What better way to welcome the blue skies and sunshine of summer than with a San Diego picnic. With 70 miles of coastline, historic parks, and a giant bay, there are plenty of places to picnic in San Diego. Here are some top picks for spots to put on your good weather to-do list that I’ve written in partnership with my new favorite on-the-go wine, Bota Box.


In San Diego, a beach picnic is nearly always a brilliant idea. This is likely the option that comes to most people’s minds first so it would be remiss of me to not mention at the top of this list. (Just be mindful that our seagulls love picnics, too, and are fully capable of snatching paper bags full of sandwiches, cell phones and more.) Our favorite spot is La Jolla Shores Beach near the Scripps Pier but, really, where there’s sand here is potential for a lovely meal. And, sunset is a particularly excellent time for it.

Balboa Park Picnic Areas

The best places for a picnic in San Diego.

The great thing about Balboa Park is that it’s possible to plan multiple visits throughout the year and picnic amid different scenery each time. My favorite Balboa Park picnic area is the Botanical Garden East Lawn or West Lawn. It’s convenient to parking lots and you bring your own wine to enjoy there. In addition to some easy picnic food, we packed a couple of convenient Bota Minis (Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio). These little on-the-go wines comes in 500ml tetra packs that are 100% recyclable and equal about three standard glasses of wine each.

Bota Box Mini wine at Balboa Park in San Diego

They’re really not that big or heavy. I was floored by how much wine is in each Bota Mini (in the same way I was surprised that each Bota Box has three bottles of wine inside and can fit easily into my handbag).

(Whenever you drink wine in a public place, be sure to check local rules and regulations to be sure it’s permitted.) In Balboa Park, for example, during certain hours you can take your Bota Box to:

  • Botanical Building East Lawn
  • Botanical Building West Lawn
  • Federal Building Lawn
  • House of Pacific Relations Lawn
  • International Lawn
  • Mall Lawn
  • Moreton Bay Fig Lawn
  • Pan American Plaza Lawn
  • Recital Hall Lawn
Where to picnic at Balboa Park in San Diego

Presidio Park or Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Pair an outing to Old Town San Diego with a picnic at one (or both) of two nearby spots. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is in the heart of Old Town and where visitors can learn about Mexican and early American periods of 1821 to 1872. It includes the enormous grassy area surrounded by historic buildings and restaurants.

Presidio Park encompasses 40 acres of green space perched on a hillside above Old Town San Diego. There’s no shortage of picnic blanket space available but go early to claim one of the picnic tables (the Arbor is a great spot). The views are spectacular. Not-to-be-missed are the hiking trails and Padre Cross which was erected by the Order of Panama in 1913.

Mission Bay

Mission Beach is an excellent place for a picnic in San Diego.

Lay out a blanket or don’t at Mission Bay. Picnic tables, playgrounds and plenty of shade can be found all around this giant bay. It’s also not a bad place to fly a kite, at least on the side of the bay north of the Hilton San Diego Resort.

Sunset Cliffs

This place to picnic in Ocean Beach earned its name because sunsets here are epic and a perfect time to lay out a blanket. There are no picnic tables here but don’t let that stop you.

Kate Sessions

We’re lucky to have Kate Sessions Park close to our home and walk the dog here frequently. Its hillside location means that ocean and bay views are so spectacular that it’s a popular place for people to park during the workday for lunch. The park has a handful of picnic tables, restrooms, a circular path for walking and a small playground.

Ellen Browning Scripps Park

I’ve had a San Diego picnic in one of the green huts (also called belvederes) that line the boardwalk here on my summer bucket list for a long time. I’ve seen people do it, bringing little fold-up tables to put in the center of them and it looks like great fun during sunset especially. But Ellen Browning Scripps Park is a popular picnic spot because of its massive grassy, beachside area from which you can hear the chatter of our famous La Jolla seals and sea lions.

Tips for a Perfect Picnic

What to bring on a picnic in San Diego.

Even during the sunny season it helps to have a picnic mat as you never know if a lawn has just been watered or if the morning had been particularly misty. My mat is pretty comfortable but I like to often put a nice blanket on top of it for extra comfort, sometimes.

As lovely as wicker picnic baskets are, an insulated cooler will help keep your Bota Boxes and other beverages cold. Mine has a compartment for plastic wine glasses, flatware and washable dishes, keeping in line with the eco-friendly nature of a picnic and the fact that Bota Box is a certified sustainable winery that has put a lot of thought into how to reduce the footprint of its packaging.

Large group picnics may need a permit so be sure to check local rules and regulations.

You can also click to learn more about Bota Box for your next outdoor adventure. If you’ve tried it, please share how you like this portable wine.

Find out where to picnic in San Diego (and some places allow wine).

See also: Tips for Easy and Eco-Friendly Outdoor Entertaining

Where do you like to picnic in San Diego?

* I am thrilled to have been selected as a Bota Box ambassador. All opinions are my own, of course. Please drink responsibly.

Find out where to picnic in San Diego from Balboa Park to beachside areas.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

Explore More Things to Do in San Diego

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  1. Love picnics at the beach but yes, the seagulls know how to pick through your food while you are not looking. They are BRAVE!