Eight perfect picnic spots
It's August. The sun is shining and it's time to make the most of what's left of Milwaukee's fleeting summer season. So, it's time to skip the wait for the most coveted seats on restaurant patios and grab a picnic blanket instead.
Milwaukee County has a pretty impressive selection of parks from which to choose. But, I've chosen eight ideal spots for outdoor feasts – from Shorewood to South Milwaukee – each with a source for picnic fodder mere blocks away. I'm sure there are plenty more, so feel free to share your finds using the Talkback feature below!
A picnic is a surefire way to beat your Monday blues. If you're on the near North Side of town, The deli at Outpost Natural Foods, 100 East Capitol Dr., has plenty of delicious salads, sandwiches and spreads to choose from. Grab what you like and head over to the Estabrook Beer Garden just about a mile or so east. Enjoy a few brews, dance to a polka, or just enjoy the sound of the rushing Milwaukee River as it passes just over the bank from the garden.
If it's Tuesday night, you might just opt to grab some grub at Chill on the Hill over at Humboldt Park. But, on any other night of the week, why not grab a couple of panini and a few items from the bakery at G. Groppi Food Market, 1441 E. Russell Ave., and head over to South Shore Park for a shady evening on the lakefront? If the weather is particularly steamy, this park is a particularly good choice, as it's almost always a few degrees cooler than anywhere else in Milwaukee.
Now that Rocket Baby Bakery, 6822 W. North Ave., is open until 6:30 p.m. on weeknights, West Siders can easily grab a roasted pear salad or a Nueske's smoked turkey sandwich with bacon, root vegetable slaw, honey mustard served on Tosa sourdough and head off to Washington Park for an evening amongst the trees. Originally named West Park, this 124-acre park was the original home for the Milwaukee County Zoo. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, famed designer of New York's Central Park, the park offers plenty of green space as well as a bandshell which features local bands on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Upcoming concerts feature KT's Universal Love Band (African/reggae), The WhiskeyBelles (country/folk), Charles Walker Band (soul/r&b), Brew City Big Band and The Booze Brothers Band.
You'll need 48 hours notice, but The Pasta Tree, 1503 N. Farwell, offers gourmet picnic baskets that are just perfect for an evening out. Just $18.95 per person will get you your choice of an appetizer, entrée, dessert and beverage, which can be pre-ordered at pastatreemilwaukee.com. You'll need to put down a $20 deposit for the basket itself, but it's refundable when you bring it back. So, grab your basket and head southeast to Juneau Park and enjoy the city-side oasis of trees and plants on a ravine overlooking Lake Michigan. Or order ahead for Thursday evening, and you'll have everything you need for Jazz in the Park in Cathedral Square.
WEEKENDS OR ANYTIME
Stopping at Glorioso's, 1011 E. Brady St., for picnic supplies is always a great bet, but it's one of the most perfect places to grab a basket full of goodies for a weekend day at the lakefront. The smoked salmon dip and tapenade are great grab and go options for spreading on crackers, and made to order salads are also a hit. Add a bit of Belgioso Burratta with a loaf of Sciortino's bread, and you've got an Italian feast waiting to happen. Grab a bottle of wine or a single serving glass for $3.99, and you're all set. Head down to Veteran's Park, where you can rent a kite to fly on a breezy day, rent bicycles to ride along the lake, or just sit and enjoy the marina view.
If you'd prefer to head south, Grant Park is one of a string of parks that dot the shoreline throughout the southern Milwaukee suburbs of St. Francis, Cudahy and South Milwaukee. It is the second largest park in Milwaukee County, and it's the home of the Seven Bridges Trail, a beautiful walk along the ravine featuring Lannon stone paths and foot bridges galore. You can grab takeout from Tsing Tao, 5765 S. Packard Ave., and grab any number of the gorgeous picnic spots available in the park. After you're done eating and sunbathing, take a walk on the trails, where you'll be led among enormous trees such as the native beech, along creeks, into secluded areas and onto the shore of Lake Michigan.
If you're looking to bring a little bit of a spark to your relationship, I recommend grabbing a deli sandwich (you can't go wrong with the corned beef) from Benji's Deli, 4156 N. Oakland Ave., and heading over to Atwater Park in Shorewood, located on the eastern end of Capitol Drive along the shore of Lake Michigan. Especially romantic in the evening, Atwater Park offers great views from both the bluff and the shore. The park also features an 8-foot sculpture by internationally renowned Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, possibly best known for the piece he designed for Millennium Park in Chicago, featuring two 50-foot glass towers with a shallow reflecting pool connecting them.
Then again, there is more than one way to get your heart aflutter. Just the thought of grabbing a couple of freshly made sandwiches and some chips from Love Handle, located in the old Blue Tomato space at 2215 E. North Ave., and heading off to the park makes me swoon a little. The menu changes daily, but there's always something delicious like the Circle A Sandwich with black truffle bologna, taleggio cheese and pickled red onion. Plant yourself just about anywhere in Lake Park for a tree-lined feast. As another park elegantly designed by Olmsted, Lake Park is well worth exploring. After you enjoy lunch or dinner, be sure to check out the foot trails. Check out the North Point Lighthouse on the south side of the park. Or take one of the footbridges along the ravine path and be sure to check out the 30 foot waterfall just south of the parking lot of the Lake Park Bistro.
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