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Picnics and Parks: The Boston Guide

Picnics and Parks: The Boston Guide

It seems like the worst of the is-it-or-isn’t-it spring weather is behind us, and it’s getting easier to spend time outdoors. Boston is lucky enough to have a fantastic, interconnected park system. No matter which park is your favorite, there is a fantastic restaurant offering delicious take-out that is picnic-ready. Take a gander at this list and enjoy a sunny meal in the grass.

Public Garden and Boston Common

The Public Garden and Boston Common are right in the heart of Boston. A vast, green expanse nestled into a landscape both historic and modern. Whether it’s a paddle on the famous swan boats or a visit to the nation’s first public gardens, this is one of the greenest places to come for a picnic.

Central green space |
(©Shutterstock/Boston Public Garden)

Tatte Bakery & Cafe

There are several Tatte Bakery locations throughout the city, but the closest to the Public Gardens is just to the southwestern tip of the park, only a few blocks away. It’s especially convenient if you’re going towards the swan boats. Tatte started as a home kitchen but eventually opened a free-standing location as popularity grew. Now there are 18 brick and mortar operations serving food that is perfect for a picnic. The tartines and sandwiches are easy to transport and full of rich flavor. Try the summery prosciutto, and pea tartine made with three kinds of peas sauteed in sherry dressing served on a ricotta and goat cheese mousse. All of that is slathered on house-made sourdough topped with a poached egg and sourdough. It’s a brunchy picnic dream! Lounge in the shade and chow down on the roasted cauliflower sandwich with labneh, golden raisins, and pine nuts on a pita.


Get authentic Mediterranean cuisine on the go just south of the Public Gardens. Mediterranean cuisine is full of nutrient-rich ingredients, and Garbanzo follows the traditions the owner grew up with half a world away. This fast-casual establishment works similarly to Chipotle. Pick a style (pita, salad, plate, laffa wrap, or gyro), and then pick your protein (there are veggie options too). After that, pile it high with all the good stuff like hummus and fresh veggies before adding a final touch of sauce or cheese. Select delicious sides like extra pita, garbanzo fries, and falafel to round out the meal. A cold glass of iced tea will keep you hydrated as you lounge in the sunny park.

Take your food on the go |
Grab a pita and hit the park (Courtesy Garbanzo/Facebook)

Arnold Arboretum

Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University is more than just a 281-acre garden; it is also a place to study dozens and dozens of local plants. As spring warms to summer, the air is perfumed with flowers and lush green aromas.

The freshest air in Boston |
Stroll the arboretum (Courtesy NPS)

Brassica Kitchen & Cafe

You can pack a picnic any time of day because take-out is available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Brassica Kitchen & Cafe. Ordering ahead online is encouraged to keep the number of guests inside low at this time. Enjoy the quiet morning hours in the arboretum (just west of Brassica) with a classic fried egg sandwich with cheddar and aioli on a brioche bun (add bacon, veggie sausage, or make it a double). Park-goers heading out after 1 p.m. can get the kimchi grilled cheese, the buffalo chicken sandwich, or the dry-aged wagyu burger with smoky daikon and blue cheese. Beverages include hot and cold teas or coffees.

Chicken sandos stacked high |
Chicken sandos stacked high (Courtesy Brassica Kitchen/Facebook)

Back Bay Fens

What used to be marshy wetlands is now a stunning jewel in the Emerald Necklace around Boston. Now it’s home to the formal Kelleher Rose Garden, the lion-headed Westland Gate, and the Japanese Temple Bell that dates back to the late 1600s and was brought from Japan after WWII. There’s certainly plenty to see and lots of places to throw down a blanket.

Tranquility in the Back Bay Fens |
Bay Back Fens (©Charles Birnbaum)


Phinista is the best place in the area to get an iced Vietnamese coffee for that cooling, midafternoon jolt. Walk a few blocks east, and you’ll find yourself on the shaded lawns of the Back Bay Fens. Phinista uses sustainable ingredients and is committed to putting the community first so that you can feel good about your caffeine fix. Every food item is easy to take with you on the go. The lemongrass steak bowl is bright with herbs and a touch of sweetness from being grilled in honey. If you’re looking for a classic banh mi sandwich, they’ve got their own throwback of the classic with cold cuts, pate, and a house butter aioli. Save room for dessert and get the cinnamon crepe which has all the flavors of gooey cinnamon rolls with added strawberry goodness.

Coffee and snacks for the park |
Coffee and sustainable Vietnamese to go (Courtesy Phinista/Facebook)

Sufra Mediterranean

A few blocks east from the Kelleher Rose Garden is a Mediterranean eatery serving up fresh food great for on the go. Everything is made from scratch daily using high-quality halal ingredients. There are three chicken shawarma wraps that are perfect for park dining. The classic has garlic and pickles; the supreme is dusted in paprika, melted cheddar, and special sauce, while the zinger is made with chicken tenders instead of marinated chicken. Make any of these a plate, and you’ll also get fries, a side of pickles, and garlic sauce for dipping. The spinach pie and kibbie balls are fantastic handheld snacks that don’t require utensils. The manousheh selection (Mediterranean flatbread) is perfect for feeding a fully vaccinated crowd. The half jibneh (cow’s milk cheese flatbread) and half za’atar (spice blend with olive oil flatbread) is the best way to sample a bit of everything if you can’t settle on just one flavor.

Half and half flatbread |
Half jibneh and half za’atar flatbread (Courtesy Sufra/Facebook)