Let’s be honest, all you really need for a picnic is some food. With that being said, there’s absolutely no reason that a picnic should be boring. So how can you create an ideal picnic? The food matters, of course, but in the end, it all comes down to location, location, location. Whether you’re looking for a quiet little hideaway or a park filled with activities and fun for the whole family, these 15 places in Virginia are a great way to start planning your next outdoor eating extravaganza.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Humpback Covered Bridge, Covington
Built in 1857, Humpback Bridge is Virginia's oldest covered bridge -- and one of the most iconic sites in the state. The bridge closed in 1929 but remains a walking bridge and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, a beautiful 5-acre wayside park surrounds the bridge and includes a picnic area, restrooms, and access to Dunlap Creek.
2. First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach
The most visited of the Virginia state parks, First Landing is the site of where English colonists first touched Virginia soil in 1607. This park is the perfect place for a picnic in the woods - or on the beach. Best of all, after you eat, you can take a swim, enjoy the walking trails, or explore some of Virginia's earliest history with nature and history programs.
3. Occoneechee State Park, Clarksville
Named after the Native American tribe who once inhabited the land around Bugg's Island Lake (John H. Kerr Reservoir), this park offers the perfect place for picnicking along with a playground, boating, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Be sure to check out the visitors' center and Native American museum for a look into local Native American history and Occoneechee tribe.
4. Claytor Lake, Dublin
This popular swimming site is also the perfect place to picnic. Grab a table under a pavililon or spread your blankets on the grass or sandy lakefront beach. If you prefer to eat ON the water, take the boat out for a spin. Claytor Lake offers the only full service marina in the state park system. There are also hiking trails, swimming, camping, and a visitor center.
5. Belle Isle, Richmond
This small island in the James River offers an unexpected escape in the middle of the city. It can be reached by a footbridge running under the larger Lee Bridge. From Belle Isle, you'll enjoy views of Hollywood Cemetery, the old Tredegar Iron Works, and the Richmond City skyline. Best of all, you can picnic on the rocks, while watching the rapids rush by.
6. Cobbler Mountain Cellars, Delaplane
Almost any vineyard or winery in Virginia provides a picturesque setting for a picnic, but Cobbler Mountain Cellars is especially well-known for its ample open spaces and beautiful views - not to mention award-winning wines and ciders. With chairs and tables on the hillside, walking trails around the mountain, and a creek perfect for wading, this family-owned farm is picnic perfection.
7. Crabtree Falls, Nelson County (Montebello), VA
Crabtree Falls in the George Washington National Forest is one of the tallest waterfalls in the United States east of the Mississippi River - not to mention one of the most beautiful in Virginia. If you're up for the 4-mile round trip hike, this will be one picnic you'll never forget.
8. George Washington Memorial Parkway
Just south of Washington, D.C., the George Washington Memorial Parkway provides stunning beauty and plenty of picnicking opportunities. From the Memorial Bridge to Mount Vernon, you can pull off just about anywhere for a wide array of Potomac views and creative picnic spots. See planes fly in at Gravelly Point, sit on the water and watch the birds and boats at Belle Haven Marina, observe ospreys overhead at Collingwood Picnic Area, or sit on a ridge overlooking the Potomac at Riverside Park near Mount Vernon. The only hard part will be choosing your view.
9. Staunton River State Park, Scottsburg
This beautiful park is one of the original state parks created in Virginia. Today, it offers the perfect site for a day of fun with family or friends. Pack a picnic, then take advantage of amenities like a pool, tennis courts, a volleyball court, picnic areas, a playground, boat-launches, and nature trails.
10. Lake Anna, Spotsylvania
With sandy beaches and beautiful views, Lake Anna is one of Virginia's most popular lakes. The Lake Anna State Park provides an easy way to enjoy all that the lake has to offer with swimming, boating, hiking -- and of course, picture perfect picnics.
11. Shenandoah River State Park, Bentonville
This stunning state park in Bentonville is the perfect blend of water, mountains, and open spaces. The park stretches along 6 miles of the Shenandoah and offers boating, picnicking, and scenic trails.
12. Byrd Park, Richmond
Located just south of the popular "Fan" area of Richmond, this beautiful park features picnic shelters, along with 3 lakes, paddle boat rentals, walking trails, ballfields, tennis courts, the Carillon WWI monument and bell tower, and Dogwood Dell.
13. Great Falls National Park, McLean, VA
Encompassing 800 acres along the banks of the Potomac, Great Falls Park is a National Park and a national treasure. With hiking trails, rapids, rock climbing, waterfalls, and cascades, Great Falls is the perfect place to have an adventure, or simply have a picnic. With ample picnic tables and shelters, you'll have no trouble finding the perfect place to settle in for a meal with a view.
14. Riverside Park, Lynchburg
In the heart of Lynchburg, Riverside Park is a 49-acre oasis. As one of Lynchburg's favorite parks, and its second oldest, this park is an ideal spot for picnics. In addition to breathtaking views of the James River, there are picnic shelters and a stone gazebo perfect for a meal -- or you can just grab a blanket and settle down on one of the rolling hills that make this park so special.
15. Mt. Trashmore, Virginia Beach
Built on the site of an old landfill, Mt. Trashmore has turned trash into treasure with 165-acres of park space that has something for everyone. The park features picnic shelters, trails, 2 fishing lakes, a skate park, the “Kids’ Cove” playground, basketball courts, and more.
While this list doesn’t even come close to mentioning all of the amazing picnic spots in Virginia, we hope that it will give you a few new ideas. In the meantime, we’d like to hear about some of your favorite picnic places. Tell us where you like to go in the comments below!