6 Perfect Family Picnic Spots in Council Bluffs

As soon as the weather heats up, there's no better way to enjoy the afternoon than to pack a picnic basket and partake in outdoor dining with the family. With nearly 40 parks in Council Bluffs, there are plenty of destinations to sprawl out and enjoy an al fresco feast. We've chosen just a few of our favorite grassy refuges from all corners of town – as well as the best places for grabbing snacks nearby – to help you decide on the perfect spot to picnic.

Bayliss Park

Renovated in 2007, Bayliss Park's artistic landscaping is a must-see. Home to the Council Bluffs Farmers Market, movie nights and a free concert series, this lush green space becomes the perfect warm-weather hangout in the summertime. Stake out a grassy plot near the central fountain and plaza for a picturesque backdrop to any midday gathering. Looking for a last-minute snack? Pop over to Ellie's Deli across the street for a deli croissant sandwich or treat yourself to a decadent brownie sundae.

Fairmount Park

Once the water playground opens for the season, Fairmount Park draws flocks of young parents with wee ones. Approach a leisurely lunch tucked away in the groves of 100-year-old oak trees, with plenty of quietude, park furniture and – if you sit long enough – turkeys, deer and foxes. Before hitting the splash pad, get your caffeine fix and some cookies for the kids at Stay Sweet, Nicola's. Locals can't get enough of their brews, fresh bread, pastries and baked goods.

Lake Manawa State Park

Families seeking a waterfront eat-and-nap shouldn’t overlook this beautiful space just south of Interstate 80. With a number of picnic shelters located along the shoreline – including a recent addition with kitchen facilities – Lake Manawa saves you the hassle of searching for an open table with its online park reservation system. From paddle boats and a children’s playground, to biking trails and a public beach, you can't find a more perfect locale to roll out the blankets and chow down on an afternoon snack. Pressed for time? Skip the gourmet picnic fuss and switch things up with a carryout pie from Pizza Counter on the drive in.

Iowa West Foundation Trailhead Park

Vie for table and lawn space at this quaint playground just past Lewis Central High School, a popular rendezvous point for cyclists and runners. If you’re craving a more off-the-beaten-path experience, disappear into the Loess Hills on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail for a scenic stroll under the shaded canopy. After all that hiking, reward yourself with a classic dip cone or chocolate chip cookie dough malt from Tastee Treet, nestled a stone's throw away from the park's covered picnic area.

Kirn Park

The site of Council Bluffs' first high school, Kirn Park stands a testament to generations of community and family gatherings. Take a late lunch on the lawn near the brand new playground or escape the summer heat in the shade of a picnic shelter. For a break from boring PB&J, pick up some bakery-fresh noms from Mad Ox Bakery. The cozy atmosphere has all the makings of a great hangout, but the daily sandwich special with chips and a scotcharoo will taste even better on a blanket outside.

Tom Hanafan River's Edge Park

This 85-acre preserve sits flush against the Missouri River, offering stunning views of our sister city's skyline. Open-air dining enthusiasts can grab a seat on the terraced steps or nab a more panoramic vantage point on the central Great Lawn. While you'll be hard-pressed to find local takeout nearby, the park is the perfect place to bring your dog, toss a football or walk off some calories after a sit-down meal at Caddy's Riverside Grille.
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