The humble picnic, according to Wikipedia, is “an excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors.” On the face of it, a simple meal eaten outside may not seem that special, but a picnic can be so much more. The excursion part of dining al fresco lends itself to a bit of theater, with food, drink and good company (each playing important roles), and land, water and sky serving as the stage. A picnic can also be a welcome break in one’s lunch routine, adding a dash of romance and a bit of adventure on an otherwise ordinary day. In the summertime, when, as Gershwin wrote, “The living is easy,” there are few better ways to while away the hours with friends and family.
Location, location, location. Finding the right picnic spot is half the fun (or the challenge, depending on your point of view). But with hundreds of acres of parks, Solano County faces no shortage of places to immerse oneself in quiet, scenic beauty, and find a picnic table or stretch of grass on which to plunk down a blanket. Whether it’s a city park, in the rolling hills or along the Carquinez Strait, getting out in nature is the perfect antidote to a ho-hum day.
Since a picnic claims no particular menu, let your imagination run wild with what to bring along. With the right covered containers and coolers, picnickers can pack up just about anything from home, or come prepared to barbeque meat and vegetables over a park grill. Another option is to grab something to go from local delis, restaurants or food trucks. For sandwiches, salads, or even Cajun food takeout in downtown Benicia, try Sprankles Village Deli, 82 Solano Square; Kinders Meats & Deli, 333 First Street; or The Workshop at 511 Claverie Way. In Vallejo, try The Deli at Georgia Street Plaza, 301 Georgia Street; or Buttercup Grill and Bar, 3288 Sonoma Blvd. Fairfield and Vacaville have abundant takeout restaurants, and a great picnic can also be assembled from local grocery stores. To take your meal up a notch, Benicia’s Studio 41 carries a large selection of specialty tapenades, jams, spreads and condiments; and cookies, crackers and chocolate.
A picnic can be an intimate experience or a larger, more festive affair. If a birthday celebration, family reunion or wedding anniversary is on the menu, advance preparation can go a long way towards making a picnic special and memorable, says Benicia’s Erin Taylor, owner and creative director of Bustle Events. Taylor advises to go the extra mile in welcoming guests with tablecloths, pillows, blankets and beach or camp chairs. “Cast an eye toward color and texture, and flourishes such as vases of flowers or paper lanterns hanging from tree branches,” she said. A more spontaneous picnic can also be an instant mood-lifter—a quick way to interject something new and fun in the daily grind.
Whether you plan your excursion in advance, or decide in the moment to get outside, resurrecting the somewhat lost art of picnicking can be a fun way to spend a summer afternoon—the only prep you need is a few basic picnic basket items and a blanket stashed in your car. Check out these off-the-beaten-path picnic spots in Benicia, Vallejo and further up-county. Be sure to do some advance checking for visiting hours and rules for each of these unique, environmentally sensitive areas. Regulations are enforced regarding pets, smoking, swimming, fishing, reservations, parking and more.
• Benicia Marina, near the “Benicia Bench” sculpture by Robert Arneson, provides a scenic vista to watch the boats go by.
• The Benicia State Recreation Area at the western edge of town has many picnic tables along the waterfront.
• The Levee Trail, on the east side of town near the waterfront, offers a picnic table and a mix of industrial and marsh views; watch for the sign on Bayshore Road.
• Francesca Terrace Park, 698 Hillcrest Avenue, provides deep shade-beauty on a hot day.
• Glen Cove Nature Area at Whitesides Dr. off of Regatta Drive along the waterfront connects to the Bay Area Ridge Trail. It’s unimproved but a blanket would suffice.
• Mare Island Heritage Shoreline Preserve’s 215 acres is an interesting area to bike, hike, picnic and explore.
Solano County Parks
• Lynch Canyon is a working ranch open to the public; a lovely, open space buffer between Vallejo and Fairfield.
• Lake Solano Park at 8685 Pleasants Valley Road, Winters, offers picnicking, canoeing, kayaking & fly-fishing, plus camping, short hikes & bird-watching.
• Sandy Beach County Park is located on the Sacramento River just south of Rio Vista. The park offers a boat launch, campsites and picnic grounds.