When summer inevitably spurs the desire to dine en plein air, Atlantans have a host of tried and true options from which to choose. Piedmont Park, Stone Mountain and a host of state parks are some of the more popular choices. But in the interest of crowd avoidance -- or just having a novel experience -- we offer a few off-the-beaten path places to set up an impromptu meal. Whether a romantic dinner for two or a family friendly lunch, these options will set the perfect scene for summer's moveable feast.
Wren's Nest, 1050 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd.
10 a.m. -- 2:30p.m., Tues. -- Sat.,free -- $10.
404 -- 753-773. www.wrensnestonline.com.
The home of Joel Chandler Harris, author of "Bre'r Rabbit," is known for upholding the tradition of African-American folklore through storytelling, but the grounds provide a great setting for a picnic. There are picnic tables, but guests are also invited to spread a blanket and feast in the reading garden. Lots of trees offer shaded areas on hot summer days. Though there is a fee to enter the museum (where storytelling takes place every Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.), anyone who simply wants to enjoy a meal al fresco is admitted for free.
Millennium Gate, 395 17th St. NW
Atlantans were skeptical when the structure based on the Roman Arch of Titus was unveiled in 2008, but brides quickly discovered the romance in this picturesque setting. Green space surrounds the lake and fountain located directly behind the Gate and benches line the hillside. Fortunately, it is public property which means picnic goers can throw a blanket on the lawn and kick back. On Thursdays from 7 -- 10 p.m. throughout the summer, Music at the Arch features local bands. Take your blanket, food and beverage (alcohol is allowed), and enjoy. Just be sure to clean up after yourself.
Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site, 813 Indian Mounds Road SW, Cartersville.
9 a.m. -- 5 p.m., Wed. -- Sat., $3.50 -- $5.50.
This 54-acre site which features six earthen mounds was once home to several thousand Native Americans. It also happens to be a great location for a quiet riverside picnic. Plant your blanket near one of the benches to enjoy an outdoor meal with a fantastic view of the water. Or use one of the 20 picnic tables available on a first come, first serve basis. The entry fee includes viewing the mounds, the museum, a film and more.
"Doc" Manget Memorial Aviation Park at DeKalb Peachtree Airport, 2000 Airport Road.
24 hours.; Sun.-Sat.; Free.
The aviation park on the grounds of Atlanta's second-largest airport is a great picnic spot for families. Young children can play on airplane-themed play structures while watching planes take-off and touch down. A hangar style pavilion and picnic tables are available for lunching. If you don't have time to pack a meal, call ahead to the Downwind Restaurant and Lounge for a to-go order and enjoy it in the park.
The Carter Center, 453 Freedom Parkway.
8 a.m. -- 5 p.m.; Mon. -- Fri., Free.
404-420-5100 or 800-550-3560.www.cartercenter.org.
The Carter Center, an organization dedicated to human rights, sits on 37-acres just a few miles from downtown Atlanta. It is already known as a premier space for special events such as corporate meetings and weddings, but it is also available for smaller scale productions like afternoon picnics. There is no charge to visit the site and occupy space on the lawn for an impromptu meal in the hills or gardens.
Chattahoochee Bend State Park, 425 Bobwhite Way, Newnan.
7 a.m. -- 10 p.m.; Sun. -- Sat.; $5
This is an unexpected picnic destination only because it is the metro area's newest state park. The year-old park features a flat riverside trail leading to an observation tower, perfect for a post-meal stroll. A modern playground offers entertainment for the youngest family members and there are plenty of picnic tables, including some located near the river. Grills are available on a first come, first serve basis.