The good season is here. Balmy weather and a host of long weekends till mid-March make the coming months ideal for a day out with friends and family. Here is a quick list of the top five places to go for a day-long picnic or even an overnight sojourn at some of these havens.
1. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park
Its history, its nature, it's a safari and a recreation centre too. Welcome to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park situated in Borivali. It's right in the middle of extended Mumbai's concrete jungle like a lush oasis in the midst of endless Sahara desert. Its lush, vibrant green cover extends for 104 square kilometers and surprisingly has a good quality tiger sanctuary, tiger and lion safaris, a recreational zone for the kids and cottages and camping facilities. One can go trekking and also ride a toy train.
What many people do not know, including thoroughbred Mumbai dwellers is that the park has more than 100 ancient hand-carved Buddhist caves which lend an air of history and serenity to park experience. An overnight programme in the park is value for money, a sort of quick Jim Corbett Park experience within the city itself.
Entry fee to the park is Rs. 20. Distance from South Mumabi: about 40 km
2. Hanging Garden
It was once everyone's favourite spot. A site which was then Bombay's signature landmark, complete with a giant shoe-shaped slide. But even today if you are looking for a picnic spot that's centrally located and doesn't require a lot of traveling to get to, the picturesque Hanging Garden & Kamala Nehru Park is the place to go. The garden's plant life offers relief to smog choked eyes, and if you are the one for a garden with a view then you will hang on to the dramatic view of Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach which the garden offers. On the other side of the road, the sprawling Kamala Nehru Park is home to an unusual menagerie of topiary animals. The Park has plenty of lawns, and it's easy enough to find a quiet area to spread out your lunch mat.
Go to Malabar Hill for access to the Hanging Garden. Admission is free.
3. Chota Kashmir (Aarey Colony)
If you want your weekend to be of the filmi type, try the Chota Kashmir park in Aarey Milk Colony in Goregoan. This little known site has provided the background scene for many Bollywood movie song sequences. It's tucked away inside the expansive parklands of the Aarey Milk Colony and is a great family destination. There's a small lake with row boats and paddle boats, attractive gardens and colorful flowers, lotus pond, and plenty of places to relax and enjoy the quiet. There's another popular garden a short distance away, aptly named the Picnic Spot.
The park is in Goregaon East, 32 km north west of South Mumbai. Admission free.
4. Elephanta Island
It takes about an hour by ferry to get to the Elephanta Island from the Gateway of India. The island is home to seven ancient caves hand carved out of rock. In many ways, the caves remind you of the Ajanta-Ellora caves. The main cave has a number of stunning large sculptured panels depicting the Hindu god of creation and destruction, Lord Shiva. If you're feeling energetic take a walk up to Cannon Hill, named after the old cannon placed on top of the island hill. There are a number of picnic spots to chose from whether on the hill or near the sea. For family, a trip to Elephanta can be a fun experience.
The island is about 10 km from the Gateway by ferry. Remember the caves are closed on Mondays. The entry fee is Rs. 10; for foreigners it is Rs. 250.
5. Alibaug Beach
Once again, the Gateway of India is the place to launch your weekend getaway. An hour's ferry ride from Mumbai and you'll find yourself at Alibaug, beach playground for the rich and famous. The main black sand beach is very popular, but venture a little further south and you'll discover the less frequented Akshi, Nagaon, and Kihim beaches. Alibaug has fascinating old forts and ornate temples for those who wish to combine history with the beach experience. Some trendy top-end hotels are also located here for you to party with family or disco the New Year's Eve away. You can try living a night as a beach bum, too.
Ashwini is a Lucknow-based media professional who culls out travel experiences while on mundane assignments