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The beautiful cities of New York and San Francisco are two of our most popular destinations at any time of year, but there's nothing like summer in the city. A great picnic is one of the best ways to relax when the urban heat takes its toll, so stock up on some local goodies, hunker down on a blanket, and soak up the sights and sounds of city life. Read on for a couple of suggestions for where to unpack your hamper...
Around Bow Bridge, Central Park
Bow Bridge arches elegantly over The Lake, connecting the wild and heavily wooded Ramble to Cherry Hill, and it really is one of the prettiest locations in all of Central Park, with expansive views of water, trees and greenery. Framed by the Dakota building and the celebrated skyline of the Upper West Side, it's a particularly popular place for proposals and watching the sunset, not to mention a magnet for TV and film directors on a location hunt. To find the bridge, take a clockwise walk around the lake from the Loeb Central Boathouse, or enter at 77th Street opposite the American Museum of Natural History and follow the road round to the left.
Just off the southern tip of Manhattan lies Governors Island, and on Fridays and weekends it's open to the public with a free ferry running from lower Manhattan (from the Battery Maritime Building) and also from Brooklyn (from Brooklyn Bridge Park - weekends only). From the ferry terminal head straight to Picnic Point - eight acres of open green lawn with hammocks and picnic tables and views across to the Statue of Liberty and the Financial District skyline. If you go on a Friday and feel the need to do something to earn your lunch, Bike and Roll are offering an hour's free bike rental in the summer months between 10am and 3.30pm - a fantastic way to explore and work up a hearty appetite.
A sandy beach, restored tidal marshes, dunes, abundant wildlife, a wide promenade and designated picnic areas just about sum up Crissy Field. With outstanding views of Golden Gate Bridge and the bay, the park is a favourite with holidaymakers wishing to take a pause from their bike rides over the bridge into Sausalito, or those just seeking respite from the crowds. The park-operated Warming Hut café and bookstore serves coffee, pastries and sandwiches to take away, including a kids menu with the all-American peanut butter and jelly favourite. In 2008 an overlook was opened offering a brand new vantage point from which to take in the city, with panoramic views of the San Francisco skyline, Palace of Fine Arts, Alcatraz and Angel Island. Take some extra layers if you're planning on sticking around - the wind picks up in the afternoon.
This undulating city park between the Mission and Castro districts is not always the place to come if you're seeking peace and quiet, especially on a sunny day, but it's the perfect spot for an impromptu picnic, hipster-watching and witnessing a diverse slice of local life. The Mission District's own special microclimate means it often escapes the mist that hangs over other parts of town, and on a really hot day a post-picnic trip to the nearby Bi-Rite Creamery will be in order, featured in our recent Best Ice-Creams and Gelato post. For the more energetic, there are six tennis courts, a basketball court and a couple of football (soccer) pitches, as well as a children's playground.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.