With all the backyard summer barbecues and meals picked up at drive-thru windows, it’s not as common to see people spreading out blankets on the ground and pulling out a meal from a wicker basket for a summer picnic. However, meal time is an ideal time for family bonding, and enjoying a meal outside offers the potential for even more family fun (follow up lunch with a Frisbee toss, fishing, berry picking or a hike). Depending on where you plan to picnic, there’s also the beautiful natural scenery of a green field, buzzing bees, blooming flowers or glistening bodies of water.
Amy VanderLugt of Portage suggests several parks in her city that she enjoys. The Portage Lakefront site of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, is part of the 15,000 acre federal park. “Lakefront Park has trails and free parking,” she said. “Imagination Glen has a playground and hiking/biking trails. Countryside has the old homestead and a fishing pond.”
The Lake County Parks system offers a variety of settings, from open recreation areas to shady groves to lakefront spots. You can add a little history lesson along with lunch by visiting Deep River Park or the Buckley Homestead or add a game of mini golf to a visit to Cedar Creek Family Golf Center and fishing can be paired with lunch at Oak Ridge Prairie or Lake Etta County Parks.
Because of the abundance of parks and other scenic areas, we have compiled a list of go-to places for your next or first picnic. Here are a few places to consider for a good old-fashioned summer family picnic:
Centennial Park, 900 N. Centennial Drive, Munster
With playground equipment and Maynard Lake as a backdrop, you can make lunchtime into an afternoon outing. Bring some fishing poles or a soccer ball. Picnic shelters can be utilized if the sun gets too hot or the rain starts to fall. Allow a little time for a walk around the lake or through the Veterans memorial across the street.
Portage Lakefront site of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Portage.
Swimming is allowed at this beach---all areas of the national lakeshore allow swimming---which is a 57-acre parcel owned by the National Park Service. It is a former industrial site and has an enclosed pavilion with concession stand, restrooms, trails, a fishing pier and spot for kayak launching.
Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve, Chesterton
If you’re looking for a serene, quite spot where you can sit in the grass and enjoy nature, Coffee Creek is a great spot to do so with a pond, green space, wildflowers and miles of trails for walking or biking.
Ogden Gardens Park, 451 Harrison Blvd., Valparaiso
If you enjoy a backdrop of blooming flowers, this is a good spot to consider. This four-acre park is full of perennials, annuals, rose gardens, shrubs and trees. Highlights are a Japanese Garden with trails, streams, bridges, ponds (with resident Koi fish) and a tea house and a gazebo that makes for a nice photo setting after lunch.
Central Park Plaza, Valparaiso
Lay down a blanket and enjoy lunch in this new downtown setting. Check for events such as lunchtime zumba and the Central Plaza Market. Cool off in the splash pad and then stroll downtown to enjoy a sweet treat.
Lake View Picnic Area, Beverly Shores
Ok, this is more a sit-at-picnic-table place than sit-in-the-grass-on-a-blanket type of place, but with spectacular views. It’s the only area in the National Lakeshore with picnic shelters overlooking the lake. Be aware that there is not a huge amount of parking, so you may want to get there early.
Tall Tree Arboretum and Garden, 450 W. 100 North, Valparaiso
This place does have an admission charge, but it’s a great way to spend a summer day. The Pavilion Garden area provides a lovely setting to have a packed picnic lunch. When you are done, take a walk and explore the Railway Garden and Children’s Adventure Garden, which will be a big hit with the little ones, especially the chickens.
Blueberries of Indiana, 2388 W 1000 N, LaPorte
Combine a family picnic with an afternoon of blueberry picking at Blueberries of Indiana. The picking season will be starting shortly and lasts for several weeks. Pack up lunch and select a shady spot near the parking lot to enjoy a sandwich. When you’re done, lather up with sunblock, grab a bucket and set out to pick some berries bring home and bake some dessert.