Washington has a variety of spots for picturesque picnics, including the Capitol grounds and several parks in the Capitol Hill area.
Cheese makes for the ideal picnic food, and this purveyor of all things milky inside Eastern Market has the best selection on the Hill. Always a reliable stop for imported fromages, Bowers also has an impressive selection of locally sourced goods, including from Meadow Creek Dairy in Galax, Va. And hereís an insider secret: Bowers offers an unadverstised pâté made by the chefs at neighboring French restaurant Montmartre. Grab a baguette from a nearby stand, and dinner is served.
• P&C Market, 1023 East Capitol St. SE
Think of P&C, a hole-in-the-wall corner store with a gourmet secret, as a picnickerís one-stop shop. Its location, directly across the street from Lincoln Park, ground zero for Hill outdoor living, helps, too.
Sure, you could grab any deli sandwiches for your en plein air feast, but P&Cís artisanal affairs ó smoky prosciutto, brie and mustard, maybe, or a combo of cured beef, mascarpone cheese, harissa and onion marmalade ó add instant class to your outdoor meal. Even potato chips and sodas are taken seriously. Cult-favorite snacks from Louisiana-based Zappís (Cajun Crawtators, anyone?) and Canadian import Covered Bridge make a perfectly portable side dish.
But for even more upscale accoutrements, there are hunks of cheese ($5 to $13 for a decent picnic-sized wedge), as well as hummus, olives and tapenade in to-go containers.
Thereís a small but well-curated wine and beer selection, and the staff even keeps a corkscrew on hand for picnicking emergencies.
Because when it comes to picnicking, the last thing you want to be is unprepared.
Finding a Spot
• Capitol Grounds
The area surrounding the Capitol abounds with picnicking options, though the trick is to find a spot where your view isnít a sea of touristsí fanny packs. Upper Senate Park, the Rayburn Courtyard, Bartholdi Park and the area near the Summerhouse (the funny brick building set into the side of the West Lawn) are good options.
• Lincoln Park, East Capitol and 13th Streets
In President Abraham Lincolnís time, this spot was used as a dump. Now itís much nicer, with park benches and trees offering shady picnicking areas. Just watch where you sit: It seems that every dog on Capitol Hill takes its afternoon stroll there, too.
• Garfield Park, Third and G Streets Southeast
This square is close to House office buildings and offers space for adults to play as well as kids. Thereís a bocce field as well as tennis, volleyball and basketball courts ó and a few tables and grills for when you want to indulge in activities that are a little more leisurely.
• Stanton Park, Maryland and Massachusetts Avenues Northeast
Smaller than Lincoln or Garfield parks, this Senate-side green patch still has plenty of spots to spread a blanket.