by Sumiko Rudisky
photography by Litsy Tellez
Now is your opportunity to dust off that gift picnic basket that has been sitting in your pantry closet. The city of La Verne offers some pristine places to stage a picnic. It is about time. COVID-19 has trapped you inside, and you now have the opportunity to go back out and enjoy life again.
If you’re looking for a safe way to connect with friends and family, a picnic is a great way to do it. Living in Southern California gives you weather grace, and there is nothing better than venturing outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying the La Verne hillside scenic views. If you have children, there is a bonus. These recommended parks have ample entertainment included.
Ready to go? Wait a moment—you need food in that basket. But the time when mother spent hours preparing sandwiches is so Brady Bunch. Included here are recommended places to buy great inexpensive food for that basket to make your experience hassle free, and more importantly, memorable for all the right reasons.
Las Flores Park, 3175 Bolling Ave.
This large park offers ample space for throwing your blanket down on the spacious green grass, or you can sit at one of the many covered tables that also offer grills if you wish to cook your own food. There is free street parking in a friendly and quiet neighborhood. A new playground sports all sorts of slides to keep a smile on your child’s face. There is also a sand volleyball court set up, along with tennis courts. A bonus: In the summer, La Verne Aquatic Center (Las Flores swimming pool) offers public swimming hours.
When friends Bianca Sanchez and Porsche Double, both University of La Verne students, get the opportunity to hang out at this local park, they enjoy playing spike ball and later sampling simple finger foods from the Vons market deli, located on Foothill Boulevard. “I practice at the Las Flores pool, and after practices sometimes my friends and I like hanging out in the grass,” says Sanchez, a ULV senior biology major. The park offers grills to cook your own food if you are so inclined.
In the park is also the beautiful Evelyn Hollinger Redwood Tree Grove that you could picnic under. The Grove was planted to commemorate the life of this eminent city historian. Shade is abundant, and it makes a nice background for memorable photos. On the right days, the air feels crisp on the face, and birds sing in the trees. You might even see a flying flock of squawking parrots. You’ll also see adorable squirrels running around everywhere.
Brackett Field Airport, 1615 McKinley Ave.
Brackett Airport is made for taking children on a picnic. It is the last of the breed where you can eat a picnic on a covered table that is feet from an idling plane or helicopter. Because you are so close to the tarmac and the runway, you can watch planes and helicopters take off into the sky. Remember that part of the ambiance of this place is the loud engine noise of taxing aircraft, but it’s an amazing experience to see small planes and helicopters take off from so close. While sitting there, you might see a rare vintage airplane leap into the sky. On clear days, the entertainment is non-stop. “Seeing the planes take off from so close was an awesome experience,” says Patrick Beemer, men’s and women’s water polo head coach at University of La Verne. An airplane themed gift shop, full of children themed toys, is in the main building, along with clean restrooms.
A bicycle trail exits the airport parking lot and wanders into Frank G Bonelli Regional Park (Puddingstone Lake) if you want to go for a bike ride or walk. This, too, is a great place to stage a picnic. A great tip: You can enter the park free of charge if you bike or walk in from the airport parking lot.
Gene’s Grinders, located at 2125 Wright Ave., La Verne, is the perfect place to go pick up some food to bring to the airport to watch the planes. Gene’s Grinders is just a few minutes away from the airport and has burgers, subs, hot sandwiches, salads, Mexican, Asian and fish plates. You can’t go wrong with all the different varieties of foods they offer. A tip: Try the chicken teriyaki plate that comes with a salad.
Marshall Canyon Regional Park, 6550 N. Stephens Ranch Road
Marshall Canyon is a great place for a hike. It is also a super place to have a picnic. You can take a restorative hike on Stephens Ranch trail, spot ample wildlife, and then sit and have a picnic at one of the tables that is under the Live Oak Trees that form a natural shade canopy. Stephens Ranch Road holds a dirt parking lot where you can park your car and see a beautiful view looking over the city of La Verne. On clear days, you can spot Catalina Island. “The view is so pretty from the parking lot. This was my first time coming here, and I plan on coming back to do the hike,” says Porsche Double, ULV senior psychology major. There is no bathroom, so be prepared to hold it, or hike along the trail until you come upon a porta potty about a mile into your trek. If you like breakfast foods, La Verne’s Miss Donuts and Bagel is a great place to get some light delicious food for your early morning hike.
Lowell Brandt Park, 7201 Stephens Ranch Road
This small park feels like it is part of the nearby gated community. You can hear the birds singing all around in the trees. There are tables and benches, along with grassy areas where you can sit. A quality sand volleyball court, basketball court, playground, and huge baseball field are here; restrooms are on site. From the park, you will also see beautiful views of the mountains. “The neighborhood is nice and quiet, which is perfect for a beautiful day at the park,” says Jason Soohoo, ULV senior, majoring in criminology. There are no food places near Lowell Brandt Park or Marshall Canyon. But a great food pairing is Warehouse Pizza, 2340 D St., La Verne. Try the turkey/avocado or beef sandwich for great picnic fare.
Live Oak Park, 5100 Esperanza Drive
Live Oak Park is also next to a gated community, and has La Verne Fire Station 3 at its entrance. The park offers tennis courts, a huge soccer field and a playground. Ample street parking and clean bathrooms invite you over. Uncovered tables with barbecue grills are here, but if you are pairing food, try Aoki Japanese Restaurant, 2307 D St., for takeout food. If sushi is your thing, you have found the place. For everyone else, try the chicken/beef teriyaki and California roll combination, which comes with a salad and mashed potato.
Make sure to bring your friends, family, blanket and food and head out to one of these fun local parks. Your experience will be great. You probably will come back so many times that you may actually wear out that picnic basket. ■