Perfect Picnics: Where to Go

The Hot Rock Where: 400 block of Northlake Way Northeast, just west of Ivar's Salmon House. What: Ever heard of South Passage Point Park? Neither had we, but it exists, just the same: a little patch of waterfront looking south over Lake Union. Sprawl on the big, warm rock, look at the city's best urban vista, vibrate to the buzz of freeway traffic overhead and the seaplanes taking off and landing in front of you, and watch the crows and seagulls quarreling with the eagles over the occasional fish. Free tip: You can fuel up at Ivar's Fish Bar just above you, but Pete's Deli isn't that far off. Lo-Rent Picnic Where: Kerry Park, Third Avenue West and West Highland Drive on Queen Anne Hill. What: For those summer nights when it's too hot and everything's too much troublepick up your sig other, a half-dozen Dick's burgers down in Uptown, a six-pack of brewskies (and paper bags to stash them in) at the QFC, then head up to the overlook with the Space Needle, Seattle Center, and downtown before you. Munch; glug; make out. Throw the empties over the side into the blackberries beneath. (We're JO-king. . . . ) Wet and Wild Where: Olallie State Park, I-90 Exit 38, five miles east of North Bend. What: A cool path leads through old-growth trees along the South Fork of the Snoqualmie. An easy mile in, there's a small waterfall with a viewing platform where you can cool yourself in drifting spray. All around are views of green, forested mountains. There are "activities," toorock climbing, hiking, mountain bikingbut all that's too energetic for picnicking. Free tip: If you remember you forgot the Grey Poupon or the ice, Greenbank Farms in Preston (I-90 Exit 22) is a great resource for those last-minute additions to the picnic basket. Serene Seclusion Where: Meadowdale Park, 6026 156th Street Southwest in Edmonds, westbound from I-5 Exit 183 (164th Street Southwest). What: A short stroll down an agreeably shady, overgrown path brings you to a big, manicured grassy area just crying out for croquet, softball, or serious Frisbee. Uncrowded picnic facilities (cottagelike picnic shelters in case of unscheduled downpours) and beach access through a little tunnel under the railroad tracks complete a very pretty picture. Only downside: Without a detailed map, Meadowdale's tough to find. Check out the directions on the Snohomish County Parks Web site: High Shilshole Where: Sunset Hill Viewpoint Park, off 32nd Avenue Northwest and Northwest 80th Street in Loyal Heights. What: A far better view of the Sound than you get from Shilshole, plus a view of Golden Gardens and of Shilshole itself, without the attendant crowds and traffic. A little limited in the picnic-amenities departmentno rest roomsbut there are picnic tables and benches enough to make your visit comfortable. Free tip: Don't even bother to pack a picnic; Roxy's Deli at Cascioppo's is less than 10 blocks away. Down Along the Cove Where: The north shore of Lake Union just west of Gasworks Park. What: Attention kayakers and canoeists only you can access this little cove and its great sandy beach, nestled in the midst of a flotilla of houseboats. Jewel Box Where: Parsons Gardens, west end of West Highland Drive on Queen Anne Hill. What: A perfect pocket parklet, surrounded by high, cool vegetation, with a sunny swatch of green, green grass in its midst and a rustic bench in a secluded nook. An ideal rendezvous on a summer evening. During the daytime it's nice, too, but if you spread your picnic on the grass when the light's too good, you may earn a black look from wedding photographers who want to use the park as a free romantic background for their sweating tail-coated and evening-dressed victims. Sun and Salt Where: Richmond Beach Saltwater Park off 20th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 195th Street (Richmond Beach Road). What: Unlike most beach parks on Puget Sound, there's more than rocks, driftwood, and wall-to-wall people. Cross the railroad tracks from the parking lot and you'll see a little grove of trees inviting you to linger awhile. If you're easily sunstruck, though, take some shade of your own in the way of a beach umbrella. Abe's Place Where: Lincoln Park, off Fauntleroy Way Southwest. What: Seattle's most underused park bar none, a vast wilderness of paths, clearings, nooks, and crannies. You can spend the whole day and not run out of interesting things to do (how long since you've been on a nature walk, for instance?). Also a no-brainer in the provisions department: Visit the West Seattle Metropolitan Market (formerly Admiral Thriftway) deli before heading south, and you'll come out as well stocked as if you'd visited half a dozen downtown gourmet shops. Roofs of the Rich Where: Northwest 100th Street east of Sand Point Way Northeast. What: Wedged between Lakeshore Boulevard Northeast and the Burke-Gilman Trail, there's a narrow patch of grass that runs from Northeast 100th and 105th streets, just wide enough to park a blanket, break out the sandwiches and iced tea, and peer over the palatial mansion roofs below, wondering what goes on beneath them. Behind the Bushes Where: Magnuson Park, 7400 Sand Point Way Northeast. What: Sure, plenty of people are at Magnuson, but there is still privacy to be had. Drive into the last parking lot at the foot of "Kite Hill" and walk north on the path. Dart behind any of the abundant blackberry bushes or stands of trees and enjoy your own private piece of lakeshore. Families may be picnicking at the barbecue pits a dozen feet away, but thanks to the foliage, they'll never know what's going on down on the waterfront. Archaic Orchard Where: Carkeek Park, Eddie McAbee entrance, 100th Place Northwest and Sixth Avenue Northwest, just off Holman Road Northwest. What: Carkeek's got beaches, ball fields, and plenty of trails, but did you know about the orchard? Take a half-mile walk down the Piper's Creek trail, which begins at the Eddie McAbee entrance, and enjoy lunch in the urban oasis that is Piper's Orchard. Dating back to the Piper family homestead that predates the park, the orchard is a grassy slope that rises above the trail, offering silence and shade. Katie Millbauer and Noam Reuveni contributed to this section.

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