Summer may be synonymous with picnics, but I think fall is a much better time of year to dine al fresco — especially in the Santa Clarita Valley, where summer can be brutally hot. Fall offers tolerable temperatures that allow for lingering outdoors and enjoying the many beautiful landscapes that this valley has to offer. So, whether you like the desert, being near water or luxuriating on a lawn, here are some beautiful spots to bring friends or family, a picnic basket and make a day of it. Bridgeport Park 23520 Bridgeport Lane, Valencia Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Free A peaceful spot with beautiful water features, including a waterfall and small lake, Bridgeport Park is an idyllic place to relax over good food and conversation. Take a seat on one of the thoughtfully provided benches or spread out on the grass, taking the time to smell some of the park’s fragrant flowers. As a bonus for bird lovers, there are ducks, geese, and blackbirds to watch and miles of paseos to take a leisurely stroll after your meal. Castaic Lake 32132 Castaic Lake Drive, Castaic Open 7:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. $11 parking ($5 for seniors) Longing for a beach experience, but don’t feel like dealing with the drive or masses of people? Head to the lower part of Castaic Lake. Here, you can hang out of the sandy shore and watch the glistening water or head up the hill a bit to a grassy spot. Once the picnic is done, walk along the shore for miles and stop at the impressive 425’ high Castaic Dam. And if you’re looking for a spot to hold masses of people, Castaic Lake rents out picnic areas for up to 600 guests. William S. Hart Park 24151 Newhall Avenue, Newhall Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free It’s easy to see why this is a popular spot for family reunions and other festivities. Hart Park has lots of grass, huge shade trees, picnic tables and people-watching opportunities. Spread out a blanket on the soft, cushy lawn, lay back and look up at the sky. Afterward, burn off a few calories by going for a stroll on one of the easily accessible paths or take a quick trip to the museum, which has Western memorabilia galore — or visit some of the adorable animals in the barnyard area. Placerita Canyon Nature Center 19152 Placerita Canyon, Santa Clarita Open sunrise to sunset Free This is the place to head if you truly want to feel away from the hustle and bustle. Placerita has a huge, campground-like picnic area featuring large tables under shaded oak groves and a seasonal stream running nearby. After you eat, there’s something for everyone to explore — from native plants to the Walker Family cabin to a plethora of easy to navigate hiking trails ranging from easy to moderate. Todd Longshore Park 28151 Whites Canyon Road, Canyon Country Open 6 am to 10 pm Free This is the classic community park, with soccer games going on in the lawn area and happy little kids being pushed in swings by their parents. What makes this place extra special is its cleanliness, the plush lawns, and the pagoda-style picnic tables that provide shade. A few of those tables are located at the top of the park with fabulous views of the city below, so it’s a stellar place to unwind and have a bite. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area 10700 Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce Open 8 am to 5 pm Free For a rustic, otherworldly experience, head to Vasquez Rocks. With its jutting, jagged, magnificent mountains, the 932-acre park has served as the backdrop for many movies and TV shows, such as “Westworld,” “Star Trek” and “Masters of the Universe.” There are plenty of picnic tables scattered about here, but if you really want to take advantage of the spectacular scenery, hike up on one of the rocks and take in an incredible vista along with your meal.