Urban picnic, anyone? 9 Spots to dine outdoors, a la carte

November 1, 2019
By Dana Sullivan
By Dana Sullivan

With limited prep needed, you can leave the picnic basket behind.

If your definition of “outdoorsy” includes cocktails on a patio, then this list is for you.

Thoughts of a traditional picnic probably reflect grassy fields, checkered blankets, and oversized baskets filled with homemade sandwiches and snacks. If that feels a little too old-school for your taste, let’s modernize the simple act of enjoying a meal outside in a city setting.

For those unfamiliar with the term, an urban picnic could include homemade fare, but it could also just as easily consist of a tasty and convenient to-go order from your favorite restaurant. And with a burgeoning downtown scene, plazas galore, and beautiful weather, Tucson has no shortage of spots to enjoy this modern take on outdoor eating.

Ready to give it a go? Leave the picnic basket at home and check out a few of our favorite places around town to enjoy an urban picnic.

The Plaza at Hotel Congress

311 Congress St.
Street Corn and HOCO Hot Wings at Plaza Eats (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Street Corn and HOCO Hot Wings at Plaza Eats (Credit: Jackie Tran)

At night, the plaza at Hotel Congress typically serves as a dance floor and venue for live music and DJs. But during the day, it’s a charming outdoor space complete with a food truck, plenty of seating and city ambiance. Part of the plaza is reserved for guests of Cup Cafe, but the rest of the seating is fair game.

For more information, visit hotelcongress.com.

St. Philip’s Plaza

4280 N. Campbell Ave.


Located on the corner of North Campbell and East River Road, St. Philip’s Plaza is home to several shops and restaurants, including Union and Reforma. But you don’t have to dine inside to appreciate the space. Enjoy a meal outside on a bench, by the fountain, or on one of the small grassy areas and take in the picturesque landscaping, tile artwork, and architecture.
For more information, visit stphilipsplaza.com.

The Boxyard

238 N. Fourth Ave.
Boxyard on Fourth Avenue (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Boxyard on Fourth Avenue (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Nestled within the hustle and bustle of historic Fourth Avenue, The Boxyard is a unique destination with brightly colored shipping containers and sparkling lights. Choose from several locally owned and independently operated food vendors (all serving a variety of cuisines) like Nhu Lan Vietnamese, Indian Twist, Percheron Mexican Grill, and Bronx BX BBQ. Two bars serve everything from local beers to creative cocktails, and a spacious courtyard with plenty of tables means you won’t want to miss out on having an urban picnic here.

For more information, visit theboxyardtucson.com.

Reid Park

The corner of E. 22nd St. & Country Club Rd.


We know what you’re thinking—a park is the usual place you’d go for a picnic. The popular Reid Park, however, made the list thanks to its convenient location and multitude of activities. You can visit the Reid Park Zoo, tour the Reid Park Rose Garden, or dine at any one of the park pavilions.

Nearby food options include Falora Pizza and the original Tumerico, or if you want a true picnic, peruse a selection of local and gourmet items at Rincon Market. And Barrio Bread’s just down the street, too.

For more information, visit tucsonaz.gov.

Mercado San Agustin

100 S. Avenida del Convento


With a light and bright courtyard that was practically made for outdoor eating, the Mercado San Agustin plaza is an ideal choice for an urban picnic. Seis Kitchen and Agustin Kitchen offer laid-back and elevated fare, respectively, while Presta Coffee, La Estrella Bakery, Dolce, and Sonoran Sno-Cones provide your caffeine kick and sugar fix. And don’t forget to check out the local retail shops once you’re done dining.

For more information, visit mercadodistrict.com/mercado.

MSA Annex

267 S. Avenida del Convento
Westbound at the MSA Annex
Westbound at the MSA Annex (Photo by Kate Severino)

An extension of the Mercado San Agustin plaza, MSA Annex is a modern, upscale shopping center with several restaurants and a bar to boot. The seating is ample and located throughout, so you can drink and dine wherever your heart pleases. If you missed our recent writeup on MSA Annex, go check it out for a complete list of shops and restaurants sure to satisfy the urban picnicker.

For more information, visit mercadodistrict.com/annex.

Various Local Breweries

(Credit: Pueblo Vida Brewing Company)
(Credit: Pueblo Vida Brewing Company)

As far as urban picnics go, a beer and a bite sound pretty good to us. If a brewery doesn’t serve their own food, oftentimes you can bring in your own. Dragoon Brewing Co. and Pueblo Vida allow you to BYOM (we’re coining it: bring your own meal). Dragoon, located on West Grant Road, is known for tasty yet potent brews and quirky events like a weekly yoga class called “Bakasana and Beer.” Pueblo Vida, the brewery known for its artsy cans and sustainable practices, resides in a building that’s over 100 years old on East Broadway.

Know of any BYOM breweries? Let us know in the comments below.

For more information, check out our April 2019 article Your Guide to 21 Tucson Breweries that are Hoppin’.

Jácome Plaza

101 N. Stone Ave.


When it’s not serving as the location for Tucson Meet Yourself, Jácome Plaza is a prime location for enjoying an outdoor meal. Sprinkled with bright red bistro tables and various other seating accommodations, the plaza is conveniently located near countless downtown restaurants.

For more information, visit tucsonaz.gov.

Sabino Canyon

5700 N. Sabino Canyon Rd.


Although not exactly urban per se, Sabino Canyon makes the list because of its close proximity to several northeast restaurants. This means you can take your order to-go and enjoy it in the scenic state park. Another option: pack a light picnic and enjoy it on the trails — just make sure to bring out any trash that you bring in!

For more information, visit sabinocanyon.com.

Have a favorite spot to enjoy an urban picnic? Let us know in the comments.

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