Where to picnic around metro Atlanta, and where to get outfitted for it

Get food, friends and find a spot for a picnic.
Brookhaven has plenty of green space to put down a blanket, have take out and enjoy the day with friends. 
(Courtesy of Explore Brookhaven)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Brookhaven has plenty of green space to put down a blanket, have take out and enjoy the day with friends. (Courtesy of Explore Brookhaven)

Drew Plant grew up in an “outdoorsy family,” so he was quite used to “brushing an ant off my food and forging ahead.” Today Plant, a Brookhaven resident who owns Plant Communications, chooses to picnic — and brush off ants — at the Lullwater Preserve on the campus of Emory University.

“It’s very serene but it’s not lonely because there are always people around, but it’s not chaotic,” he says. “I recently discovered walking and I like to have a great place to pause and eat so my outing is more than just exercise.”

Picnics are a time-honored American tradition, whether it’s the family Fourth of July get together, a church gathering, a romantic tete-a-tete with champagne (and maybe a proposal) or simply getting take-out and eating outside.

“Picnics allow us to celebrate outside, in style, with family and friends. Easily themed outdoor gatherings can be simple or elegant; it is all how you plan your affair,” says Sean O’Keefe, owner of Sean O’Keefe Events. “Picnics are as American as apple pie and a traditional family pastime for generations.”

Metro Atlanta has a variety of places to picnic especially since more restaurants and businesses are offering outdoor dining since the pandemic began. But, there are wonderful picnic sites that come with shady trees, maybe a grill, tables, ants and, depending on where you are, mosquitos or gnats.

Lynn Lilly, her husband and two daughters, became picnic fans during the pandemic. “It was all we could do and we went all over town. We loved Piedmont Park and Blackburn Park. We just moved to Roswell and we’ve been picnicking at Roswell Area Park.”

Lynn Lilly looks over a delightful picnic. 
(Courtesy of Lynn Lilly)

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Credit: Handout

When Plant doesn’t make it to Lullwater, he’s likely to picnic at LaVista Park near his home. “We actually have a park in the middle of our neighborhood so I walk down the street and eat there,” he says. “I tend to bring creative leftover food to nosh.”

LaVista Park isn’t the only neighborhood park; they are scattered throughout the area and in many subdivisions. Duck Pond in Peachtree Heights has a lovely pond, grass and lots of ducks to share your sandwich. Glenlake Park is a 17-acre neighborhood park with two pavilions, picnic tables and grills. It’s near the pool and tennis courts so bring a basket and dine after a morning of swimming or tennis. Of course, the granddaddy of them all, Piedmont Park has more than 200 acres of green space to find the perfect spot.

Brookhaven has several parks with picnic shelters and tables including Ashford Park, Blackburn Park, Briarwood Park, Brookhaven Park, Georgian Hills Park, Lynwood Park, Murphey Candler Park, Peachtree Creek Greenway, and Skyland Park. Tables are on a first-come basis but reservations can be made for the picnic shelters, says Lizbeth Rangel, marketing manager for Explore Brookhaven. The Peachtree Creek Greenway and Blackburn Park are the most accessible options with handicap accessible parking and flat, paved trails.

A table at Murphey Candler Park in Brookhaven awaits some guests to enjoy some nibbles and the peaceful view. 
(Courtesy of Explore Brookhaven)

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

“My favorite areas are lakeside at Murphey Candler Park watching the ducks go by and during Food Truck Nights at Blackburn Park when the community gathers with live music and activities for the kids,” she says. The food trucks come on the fourth Wednesday of the month until October.

There are nontraditional places to enjoy a picnic, too. Taking your lunch at Oakland Cemetery is a popular spot with plenty of small secluded areas. The North Public Grounds, near the main gate on Oakland Avenue, Lion Square in the middle of the cemetery, and Potter’s Field on the eastern edge are the largest and most popular areas to put a blanket down and enjoy an outdoor meal. A bonus is that you can even bring your dog.

Of course, not all cemeteries welcome picnickers, so it may be advisable to check before venturing out.

State Parks

State park are another popular venue for picnics. Visitors at the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, which includes Panola Mountain State Park, offers four picnic shelters and more than 50 picnic tables on the 200-acre granite outcrop.

After a day of hiking at the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Lisa George enjoys a special picnic. 
(Courtesy of Lisa George)

Credit: Lisa George

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Credit: Lisa George

Lisa George considers a picnic during a hike as her reward. “I take the time to have a nice lunch and then when I get to the top of the mountain I take the time to eat and enjoy the scenery.” George, owner of ConnectingYOUto Public Relations Corp., says her favorite hiking and picnicking parks are Little Kennesaw Mountain, Big Stone Mountain, Pine Mountain in Cartersville, Brasstown Bald Mountain, Blood Mountain, as well as the waterfalls at Vickery Creek, by the river at Sope Creek, Red Top Mountain and Stone Mountain.

“I love Little Kennesaw Mountain. It has a bench and there’s enough clearing to see the sky. I also love Pine Mountain because they have a lot of rocks where you can spread a blanket.” She also cites the picnic area by the Etowah River after hiking the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site.

“I enjoy the hike and I enjoy putting the effort into my food and have learned not to choose foods, like tomatoes, that will get the sandwich soggy,” she says.

As George notes, a soggy sandwich can certainly dampen a picnic so O’Keefe suggests simple items such as pickled shrimp, deviled eggs and fried chicken salad. “Don’t overthink the menu; some simple sandwiches and a lemonade make a perfect picnic,” he says. “Candles and champagne are a must for any romantic picnic. Fresh flowers in simple arrangements can bring a little joy and some color to any picnic. Tea lights and votives are easy to transport and help set the mood for a late evening picnic.”

For family picnics, O’Keefe says there are a few must-haves. “I always bring games. Lawn darts, horse shoes, lawn bowling; whatever games you have. It is just fun and it adds to the occasion. Always bring a cookie plate and fresh berries. It solves everyone’s desert dilemma. Don’t forget to pack some pillows and a few very colorful tablecloths. It is all about being comfortable.”

Lilly, whose company, Craft Box Girls is a website with crafts materials and DIY ideas for children and adults, says a key is to “eat the easiest things that won’t make a mess.” Sandwiches are tops for both the kids and parents, as well as healthy cut-up fruits and vegetables that she places in bento boxes. “We like high protein cookies because we’ll be running after the kids and you need the energy.”

Her other tips are not to bring anything, like chocolates, that could melt or be sticky. “Bring wipes and a small trash bag and for us, we bring a small portable speaker and put music on. It’s a dance party for our girls.”


Murphey Candler Park. Free. 12:15-8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday; noon-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday; 1-6:30 p.m., Sunday. Free. 1551 W. Nancy Creek Drive, Brookhaven. 404-637-0500, murpheycandlerpark.org.

Lullwater Preserve. 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Free. 1463 Clifton Road, Decatur. 404-727-6123, guidetolullwaterpark.wordpress.com.

Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area. 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Free. 3350 Klondike Road, Stonecrest. 404-998-8384, arabiaalliance.org.

Piedmont Park. 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Free. 1320 Monroe Drive, Atlanta. 404-875-7275, piedmontpark.org.

Oakland Cemetery. 7 a.m.-dusk. Free. 248 Oakland Ave., Atlanta. 404-688-2107, oaklandcemetery.com.

Panola Mountain State Park. 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Free. 2620 Ga. 155 SW, Stockbridge. 770-389-7801, gastateparks.org/PanolaMountain.

Little Kennesaw Mountain at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. 900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive, Kennesaw. 770-427-4686, nps.gov/kemo.

Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. 813 Indian Mound Road, Cartersville. 770-387-3747, gastateparks.org/EtowahIndianMounds.