Although some may say, “Life is a picnic,” I must say, “You really don’t know how much life can be a picnic until you enjoy one in Laguna Beach.” There’s a sense of magic that happens when people take food outside, spread out a blanket on the soft grass or white sand, and enjoy the magnificent views found in this coastal village. Picnics are not just for couples looking for a romantic spot. Kids and parents will find these locales perfect for a fun afternoon to spend together creating memories. Be sure to mark your calendars for National Picnic Day on Sunday, April 23, and celebrate by picking up some delicious local grub outside while enjoying the sun.
We’ve got some hidden spots, favorite playgrounds, and hike-in picnic spots to choose from to make sure your day is perfectly executed.
Aliso Beach Park - Playground
Spread out a blanket on the grass in a quiet corner of Aliso Beach Park that few seem to find. You’ll find a playground just adjacent to the sand within perfect proximity to let your little ones run off some energy after enjoying lunch together as a family.
Aliso Beach Park - Bonfire Pits
Arrive early to snag one of the beach bonfire pits located right on the sand of this beautiful beach. What can beat hot dogs, ocean waves, and the night’s sky?
Tip: look for the bonfire pits on the far side of the restrooms away from the parking lot. These tend to get claimed last.
Heisler Park Amphitheater
Heisler Park is the necklace of green that graces Laguna Beach right off the north shore of Main Beach. There are many nooks and crannies of this long and skinny greenbelt. You are bound to find a picnic table, artist-designed benches, a quiet corner with a view of an art installation, or some soft green grass. One of our favorites is the outdoor amphitheater with deep steps lined with grass and views of the blue ocean off in the distance. Just look for the 16’ breaching whale public art sculpture and you’ll find the amphitheater seating.
Tip: Catch a free outdoor concert every Friday evening in May and September.
Incredible vistas, hiking trails, and a creative playground are what make this park a favorite for locals. A large green grassy hill slopes to the playground and is perfect for a picnic lunch. Or, grab one of the picnic tables found throughout the park. Fly a kite with an impressive vista of Saddleback Mountain and Orange County then hike up to “Top of the World” for an equally Instagram-worthy view of the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island and San Clemente Islands, off in the distance. This is a picnic for the record books!
Hike In Picnic Spots
Old Oak Tree of the Laurel Canyon Trail
My kids know this trail as the “Ghost Rock Trail” because of the monolith in the middle of a meadow that has a drop-dead resemblance to Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde from Pac-Man. Not far along the trail that meanders by Highway 133 is an ancient oak tree whose branches lean down to the trail and disguise a large open area underneath - perfect to spread a blanket under the gigantic trunk. My kids love climbing the low hanging branches, building forts from dropped twigs, and running through the dry wash.
How to get there: ?Start at the Willow Staging Area where parking is $3. Hop on the trail that starts just through the wooden fence and follow it over a few hills and past some sandstone caves back towards Highway 133. The trail will go down a steep descent then opens up to a quiet meadow. Near the start of this meadow, watch carefully for a spur trail that leads to the right - the Stagecoach South Trail. Between these two trails at the junction is the old oak tree. You may need to duck under the branches to find this large open area.
Distance: Approx. ½ mile?Tip: Bring water and sunscreen
El Morro Trail of Crystal Cove State Park
This trail offers incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and deep drops into the canyons of Crystal Cove. It is a strenuous hike up wide fire roads, but the vistas and the adrenaline pumping from a great workout make for a great pay-off. Wear your good hiking shoes, pack a lunch and blanket in a backpack, bring lots of water and sunscreen, and get ready for a great picnic adventure.
How to get there: Enter Crystal Cove State Park at El Morro. Parking is $15. Drive down towards the beach but use the parking area further back in the canyon where the lower canyon trail starts. Start your hike through the lower section of the canyon filled with native shrubs and trees. Turn right at East Cut Across and climb the hill to the top of the ridge. Turn right at Morro Ridge. Take this scenic trail straight back towards the ocean with vistas the whole way. When the trail hits as far towards the ocean as possible - find the little spur trail that leads to a small overlook. A perfect spot to catch your breath, enjoy the views, and have an epic picnic. The trail then goes down “BFI” steeply to the parking lot below.
Distance: Approx. 4.5 miles roundtrip
Tip: The distance to the lookout is much shorter going up “BFI” but it is much more strenuous.
Picnic Food Suggestions
Stop by one of the many restaurants of Laguna Beach for some delicious takeout. My kids now believe that the best pizza comes from Pizza Bar, located right off Main Beach. The service is incredibly friendly, the prices great, and the food hot and cheesy. Whole Foods Market located between Broadway Street and Ocean Avenue offers healthy juices, deli entrees, produce, and wine. Who can enjoy a picnic without wine? La Sirena Grill on Mermaid Street will send you out with mouth-watering Mexican food to savor at your picnic. Buen Provecho!
It’s #NationalPicnicDay - enjoy!