Looking to change up your weeknight dinner routine or take full advantage of the gorgeous spring weather by being outdoors all day? Pair up San Diego’s lesser-known picnic spots with a local restaurant nearby for take-out picnic food that’ll feed your families’ bellies and souls. You’ll dine outside near some of San Diego’s most beloved locales, next to trains, with duck feeding, trails to walk, beaches and sunsets to see while trying new kid-friendly cuisine. Oh, and another perk: no cooking or dishes to clean! Read on for where to pick up food and put down your picnic blanket!
Barra Barra at the Old Town Plaza (Old Town)
Cheers for churros in the park! Grab some tacos and churros from our favorite kid-friendly Old Town eatery at Barra Barra, where kids eat free every day. Walk 20 steps over to the Plaza where you’ll find space to spread out your picnic blanket and enjoy the history all around. Kids ages 10 and under eat free per paying adult entrée. Their current hours are only Fri.-Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., but keep checking back for updates.
Read our full insider's guide to Old Town and plan a day discovering the birthplace of California. When you’re done picnicking, we challenge you to find the old jail cell and the schoolhouse.
4016 Wallace St., Old Town
Old Town Plaza
4002 Wallace St., Old Town
Leucadia Pizza at Cottonwood Creek Park (Encinitas)
Pizza at the Park is a pretty great way to break up or cap off the day. You don’t have to cook or clean and the kiddos can run around and play. Everybody’s happy especially if you order a half and half pizza, then everyone will get the toppings they want.
Cottonwood Creek Park is across the street from Leucadia Pizza. It has lots of grassy areas, short walking trails, a huge playground and bathrooms. If you prefer the beach, you can also walk 6 blocks down to Moonlight Beach to enjoy your pizza while the sunsets over the ocean.
If you’re looking for a tasty treat, walk across the street to Cali Cream Ice Cream (formerly Handel’s Ice Cream) for some tall scoops of hand-crafted seasonal flavors.
315 S Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas
Cali Cream Ice Cream
90 N Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas
Cottonwood Creek Park
95 N Vulcan Ave., Encinitas
400 B St., Encinitas
San Luis Rey Bakery & Restaurant at the Mission San Luis Rey (Oceanside)
Savor traditional homemade Mexican meals in front of the age-old San Luis Rey Mission for a truly spiritual experience. It’s a short walk from the Restaurant over to the Mission, but little legs might tire easily so we suggest driving over. If you have an early riser, the restaurant opens at 6:30 a.m., so grab their delicious pancakes or breakfast burritos for a breakfast picnic before you walk the Mission grounds. Be prepared to pick up some of their prized cakes, breads and of course their famous smiley face cookies for a treat!
The Mission is open with limited hours, but you can also just walk around the grounds. You’ll see the historic adobe brick ruins out front and the very first Pepper Tree planted in California! If you’re there at the top of the hour, you’ll even hear the mission bells ring.
Hours: Museum & Gift Shop open daily 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Historic Church hours open daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and the beautiful old Cemetery Grounds open daily 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
San Luis Rey Bakery & Restaurant
490 N El Camino Real, Oceanside
San Luis Rey Mission
4050 Mission Ave., Oceanside
Pearl Chinese at Webb Lake (Rancho Bernardo)
The perfect picnic combo is a cute little lake right behind a Chinese takeout spot. There are lots of ducks to feed and turtles to see with an easy paved walking path around this lake. Since it’s right behind a Chinese restaurant, that’s a no-brainer to grab some orange peel chicken and bring your blanket for one of the easiest family picnics ever.
If your kiddos’ palates haven’t sampled Chinese foods yet, I’d suggest trying some of these as a good entry for them: wonton appetizers, orange peel shrimp or chicken (ask for no spice), honey glazed BBQ pork or shrimp, chicken chow mein or pineapple fried rice are always sure bets for my kids.
Pearl Chinese Cuisine
11666 Avena Pl., Rancho Bernardo
11666 Avena Pl., Rancho Bernardo
Hamburger Factory at Old Poway Park (Poway)
Lasso up a Wrangler burger at the famous Hamburger Factory; which is conveniently located inside the Old Poway Park. If a ½ lb burger is too much, you can order any of their 15 hamburgers as a Jr. size. Hamburgers are in their name, but they have over 20 kinds of sandwiches, dogs and brats, salads, chicken, fish & chips and so much more. Walk a few steps outside to find your perfect picnic spot. When you’re done, plan to spend the next couple of hours wandering around the park towards the ride on trains (currently closed), historic buildings, fountains, gazebo and trails.
Tip: Time your visit for their weekly Saturday farmer’s market from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. For a full round-up of farmers' markets that your kids will love click here.
14122 Midland Rd., Poway
Old Poway Park
14134 Midland Rd., Poway
Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant at Lakeside County Park (Lakeside)
“I like lasagna at Lindo Lake,” is not only a good tongue twister but also leads to a good idea! The views of the lake at this Lakeside County Park are so peaceful and relaxing, just like not making dinner is more relaxing. Call Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant to help you out and be sure to check their daily specials like Monday is spaghetti & meatballs or Tuesdays is lasagna. They have a new $39 family meal deal for weekday dinner Mon.-Thurs. that includes a large salad, Focaccia bread and choice of entrée that feeds 3-4 people. Call ahead for pick up or have it delivered straight to your picnic spot with Doordash.
Looking for an early morning pick-up nearby? Head over to East County's favorite Mary's Donuts because they're open 24 hours. Who says you can't have a donut picnic?
Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant
12440 Woodside Ave., Lakeside
10101 Maine Ave., Lakeside
Lakeside County Park
12660 Lindo Ln, Lakeside
Franco’s Flapjack Family Restaurant at Rohr Park (Bonita)
Here’s another tongue twister for you, but if you can say it you can order it. They’re known for their big servings which I can attest to; one order of anything from here feeds a few kiddos and a parent depending on appetite size. Aside from their breakfast menu, they also serve up hot & cold sandwiches, salads, wraps and burgers. They close at 3 p.m., so this spot is best for a breakfast or lunch picnic, or better yet make it a brunch picnic with their chicken & waffles. Gobble it down at nearby Rohr Park where there’s plenty of space to put down your picnic blanket and let the kids run around.
If the kids are begging for a little sweet treat, I highly suggest stopping at nearby Holey Paleta or Hans & Harry’s Bakery; don’t worry the lines moves fast.
Franco’s Flapjack Family Restaurant
4164 Bonita Rd., Bonita
4230 Bonita Rd. Ste B, Bonita
Hans & Harry’s Bakery
5080 Bonita Rd., Bonita
4548 Sweetwater Rd., Bonita