Where is your favorite spot to picnic at Millennium Park

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With beautiful summer weather upon us here in Chicago, I decided to plan a picnic for my children and I at Millennium Park. We have basically finished schooling for this session and I wanted to have a fun filled day with the kiddos. They are always begging for a picnic and there never seems to be enough time to prepare, so I knew this would be a fantastic surprise for them.

Chicago is blessed with some amazing sights and parks, but I knew the perfect location for our little picnic. My children love Millennium Park and it totally helps that it is free. Millennium Park has amazing views of the Chicago skyline and just makes us all smile. I know it is the most obvious choice to picnic, but it really is the top spot.

Before we hit the park, I wanted to stop by our favorite grocer, Mariano's, and pack a picnic basket with some tasty goods.  I heart Mariano's so much and truth be told, my kids adore going to this grocer with me as well (it must be the gelato). I feel so European shopping there and I knew I could pack a great, healthy picnic for my children and myself. Mariano's carries all the organic fruits that we eat and they are always reasonably priced.

I zipped right into the Lakeshore East Mariano's location and popped into the store. I went to the produce section first for some fresh organic fruit, which my kiddos love to gobble up. I was opting for some fresh baked bread, cheese and salami for my lunch(a rare treat), but couldn't resist the bean salad from the olive station.

My daughters were begging for the edamame beans from the sushi station and I was really hoping they would just share those with me. My son insisted he needed his own baguette of bread because he was simply starving. Since this was a special day, I allowed the fresh baked bread. Normally, we only eat sprouted grain bread, which is very hard to find. Guess who carries it? Yep, I am so lucky to locate several brands at Mariano's. My son also insisted on a box of fresh baked cookies for dessert and I agreed, we did need dessert for this special day.

We made our way over to the sandwich section as I thought they would each just grab a ready made sandwich, but they spied the World Eats Hot Bar. The World Eats Hot Bar was packed with everyone else grabbing their lunches! My kids were walking around the Hot Bar trying to decide what they wanted to eat and all I could think was "oh my, everything smells so delicious". They finally made their very important decision on what they were to eat for our picnic and we made our way to the cashier with my Mariano's Reward card in hand {guess who scored two large containers of the infamous gelato a couple of weeks ago with this very same rewards card}.

Another amazing aspect of Mariano's is if I can't locate something, I simply ask and I am directed to what I am looking for in a matter of mere moments. I find the staff to be gracious and genuine and that really enhances my love for Mariano's. It totally helps that Mariano's carries all the organic foods that we eat.  I don't allow my children to eat cow dairy {it really is considered a treat in my house} and I am so happy that Mariano's carries such a huge selection of non-cow-dairy products for my family. I really look for foods that have minimal ingredients -- no added oils, sugars, salts and if possible no added flavors, no forms of MSG, no soy. I can usually find all I need at Mariano's. I try to buy goods in glass and products with minimal packaging. I'm so fortunate to have not one, but several Mariano's in my area. The staff are always willing to help me locate a product I need in another store. I'm telling you . . . I really HEART Mariano's.

I noticed on the way out there was a beautiful store patio that was huge and pretty, where one could enjoy their lunch. The weather was a bit cool to have lunch there for the kiddos, but I can see us having lunch there soon as it is an ideal spot to eat. There was even a small area inside away from the cool winds, but the children were so excited to visit the bean and the fountain, we scooted right out of there.  We hopped right over to Millennium Park to locate a perfect spot to enjoy our delicious selections. Mariano's Lakeshore East offers 2 (TWO) hours of free parking, so we had plenty of time to enjoy our picnic.

It turned out to be such a beautiful, sunny day at Millennium Park. I was so elated I had made the decision to have a picnic with the children. They had so much fun throwing some crumbs to some very chubby pigeons and we all enjoyed a very healthy lunch while taking in the great atmosphere of Chicago.

The children could not be contained any longer and we simply had to walk over and enjoy The Bean and admire ourselves in its shiny reflection. After a bit, we decided to see the giant walls that display the ever-changing faces of Chicagoans at Crown Fountain and frolic about in some water.

We love Chicago as there is so much to see and it is so diverse. We had a really enjoyable, inexpensive family time picnicking today and I can't wait to do it again soon. #MyMariano's picnic was a snap to pull off.

Where is your favorite spot to picnic? Be sure to pop over and see my photo story on Google+. Check out the Mariano’s Community page for some other suggestions. If you are fortunate to have Mariano’s in your neighborhood,  be sure to connect with them on Twitter and Facebook!