Virginia is filled with countless stunning outdoor destinations, so it’s not hard to find a beautiful picnic location, but rather than focusing on the obvious spots to put down a blanket and enjoy a meal, we wanted to share a few of the lesser-known places for a picnic. Whether you’re planning a romantic spread for two with a stunning backdrop or taking the whole family for an informal lunch, consider these twelve outdoor locations in Virginia for a perfect picnic.
Image Courtesy of Yorktown County Tourism
Voted as the best place to picnic by Coastal Virginia Magazine this year, Yorktown Beach has several spots that would make for the perfect picnic, including the sandy beachfront, the grass lawn bordering the beach, and the fishing pier. In addition to the coastal scenery, you’ll have the chance to view local marine wildlife, with dolphins and stingrays frequenting the waters bordering Yorktown. If you don’t plan on packing your own picnic, head to Carrot Tree Kitchens in the Riverwalk Landing shopping center, which has an array of to-go dishes conveniently packaged for a picnic.
Photo Credit: John Henley
Stratford Hall was built as the home of the Lee family, with prominent family members including the only brothers that signed the Declaration of Independence, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, and Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The 1,900-acre estate now serves as a historic museum that is open for public tours, as well as offering nature trails that showcase the remarkable scenery of the grounds. Built on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River, the property has numerous sites for visitors to set up their picnics, like the expansive lawns surrounding the home, picnic tables near the Visitor Center, and pristine spots off the trails that provide views of the Potomac. After lunch, take a tour of the Great House, and then set off a leisurely stroll on the estate’s nature trails. Pets are permitted on the grounds and trails of Stratford Hall, but excluding service animals, no pets are allowed inside of the buildings.
Meems Bottom Covered Bridge—Mount Jackson
Photo Credit: Jonathan Kozowyk
Off Route 11 just outside of Mount Jackson, Meems Bottom Covered Bridge is one of only four public covered bridges in Virginia. Crossing the North Fork of the legendary Shenandoah River, the bridge is Virginia’s longest covered bridge, spanning a length of 204 feet over the water. Constructed in 1894, the bridge carried travelers over the river for more than 80 years before being destroyed by vandals in 1976. It was eventually reconstructed from the salvaged timbers of the original bridge, creating a scenic route through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While you can’t have a picnic on the bridge itself, there are picnic tables on the shores beside the bridge, and after your picnic, you can embark on a kayaking trip down the river from the public boat access point at the bridge.
One of the most enchanting destinations within the urban landscape of Richmond, Virginia’s capital city, Maymont began as a private estate for the Dooley family in the late 19th century. The couple left the opulent property to the community, and eventually it was purchased by a private nonprofit society formed to preserve and restore the 100-acre estate to its former splendor. Set up your picnic under one of the ancient trees on the mansion’s sprawling lawns, or walk down to the Italian or Japanese gardens for an idyllic picnic surrounded by colorful flowers and unique architecture, including a waterfall, reflecting pond, and arched bridge in the Japanese gardens. Once you’ve finished lunch, take a tour of the mansion, Robbins Nature Center, and the wildlife habitats, where you can see examples of local and regional wildlife.
Abingdon Vineyard & Winery—Abingdon
Photo Credit: Sarah Laughland
You’ll find beautiful views at every single winery in Virginia, but sitting on the South Fork Holston River, Abingdon Vineyard and Winery is especially picturesque. Take in the views from the patio overlooking the river and order a flight of their wines before taking your picnic and your favorite bottle out onto the lawn.
Boxerwood Nature Center & Gardens—Lexington
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast looking to visit the Lexington area, plan a picnic to Boxerwood Nature Center & Gardens. The outdoor sanctuary has a mature collection of rare and native trees, shrubs, and plants, including one of the largest collections of Japanese maple varieties in the country. Wildlife abounds in the park and can often be seen by walking the trails through the Pioneer Forest. The trails are geared towards kids and are also pet-friendly, making the nature center a picnic destination that the entire family can enjoy. As Boxerwood is designed as an outdoor haven, please be sure to clean up after your picnic and properly dispose of any trash when you leave.
Sunset Beach Resort—Cape Charles
Just off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Sunset Beach Resort is surrounded by 1,700 acres of protected lands, creating a coastal paradise on the Bay waters. Pack your own or pick up lunch from the Happy Jack's Cafe, the resort’s on-site restaurant, before walking out onto their private beachfront for a picnic along the sandy shores of the Chesapeake Bay. While you’ll have epic views at any time of day from the private beach, consider making it a dinner picnic and watching the sunset over the Bay; the spot remains one of the most stunning locations to catch a sunset in all of Virginia.
Rivergate City Park—Alexandria
Photo Credit: Dayo Kosoko for @visitalexva
There are several riverfront parks along the Potomac River on Alexandria’s waterfront, but Rivergate City Park is one of the best for a picnic. The small park has picnic tables, plenty of bench seating, and a large lawn area if you want to throw down a blanket and arrange your picnic in the pristine park grasses. Additionally, the park has some of the most iconic views of Washington, D.C., with the Capitol and National Harbor visible on a clear day. Once you’re done with your picnic, take a walk along the nearby Mount Vernon Trail.
James Madison’s Montpelier—Montpelier
Photo Credit: Big Orange Frame
James Madison’s Montpelier is known for more than just history; this former U.S. President’s estate provides unbelievably spectacular views of the rolling countryside and the Blue Ridge Mountains, making it an ideal picnic location. Opt for Grab & Go selections, made-to-order sandwiches or salads, or barbecue from award-winning Exchange Café in Montpelier’s dining hall, and then head outside to find your picnic spot. After lunch, walk the nature trails throughout the property and take a tour of Madison’s famed home and grounds.
Potomac Point Winery—Stafford
Photo Credit: Bill Crabtree Jr.
A Tuscan-style winery 45 minutes outside of Washington, D.C., Potomac Point Winery allows visitors to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages, or they can order from the tasting room’s bistro menu, filled with popular Mediterranean dishes. If you’re thinking of pairing your picnic with a little vino, try a flight of the wines in the tasting room before purchasing a bottle to sip with your meal. Set up your picnic in the vines or at the picnic pavilion. Pets are welcome to join picnickers outside of the tasting room throughout the vineyard.
Gravelly Point Park—Arlington
Photo Credit: Jake McGuire
Another interesting picnic spot in the Capital region of Virginia is Gravelly Point Park in Arlington. Visitors can spread their blankets, lie on the ground, and get front-row seats to planes flying in and out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which is less than two miles from the park. Like Rivergate City Park, Gravelly Point sits alongside the Potomac River and has prime views of the Washington D.C. monuments, adding to the scenery of this Northern Virginia picnic spot.
R.P. Gravely-A.J. Lester Public Art Garden—Martinsville
If searching for a picnic spot in Martinsville, the R.P. Gravely-A.J. Lester Public Art Garden is free and open to the public from dawn to dusk. The park is full of charm, but an especially notable site is the Historic Little Post Office, which has the original ironwork and stained glass door from 1893. The park contains free-standing sculptures crafted by Virginia artists, as well as a LOVEwork where picnickers can snap a photo to remember their visit to the park. Spread your blanket under the garden’s 100-year-old oak tree, recognized for its age, size, and grandeur.
Tell us, where is your favorite spot in Virginia for a scenic picnic?