Picnics in the the Parks

Matching the perfect picnic fixings with the hidden gems of Chicago's Park District.

Urbs in horto. It’s Latin for “City in a garden” and it’s this fair city’s fine motto. We take it to heart, with more than 575 parks of all kinds. Check out five neighborhood faves and nearby spots to load your basket for a perfect picnic.

Lake Shore East Park

450 E. Benton Pl., 312-742-7648

Why go: Just north of Millennium Park, this neatly manicured green space is a new hidden haven amid downtown skyscrapers, with Frisbee-tossing areas and a pirate ship play structure for little swashbucklers.

For picnic fixings: The sandwich station at Mariano’s market. 333 E. Benton Pl., 312-228-1349

Ping Tom Memorial Park

300 W. 19th St., 312-747-6515

Why go: It reflects its Chinatown milieu with a pagoda entrance and bust of its namesake, a prominent Chinese civic leader who worked to transform an abandoned railroad into 12 acres of loveliness.

For picnic fixings: Joy Yee’s Noodles whose to-go menu includes all the orange chicken, Mongolian beef and fried rice for just the right Asian flair. 2139 S. China Pl., 312-328-0001

Oz Park

2021 N. Burling St., 312-742-7898

Why go: To visit the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy and Toto, immortalized in sculpture and honoring L. Frank Baum who once called this Lincoln Park area home.

For picnic fixings: Greek salads and gyros from longtime local joint Athenian Room. 807 W. Webster St., 773-348-5155

Wicker Park

1425 N. Damen Ave., 312-742-7553

Why go: Just off the bustling six-corner shopapalooza of the Wicker Park-Bucktown district, you’ll find this shady Eden of lovingly tended gardens and its fancy fountain. 

For picnic fixings: It’s always buzzing at Big Star, so grab some tacos and tostadas and take ‘em to go. 1531 N. Damen Ave., 773-235-4039

Welles Park

2333 W. Sunnyside Ave., 312-742-7511

Why go: Gather ‘round the gazebo at this Lincoln Square park for the free summer concert series. Two playgrounds add double the fun, the newer one gated in for little ones, with a spray feature to boot.

For picnic fixings: Fancy-up your blanket with Amish free range chicken, mushroom ravioli or Brussels sprout salad from neighborhood mainstay Café Selmarie. End with homemade tiramisu or fruit tart. 4729 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-989-5595

For maps of the parks, visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com