Springtime in the Sonoran Desert is one of the most beautiful – yet fleeting – seasons. The desert comes to life with vibrant colors, sights and smells as the weather warms up ahead of the impending summer days. May is the perfect month to get outside and explore local parks – while you’re out, why not have a picnic?

Although it sounds simple, parks have been noted in surveys as an essential factor in the livability of a community, according to a National Recreation and Park Association report. Parks hold health and environmental benefits and generate social importance, providing the perfect space for a picnic with family and friends.

“A study by Penn State University showed significant correlations to reductions in stress, lowered blood pressure, and perceived physical health to the length of stay in visits to parks,” according to the National Recreation and Park Association. Here are our top picks for the best parks to visit in May.

Papago Park

625 N. Galvin Pkwy. 

Papago Park is just a few minutes from downtown Tempe and is known for its large sandstone buttes. It offers a variety of hiking trails and holds Hunt’s Tomb, a naturally occurring attraction listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park also hosts the Phoenix Zoo, Desert Botanical Gardens, Papago Sports Complex and an archery range. 

Indian Bend Park

3432 E. Presidio Road

This park is part of the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt that runs through Scottsdale. The Greenbelt features an 11-mile oasis with lakes, walking paths and golf courses, of which Indian Bend Wash Park is included. The park is near the water, so visitors can enjoy lake scenery while exploring the area. 

  “There’s lots of shade, it’s close to a lake, and it also provides a lot of privacy because people tend to forget that park is there – it’s hidden,” said Rea Fuller, owner and director of the Fancy Basket, a professional luxury picnic service in Arizona.

Arcadia Park

56th St. and Indian School Road

Another option is Arcadia Park, located at 56th St. and Indian School, right down the road from Ingleside Middle School. This park is ideal for families with young children as it features a playground, large grassy areas, and various picnic tables.

Katchina Park

4304 E. Campbell Ave.

Kachina Park is tucked away in the heart of Arcadia. There are grassy areas, pavilions, picnic tables, and even a dog pool for four-legged friends.

These parks have one thing in common: they provide prime real estate to host a picnic.

“Picnics are important because they allow family and friends to have quality time together without interruptions, like cellphones, television and the internet. People enjoy each other’s company, talk and have fun,” Fuller said.

She recommends planning your adventure ahead of time and accounting for “location, time, and of course, shade! Make sure you have enough water and keep cool,” she said. 

As far as the actual contents of the picnic basket? Fuller’s answer was simple: “You can’t go wrong with all of your favorite foods!”