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Philadelphia has dozens of great spots to pack a lunch and have a great meal outdoors, from parks to squares to waterfront piers.

If there are fewer than 10 people in your group, you can set up almost anywhere without advance planning. For larger parties, the city requires a permit.

Reservation fees start at $35 for designated sites with at least three benches and a trashcan. The fee goes up to $140 for what’s the Department of Parks & Rec calls a “pavilion,” meaning a site that can accommodate up to 100 people.

Read on for a guide to some of the best locations, or check the map at the bottom of this post to find the spot that’s closest to you.

Neighborhood parks

Philly is dotted by so many smaller parks — some no bigger than a half-city block.

Jefferson Square

This South Philly oasis has a playground built-in, and lots of food trucks post up along the north side.

Liberty Lands Park

Neighbors labored for years to turned this deserted Northern Liberties lot into a two-acre park, and it now flourishes as a family-friendly gathering spot. There’s a community garden, a few grills, several tables, and a kids play area.

Campbell Square

This revived Port Richmond park is flanked by several churches, and it plays host to various festivals and concerts at night. When that’s not going on, the grassy areas or many benches are a good place to enjoy an outdoor meal.

Palmer Park

It’s just a snippet of space at one of the odd-angled intersections branching off Fishtown’s Frankford Avenue, but it’s an beautiful one. A central grassy lawn is good for games and blankets, or choose a spot on a bench by the roses along the edges.

Pretzel Park

Whether it’s the twisting figure-eight layout of the sidewalks or the fact that a pretzel vendor could always be found here, this pocket of grass and shrubbery in Manayunk was known by this name decades before a group of fans petitioned local government to make it official. In addition to a large metal pretzel statue, it’s home to a playground.

Wharton Square

In the heart of Point Breeze, this green recreation area has two tennis courts, a play area and plenty of lawn space. There’s also several sets of concrete benches for those who prefer to eat their food a few feet above the grass.

Cianfrani Park

This wisp of a park in Bella Vista is usually so tranquil, you’d never know you’re less than two blocks off busy South Street. When the serenity is broken, it’s by kids and families playing with the communal toys stored at one side, or the dogs who play on the lawns at the other edge (lay down a blanket before unpacking your food).

Vernon Park

It was only recently that this patch of urban greenery next to the busy Germantown-Chelten Avenue intersection was restored. Now that it is, you can take advantage of the eight acres of space, which is dotted with benches, paved paths, sculptures and a play area.

The signature statue at Pretzel Park Credit: Facebook/Friends of Pretzel Park

Big city parks

Fairmount Park proper has lots of good spots (see below), but there are several other Philly parks that offer great surroundings for outdoor meals with friends or family.

FDR Park

There’s something for everyone at this giant, lake-filled complex at the southern tip of the city. There’s a set of grills here, or plan on scoring a few dollar skewers from the huge pop-up food market offering charcoal-grilled meat and veggies on summer weekends.

Penn Treaty Park

There might not be a more lush seven acres in the Riverwards than this enclave next to Delaware Avenue. Most of the landscape is flat and green, with a few areas along the edges offering cool shade from trees. There’s also a playground.

Pastorius Park

Share your meal with the ducks, turtles and fish swimming between the fountains in the pond at the center of this 16-acre park nestled behind Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill. There’s also a whole network of walking trails, plus an outdoor amphitheater that’s used for concerts.

Clark Park

Bring your ingredients to the charcoal grills on one edge of this nine-acre Baltimore Avenue meadow. After your feast is cooked, lay it out it on one of the tables around the rim or take a blanket down to the center of the grassy green “bowl” that makes up the park’s center.

Pennypack Park

Woodlands, wetlands, rolling hills and open meadows make up this giant, 1,300-acre tract in Northeast Philly. There’s dirt trails to follow if you want to take your basket of goodies into the woods, or set up at one of several designated campfire and areas, some of which have grills you can use.

Wissahickon Valley Park

A handful of various sites — some with just tables, some also with charcoal grills — await along the 50 miles of biking, jogging and walking trails that wind through this park that follows the creek up through Northwest Philadelphia.

A pup enjoys Clark Park Credit: Danya Henninger

Waterfront piers

Philadelphia is finally starting to take advantage of its long stretch of riverside shoreline. Ten years ago, this list would have been slim-to-nonexistent, but now it’s full of solid options.

Race Street Pier

Eat your meal at tables beneath the Ben Franklin Bridge on the well-manicured promenade, or spread out on one of the terraced steps at the western tip for the best view of the water and a cool breeze off the river.

Pulaski Park

This slip of a pier at Delaware and Allegheny Avenues offers the perfect set-up for fishing, with a stone-paved walkway lining its fenced-in edges. There’s also a grassy lawn at the center for relaxing after you’ve hauled in the day’s catch.

Lardner’s Point Park

Formerly an overgrown brownfield full of debris, this nook in the shadow of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge is now cleaned up and fully equipped to host parties. There’s a set of tables, a brick patio, a green lawn and a lookout that stretches into the river.

Washington Avenue Green

Benches and planted gardens line this wharf that juts out behind the big box stores along Columbus Boulevard. It used to be one of the city’s biggest immigration landing spots, and historical markers tell that story, plus there’s also a climb-able public art sculpture at the far end.

Pier 68

At the southern edge of the riverfront, near the still-active port, this site of a former raw sugar warehouse now features inviting space to chill with friends. Relax on one of the wave-shaped lounge chairs at the far end or set-up your meal on the grass next to the concrete walkways. Also good for fishing.

Race Street Pier Credit: Instagram/@richithomas

The five squares

All five of the original squares William Penn designed for his “greene country towne” are open for spreading your blanket, although each has a very different vibe.

Rittenhouse Square

Sport your best lawn-casual if you take your lunch here — it’s scenester central. Bonus for being on display: There’s a ton of easy take-out nearby.

Washington Square

More tranquil , with a lot of shade from giant leafy trees. Bring a blanket, because the lawns are a favorite place for neighborhood dogs to do their thing. Surrounded by cafes, it’s an easy grab-and-go spot.

Franklin Square

There’s a built-in snack shop, a carousel, a fountain, and a mini golf course here, which makes it worth navigating across the highway on-ramp that separates this park from the grid.

Logan Circle

There aren’t many places to spread out here, but there is an impressive fountain. Officially you’re not supposed to go in, but everyone does, and you can at least dip your toes as you snack on your lunch.

Dilworth Park

Penn’s Centre Square is now mostly taken up by City Hall, but the east apron is now a perfect area. Choose a wide stone bench or umbrella-covered table for your bring-along feast, and watch the kids playing in the fountains as you eat (just don’t drink the water).

Rittenhouse Square Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/LouisL

Schuylkill River Trail

The southern run of the river that divides Center City from West Philadelphia has several distinct locales that invite outdoor feasting.

Bartram’s Garden

You can’t take food into the curated horticultural grounds or historic houses in this 46-acre complex, but there are several sites specially designated for lunchtime spreads.

Grays Ferry Crescent

This little sliver has everything from a skate park to a fishing pier to green lawn for frisbee and catch. There’s also a plaza with benches and lighting.

Walnut Street Tidal Basin

From around Locust to Chestnut, the riverside bank next to the jogging path has just enough room for groups to set up a blanket and put out a great meal — sometimes you can even catch an outdoor yoga class beforehand.

Paine’s Park

This skate park has a few seating areas that could accommodate small set-ups, plus there’s plenty of built-in entertainment watching people do tricks up and down the stepped concrete. Tip: If you follow the alternate trail path that branches downward just before the park, you can find a hidden rock ledge to perch on while you enjoy a sandwich, surrounded by bushes and trees.

Fairmount Water Works

Just past the big dip in the trail where it goes under the highway, the South Garden of this historic water plant turned event center is open to the public, with benches, a fountain and a view of the Art Museum cliffs.

Columbia Bridge

Walk or bike your basket o’ goodies up to this bend in the river, or there’s also a big free parking lot there if you prefer. A handful of tables are spread across the grassy banks, with some located beneath shady trees and some out in the bright sun.

Bartram’s Garden Credit: Facebook/Schuylkill Banks

Fairmount Park

Of course the largest city park on the East Coast has a ton of killer locales. Here are some of the best.

Smith Memorial Playground

The giant, 16,000-square-foot playhouse is the main draw to this complex behind the Philadelphia Zoo, but the outdoor spaces are also accommodating of family fun. There’s no grilling, but pack prepared food and you can take advantage of space on the front lawn or the tables on the side porches.

The Woodlands

As long as you follow the rules (no tree-climbing, no dirt bikes, no picking the flowers, no rubbing the graves), this historic estate with a mansion, cemetery and gardens is open to the public. Groups of 10 or more need to call ahead for permission.

Belmont Plateau

The best view of the Philly skyline is an added bonus at this huge open field off West River Drive. Spread out under the giant trees on the plateau itself, or head down the hill to use the on-site grills and tables.

Chamounix Drive

Along this meandering drive through the west tip of the park before the East Falls Bridge, you’ll find a set of tennis courts, an ultimate frisbee field, an equestrian center and a whole area with tables and other amenities.

Lemon Hill

This former estate stretches out in front of the gorgeous Federal-style mansion, offering views of Center City, several basketball courts, and lots of lawn space to host gathering. Permits may be necessary, depending on group size.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation, including the membership program. She is a former food and...