's run by two outside marketing outfits that have nothing to do with the Napa Valley other than the profits they can fleece.

              2. re: chemchef

                I Google-mapped Oxbow and found this nice park behind the Napa State Hospital. Pick up your food, eat and hike then back to town for dinner at Ubuntu.

                1. re: wolfe

                  That would be the Napa State MENTAL Hospital.

                  It's in a terrible part of town, really ugly, and though Skyline is nice and quite large once you're there, I'm not quite sure it feels like Napa Valley.

                  About parks and picnicing:
                  Many if not all parks have rules AGAINST alcohol consumption. They do that to avoid broken glass and fights and brawls, if you get my drift. Check out the rule at any park you're considering, as the rule against drinking in parks is pretty common here in Napa.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Yes Maria I know. In unenlightened times and before youse guys got some decent restaurants, going to Napa meant either wineries to the north or commitment. And Jonesy's didn't charge $16 for a hamburger.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      Oh, we're still a quaint, unenlightened bunch up here. This is the country. We like to do things like enjoy the beauty of the day, check out the budbreak in the vineyards, the flowering trees, wildflowers, scampering squirrels, gentle spring breezes and the birds chirping.

                      But to really enjoy that, you have to leave the CITY of Napa and head north into Napa VALLEY.

                      Jonesy's, by the Airport and an industrial park, is in Napa COUNTY, not Napa Valley. No pastoral beauty there. And $16.50 for a burger seems high, especially when you can get an amazing Kobe/Wagyu hamburger for $16 at Press or Martini House. Now that's a burger.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        Come on now. Any community that has a beautiful Whole Foods with a huge international hot foods display virtually chock-a-block with a Trader Joe's is like hog heaven. BTW I tried the burger at Red Rock. It was alright. Burger big and matching bun. I prefer my lettuce and onions whole not chopped. Noticed someone up there really liked Angele's and it is $12 with fries. Any comment?

                        1. re: wolfe

                          Yeah, well, Whole Foods didn't, uh, pass their health inspection. No hot foods for now unless you've got the constitution of a billy goat.

                          My list of burger faves is on the Napa burger thread linked below. Angele is mentioned as is Red Rock. Haven't had either of their burgers, but it's hard for me to imagine those being better than the ones I've recommended. Will just have to try them in the interest of research.
                          [Neither spot, BTW, is anywhere near the Richardson Bay Bridge --- inside joke.]

            3. re: wineaux73

              Yeah, I really like Sonoma Square on Tuesday. I like the wild chickens there too.

              1. re: rworange

                Unfortunately, no more chickens (they pecked at the kids -- who no doubt were asking for it.) Lots of ducks, though. It is a nice place for a picnic any day of the week.

                I think I was the one who mentioned the construction of a large hotel/condo across the river from the Oxbow market. It's a bit to the left as you face the river. It's not horrible. I just thought that view from the back of Copia was prettier, with the empty field beyond.

                The Old Bale Mill, south of Calistoga, is nice place for a picnic, too, especially if you don't want to hike too far. Beautiful old mossy trees, a stream and small waterfall. Only problem is some traffic noise.

                1. re: Glencora

                  But you can't consume alcohol on the Sonoma Square and I don't believe Bale Mill allows it either. See above.

                2. re: rworange

                  The Farmer's Market on the Sonoma Square on Tuesday does not start until April.

                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    .I lived in Sonoma until very recently and on Tuesdays, we always had wine in the square, and all spring/summer/fall long they have events in the square where there are wine tastings.

                    People would bring dinner, bottles of wine and picnic in the grass. I don't think much has changed. I moved away just a little over a year ago.

                    1. re: wineaux73

                      That's on Tuesdays and during special events. Not otherwise, I don't believe.

                      So OP, if this interests you -- it's the piece of land around City Hall in the middle of the Sonoma Square, then please call and inquire.

              2. What time of the year are you planning this for? This month?

                For San Francisco, I know I had a picnic in the Marina Green and it was great. You don't need a permit, just have to go there early. There are a couple of picnic tables in the grassy area west of the Marina Green. What I like about it is, even though it can be windy, you have a great view of the Golden Gate bridge as you're picniking. I don't know if they have a ban against alcohol but I know we had a few bottles of wine and nobody fined us.

                1. I believe Rutherford Hill in Napa (off of Silverado Trail, above Auberge Soleil) allows picnics, as long as you buy a bottle from them. They'll uncork it and provide wine glasses (at least they did when I did it last). They have a nice southern view of the valley.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: VenerableBede

                    That's a good rec. Rutherford Hill. Picnic tables in the olive grove. Great vista up there. Not wild about the swill there, but it will get you through.

                  2. The Napa Valley Vintner's has a list of wineries that offer picnicking Most simply ask that you purchase a bottle of wine to drink onsite, some ask that you call ahead. St. Clement's location above Hwy. 29 does afford a bit of a view.

                    I absolutely must be an idiot for mentioning my favorite picnic spot because I will be so mad if this spot is taken the next time my husband & I head there for a bite. Alston Park has several benches and picnic tables, but the best one is accessed from the north lot. Hike straight up for about 5-10 minutes, and you'll find a table with a vista of the south napa valley. There's no shade at this table, so it's not good for a hot day. As a Napa city park, alcohol is not sanctioned.

                    1. My favorite Bay Area picnic spot is Trojan Point on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin. It has incredible panoramic views of the bay, the city, and the ocean. I always take out of town guests there for a picnic and photo op. For directions, use the ones on this website - but just follow them to the Trojan Point parking lot (not all the way to the theater)