When temperate weather arrives, nothing is as relaxing as a picnic, whether it’s a simple sandwich and drink or something more elaborate with china plates, glasses, and flatware. If you want to be impromptu, you can still eat well without a lot of preparations – just track down the local food trucks. To find out where the trucks are and what they are serving, consult Food Truck Fiesta as they can help you find one near your chosen picnic area. And if you want something more substantial, buy takeaway at a gourmet market or local restaurant and use our list of picnic spots to choose where to go.
Dumbarton Oaks is an architectural gem and vibrant park, museum, library, and learning center set atop the highest point in historic Georgetown. The splendor of the seasons plays out in the gardens like an impressionist painting. Spreading out from the Manor House like a plush Chinese carpet, the lawn encourages you to seek out a picnic spot. Consider sitting under the dreamy canopy of soft pink-flowered cherry trees on Cherry Hill, beneath the crimson fall leaves on apple trees at Crabapple Hill, or among the colorful blooms in the English Cottage Garden.
What to bring
For upscale local and imported meats, cheeses, cold cuts, prepared salads, bread, and desserts, make a stop at Dean & DeLuca; it has the culinary accouterments for any picnic, and their staff can package your purchases in easy-to-carry containers.
Dumbarton Oaks, 1703 32nd St NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 339 6401
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
Marjorie Merriweather Post was a wealthy heiress whose expensive tastes and unerring sense of style led her to endow Hillwood, her 35-acre estate, with the most beautiful decorative arts inside and out. The Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens are popular with picnicking couples and families who stroll along the walkways and French parterre gardens, stop to smell the roses, and lounge on the manicured lawns.
What to bring
Two nearby options for delicious, well-prepared food worthy of an elegant picnic at Hillwood are Broad Branch Market and Patissèrie Poupon. Fresh is the byword at Broad Branch Market in Chevy Chase. It sells gourmet cheese, bread, meat, prepared foods, and take-out, and if you are in the mood for French fare, try the French bistro selections at Patissèrie Poupon in Georgetown; don’t forget to buy the exquisitely made French pastries! If you are in a hurry and don’t want to make a stop, head to Hillwood and shop for your picnic at the Hillwood Café and order from the Express Dining Menu, which has everything you need.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Do you get modern expressionism? Don’t sweat it; no need to be an art expert to appreciate contemporary, outdoor art. More affectionately called “The Doughnut on the Mall,” the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is a quiet haven far from the maddening crowds on the National Mall. Its sculpture garden lies hidden behind tall concrete walls, which deadens loud noise and creates a dreamy place for al fresco dining. Thick grass carpets meander in and out of a kaleidoscope of different genres of sculpture that include pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s 32-foot-tall (9.7-meter-tall) bright yellow cartoon sculpture and Auguste Rodin‘s darkly brooding Burghers of Calais.
What to bring
If you don’t have the time or inclination to cook, get your picnic goodies on the fly from one of the food trucks on the Mall, like Lily Pad on the Run, which serves Ethiopian food at Sixth St. and Maryland Ave. SW, or pick something up from a nearby brick-and-mortar restaurant like Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken; the crispy fried chicken and sinfully tasty doughnuts are worth a detour.
Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard
Sweeping vistas and splendor in the grass may make for lovely picnic outings, but D.C.’s unpredictable weather makes things dicey in early spring and fall. Why not bring the outside in and have your picnic in the glass-enclosed Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard? Master architect Norman Foster designed this stunning space, which cleverly connects the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. Its sunlit gallery includes tables and chairs, large marble containers planted with ficus and black olive trees, shrubs, and ferns, and horizontally across the entire floor are shallow water scrims that will remind you of peaceful woodland streams.