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Plan an Urban Picnic

The blazing concrete jungle may seem to lack foliage, but look again. You can still find a shady patch of grass behind the skyscraper down the street. So grab a wicker basket, pack up some panini, and trek to a leafy city oasis.

The Public Garden (www.cityofboston.gov/parks) is just one gem in Frederick Law Olmsted's Emerald Necklace, America's oldest series of parks, which runs through Beantown. Lounge under the spreading willow tree near the Lagoon and watch the swan boats drift by.

Aiming to provide every resident with a park no more than six blocks away, Minneapolis has dozens. The favorite: Chain of Lakes (www.minneapolisparks.org), connected by a 13-mile path for bikers, walkers, and joggers. Skip the popular Lake Harriet and find some quiet on the Lake of Isles shore. Or you can work in some exercise by renting a canoe and paddling two miles from Lake Calhoun to Brownie Lake.

Denver's newly minted Commons Park (www.denvergov.org) has a traditional picnic area, but the real appeal is the sky garden—a raised mound of grass with a central depression where leisure-seekers can sit back and see nothing but sky.

The country's largest urban wooded patch, Portland's Forest Park (www.parks.ci.portland.or.us) covers 5,000 acres and is home to 50 species of mammals and 100 kinds of birds. For an unbeatable vista of Mount St. Helens, take Firelane 5 off the main Saltzman Road to a grassy plot that awaits picnickers.

Of Atlanta's 20-plus large parks, most with barbecue pavilions, Piedmont Park (www.ci.atlanta.ga.us) ranks high for its lake, meadows, and botanical garden. If your picnic doesn't require a grill, meander through the 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park (www.centennialpark.com) to the great lawn, where you'll find ample space to stretch out and soak up the last days of summer.
—H.G.

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