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Desert Companion

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Picnic
Brent Holmes

Fresh air, sunshine and great food. The only question: Where to picnic? We’ve got plenty of suggestions to spread around

 

With its Mojave Desert setting and neon-nights reputation, Las Vegas might not bring to mind the image of a red-and-white checkered All-American picnic. But in reality, the metro area is filled with grassy parks and lovely natural areas perfect for informal outdoor dining. Aside from the furnace blasts of high summer and the chilly snaps of deep winter, Vegas is actually a great picnic town for much of the year, particularly fall and spring

Here, in no particular order, are some of the best al fresco spots in the region, along with some handy expert tips and ideas. So grab a basket, invite some friends and head on out — it’s picnic time, Vegas-style.

Red Spring at Calico Basin

If you want to break bread in one of Southern Nevada’s most gorgeous locales — Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area — but don’t want to commit to the 13-mile one-way road that loops through the natural wonder, the picnic area at Red Springs in Calico Basin is a fantastic alternative destination. Just a couple miles up the road off Charleston Avenue, Calico Basin is filled with vivid sandstone and green flora. In addition to covered tables, Red Spring features an educational nature boardwalk that explains the history of this desert drinking fountain. Calico Basin Road

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Gardens Park

Set in southern Summerlin with a great view of Red Rock Canyon, Gardens Park is tailored for the picnic-going crowd. With a large, well-manicured lawn area, there’s plenty of room to spread out a blanket. As a bonus, Gardens Park hosts one of the area’s Farmers Markets on Thursdays during the growing season, so you can pick up some extra produce for snacking while you’re there. 10401 Garden Park Drive

Exploration Peak Park

If young kids make up a large portion of your picnic posse, mosey on over to Exploration Peak Park in Mountain’s Edge. This recreation outpost features a huge grassy swath as well as dozens of sturdy cement tables perfect for laying out your vittles. Even better, the park features an impressive Old West-themed playground that’s irresistible to li’l pardners. 9700 South Buffalo Drive

Nature Discovery Park

Al fresco eating becomes an adventure at Nature Discovery Park in Aliante. One of North Las Vegas’ premiere outdoor areas, the park is not only filled with a waterfall and lake, but is noted for its dinosaur-themed recreation area. So can kids scarf down a hot dog at one of the numerous covered table areas then run through a gargantuan Triceratops skull to boot. 2627 Nature Park Drive, North Las Vegas

Sunset Regional Park

Welcome to the heavy-hitter of outdoor spaces: Sunset Regional Park. Huge and centrally located, choice parts of this much-loved amenity’s 325 acres are dedicated to shaded tables, plus there is plenty of grassy turf, too. Picnicking at Sunset Park often includes some kind of a  workout such as playing in a softball game, strolling around Sunset Lake or meandering through historic sand dunes. 2601 E. Sunset Road

Lorenzi Park

Lorenzi is the granddaddy of Vegas parks. One of the oldest planned outdoor spaces in the city, Lorenzi has the classic mix of attractions such as basketball and tennis courts, as well as a picturesque rose garden and the sparkling Twin Lakes. The park’s large picnic pavilions are popular places for large family and group gatherings.  3343 W. Washington Ave.

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Sunset Park

Sunset Park

Hidden Falls Park

Snug along the rugged flanks of the McCullough Hills, Henderson’s Hidden Falls Park is a gem of a place. Picnickers will find grassy areas as well as covered tables. In warmer months, splash pads make for a cool break from the picnic blanket. As a postprandial benefit, the park is located on the Amargosa Trail, so you can walk off that second scoop of potato salad. 281 West Horizon Drive, Henderson

Bicentennial Park

Step back in time at Boulder City’s downtown centerpiece, Bicentennial Park. This historical outdoor space is quintessential small-town Americana, with seven acres of lush grass surrounded by municipal buildings. The park hosts art festivals, car shows, outdoor music and other events to liven up your picnicking pleasure. 999 Colorado Street, Boulder City

Mt. Charleston

For a break from desert dining, Vegas picnic aficionados trek to the alpine heights of Mt. Charleston from late spring into autumn. Venturers can find developed facilities for large gatherings at numerous areas from Cathedral Rock to the Old Mill. Smaller groups often congregate on the summer slopes of Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard to snack and take a ride on the chairlift. No matter where visitors picnic, the majestic Spring Mountains National Recreation Area offers views of stunning limestone cliffs and verdant pine forests. Highway 156, northwest of Las Vegas

Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs

Welcome to Southern Nevada’s original picnic area: Floyd Lamb Park. Situated in the far north of the Vegas Valley, humans have been visiting Tule Springs for at least 10,000 years. Back in the day, giant sloths, mammoths and other Pleistocene creatures also visited this outdoor buffet. Covered tables dot the water-filled park. Picnickers can amble around historical buildings that date from the time when Tule Springs was a mid-century dude ranch for out-of-state divorce seekers. 9200 Tule Springs Road

Picnic at Downtown Grand

OK, this is Las Vegas — at least one outdoor gathering spot has to involve a hotel. And such is true at the aptly named Picnic at the Downtown Grand. While not a park where you can tote in a basket of baguette and Brie, it is a fun rooftop pool that welcomes locals. Decked out in a colorful, retro décor, a two-drink admission gives access to swimming, grassy areas, communal tables and a bar/restaurant. And, of course, private cabanas and gaming await, too. 206 N. 3rd Street

Final words: Getting it to go

If you don’t have time to assemble a fabulous picnic smörgåsbord at home, Vegas is chock-full of takeout options. For selections of upscale sides such as marinated grilled veggies and Caprese salad, the deli cases at Whole Foods Market and Panevino (panevinolasvegas.com) are noted destinations.

Looking to keep things simple but classy with a crusty baguette, some cheese and charcuterie? Fill your tote at shops like La Belle Terre Bread (www.lbtbakery.com) and Valley Cheese & Wine (valleycheeseandwine.com).

For vintage outdoor fare — think hot dogs, baked beans and potato chips — stops at Safeway and Vons will always be on picnic itineraries.

Wow ‘em at your church group or bowling team’s annual picnic with funky fritters from O Face Doughnuts (ofacedoughnuts.com) or multi-hued macarons from Patisserie Manon (patisseriemanon.com).and fruit tarts for outdoor eats.

Gear up!

For top-notch accoutrements from elegant wicker baskets to decorative melamine dinnerware, Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table are fully stocked.

If your taste in gear trends to the more rugged and outdoorsy, REI and Bass Pro Shops have unbreakable glasses, canvas carryalls and folding tables to outfit your gathering.

For simple, traditional items like folding chairs and coolers, big boxes like Target and Sears have been picnic standards for decades.

Keep it simple!

Local chef Megan Romano has prepared of plenty picnic-friendly fare, both for her own kids and customers at her local eatery, Chocolate & Spice Bakery (chocolatenspice.com). When asked what works best for picnic cuisine, she stresses simplicity.

“You don’t have to overpack. A picnic becomes un-fun when you’re packing all sorts of ice and coolers,” says Romano. “You want to make it really compact. It lends to the spontaneity of things.” Romano says she favors one-pot dishes like couscous, panzanella with flank steak, baguette with dipping oils, and fruit tarts for outdoor eats. GT

Keep it safe!

Whenever you plan a picnic, food safety deserves special attention. Brittney Melnick, owner of B With a Twist Catering (bwithatwistcatering.com), has extensive experience in serving food outdoors and offers guidelines for keeping things healthful.

“The bacteria that cause food poisoning thrive at moderate temperatures, so it’s imperative that you keep dishes hot or cold, as the case may be,” says Melnick.

Specific strategies include chilling cold items thoroughly before heading out on your picnic. Also, take-out hot food like fried chicken or barbecued beef brisket should be eaten within two hours. Melnick advises keeping beverages and chilled edibles in separate coolers, as well as storing individual food items in air-tight containers. And, of course: “Avoid mayo.” GT

handy tips for the perfect park picnic

Dedicated picnic tables, especially covered ones, are frequently in high demand. It’s a good idea to reserve your place well in advance, especially for larger groups.

Want to sip on some wine or beer during your al fresco event? You’ll need to get a permit. (And glass containers are never allowed.)

Check with the appropriate Parks & Rec department for regulations and fees.

clarkcountynv.gov

lasvegasnevada.gov

cityofnorthlasvegas.com

cityofhenderson.com

bcnv.org

GT

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