Perfect Picnics

Tips on how to fill your basket and where to spread the blanket

Written by Gail Collins

It’s always a good day for a picnic in northern Arizona. And it’s the perfect meal for a few reasons:  no need for a clean house to entertain, a tablecloth doubles as a nap blanket and al fresco feasting tastes better. Keep it simple and keep it fun by gathering your goodies at local shops. This list is not exhaustive, as Flagstaff’s foodie scene continues to expand, but it provides a good start. As for the venue, numerous parks and panoramas are within easy reach.

Where to fill the basket

Planning brunch on a blanket? Swing into Macy’s European Coffee House (14 S. Beaver Street). Unique combinations, like the mozzarella sandwich, bursting with fresh cheese, organic spinach, roasted red pepper, balsamic glazed onion, tomatoes and basil, create difficult, but delicious, decisions. The coffee is top-notch and grab a made-from-scratch pastry.

Tourist Home Urban Market (52 S. San Francisco Street) carries specialty items on the shelf and fresh grub to go. The daily quiche makes an easy handhold and the Cobb salad packs protein. Pastry chef Kat Beimann stocks a case of sweet surprises, too.

The deli counter at Proper Meats + Provisions (110 S. San Francisco Street) offers specialty butchered meats for the best cheesesteak outside of Philly or go global with the bahn mi of pork shoulder confit, pickled zucchini and carrot with cilantro and chili aioli.

Café Daily Fare (408 Historic Route 66) provides platters of veggies and dips or assorted spreads, including smoked salmon with lemon caper cream, and tarts or cookies. Frank’s, of course, carries all-beef hotdogs and Italian sausage with peppers plus snacks. Jitters Lunchbox (3504 Historic Route 66) features weekly sandwiches, like an egg salad BLT on buttermilk bread, and soups. Items are hand-crafted at Aspen Deli (20 N. Beaver Street). Choose the rise and swine burrito with pork and potatoes for a hearty start or Grandma’s recipe potato and pasta salads. Go Go’Z Drive-Thru (1750 E. Route 66) boasts two food truck concepts, including BBQ, for a fusion of flavor.

For adult beverages, Majestic Marketplace (601 E. Piccadilly Drive #95) has it all from craft and imported  to growlers and kegs for that reunion-sized picnic. A huge selection of bottles or wine-in-a-box choices keep the sipping portable and quaffable. Pay-N-Take Downtown Market (12 W. Aspen Avenue), a favorite local watering hole, has coolers full of cold beer to go by the bottle or in packs. It also sells wine, non-alcoholic specialty beverages, candy, snacks and more.

Where to spread the blanket

For family times, try the city parks. Foxglenn, Thorpe and Bushmaster Parks maintain sports fields, play equipment, sheltered areas and bathrooms with peaks views. Nearby trails offer the chance to roam post-picnic or watch the kids zip around in the skate zone.

Event scenes Wheeler Park and Fort Tuthill County Park provide the bonus of craft shows, live music or more, depending on the schedule. With mature trees and city strolling at Wheeler or a bike park at Tuthill, the vistas and activities keep it lovely and lively. On the east side, as Peaks View County Park promises, our breathtaking San Francisco Peaks are on full display.  A playground, sports areas, an equestrian arena and trails will keep everyone busy.

Buffalo Park’s mesa trail creates an evolving landscape. Munch your lunch, and then, take on the 2-mile loop or trek into Coconino National Forest for a longer wander.

Looking for the water’s edge? Lakes Mary and Ashurst provide mountain majesty and the chance to dip a fishing pole. Sunflowers in season and easy exploring make these lakes superior spots to enjoy a picnic.

Woody Mountain Road is rife with places to picnic and play. For a fee, the Arboretum at Flagstaff, located there as well, provides stunning photo ops and education about the terrain plus native plants and birds.

Look toward Sedona at the Oak Creek Vista Overview. Learn the geology of the region while enjoying a sandwich or take the hairpin drive down for a creekside lunch. Nestled in Oak Creek, Banjo Bill and Bootlegger Picnic Sites offer tables along the water and trout fishing within the canyon walls. So, spread the blanket, unpack the basket and delight in the world around you.

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