Ah, summer. Time for picnics, beaches, and parks. Time for picnics on the beach, picnics in the park, picnics at the beach parks. Here are five picnic spots to consider for this holiday weekend and for every summer weekend thereafter that would do well with picnics, beaches, and parks.
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1. San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
Beyond, in the far background, you see the Irvine skyline. But here, in this oasis of calm, herons skim glassy ponds, ducks quack, reeds sway. Enjoy a picnic meal in one of many benches strategically anchored in the prettiest parts of the sanctuary. You have to walk a good bit to find them, but when you do, you'll be alone. Save for the odd birdwatcher and jogger, no one seems to know the place exists. There are proper picnic tables shaded by trees near the entrance where a series of huts look like The Others camp from Lost. You are even allowed to harvest the berries along Riparian View for dessert.
5 Riparian View, Irvine.
2. Knott's Marketplace
Don't bother bringing your own picnic food here. Instead get a bucket of fried chicken with sides (their potato salad is surprisingly excellent) from Knott's Chicken-To-Go. The tab will be significantly lower than if you actually ate a sit-down meal at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner and the line is minutes instead of hours. Sit, eat and people-watch from the routinely cleaned picnic tables and benches. A cavalcade of tourists in matching garb will be your entertainment and the joyful shrieks of roller coaster riders will be your soundtrack. It's like being at Knott's without paying for Knott's. Parking is free at the Knott's Marketplace lot for the first three hours.
8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park.
3. Carbon Canyon Regional Park
Carbon Canyon Regional Park is the prototypical OC park. It used to be immune to crowds, but as the suburban sprawl has creeped in with new Brea home dotting the hills, most weekends it's often jammed with picnickers enjoying the view of the lake, the grassy lawns and shaded hideaways. You could also conceivably hike or better yet, bike, through the adjacent 13,000 wilderness of Chino Hills State Park and wind up on the other side in San Bernadino county. Carbon Canyon levies a $3 per car entrance fee on weekdays, $5 on weekends, which is usually hiked up to about $7 per vehicle on holidays such as Memorial Day. But the one thing atypical about the place is that there are Redwoods here–actual, honest-to-goodness Coastal Redwoods that number in the hundreds in a designated ten-acre grove.
4442 Carbon Canyon Rd., Brea.
4. Corona Del Mar State Beach
Corona Del Mar State Beach is a great spot for picnicking. A grassy area with public grills are present should you actually want to cook stuff there. Parking is about $15 these days. There's free parking on the street, but only if you can find it. It can get crowded during major weekends, because, well, who wouldn't want to be here with the beach fire pits, a jetty to stroll, and that sandy beach that photographers use as a backdrop to shoot their models.
Crossroads are Marguerite Ave. & Ocean Blvd., Corona del Mar.
5.Colonel Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park
Located next to Irvine City Hall, Colonel Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park is suburban Irvine defined. The parking is free and plentiful on either side of the park on weekends, provided no special event is going on at the ballparks. On weekdays the park is virtually deserted, with a few city employees eating their lunch in their cars, never actually enjoying the park's amenities. There are six group picnic shelters overlooking manicured grassy fields, which can be reserved for a fee if you have a large party. For the kiddies, there's two play areas with slides and such. A fountain framed by the eye-popping magenta brightness of blooming bougainvilleas is exactly the kind of thing they'd put on brochures.
4 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine.
Before becoming an award-winning restaurant critic for OC Weekly in 2007, Edwin Goei went by the alias “elmomonster” on his blog Monster Munching, in which he once wrote a whole review in haiku.