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Tips for Planning a Picnic

planning a picnic

There’s something special about setting up a blanket, a picnic bench or even your car and enjoying a meal outdoors on a nice day. With warm weather just around the corner, there’s no better time for planning a picnic.

Whether you plan to take advantage of your own backyard or venture out to a local park, alfresco is the way to go. Here’s how to plan a picnic you won’t soon forget.


Step one to planning a picnic is preparing. From utensils to sunscreen, think about what you’ll need ahead of time and make a checklist if it helps.

First, you need a place to settle down. Bring a blanket, large towel or tablecloth to sit on in case picnic tables aren’t available. Consider lawn chairs or some kind of cushion or pillow for anyone in your party who might find the ground too uncomfortable. 

You’ll also want a picnic basket, tote, reusable shopping bags or a backpack to carry your lighter-weight and non-perishable supplies like utensils, napkins, wet wipes, hand sanitizer and a bottle opener or cork screw if needed.  

A cooler and icepacks and/or ice are essential for keeping your foods fresh and beverages cold. Consider reusable bottles, utensils and food storage containers. Make sure whatever vessels you use seal well to avoid accidental spills. 

Other picnic supplies you might want to bring along include bug spray, sunscreen, a trash bag for cleanup and an umbrella for shade. You may also want to take along a few games to stretch out the day. Kites and a Frisbee are classic if you have enough outdoor space. Board games, books and playing cards are also good options.

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Meal Planning

The best picnic foods are snacks, drinks and meals that are easy to transport and eat. Think handheld items like sandwiches and wraps. Foods that can be made ahead of time are also preferable.

Staying hydrated is important. While water is always a good idea, drinks like iced tea and lemonade are tasty and seasonal – and who can resist an Arnold Palmer?

When it comes to snacks, the possibilities are practically endless. Though you can’t go wrong with chips or pretzels, consider chopped vegetables, nuts and/or trail mix; not only are these snacks healthier, they’ll take up less room compared to airy chip bags and won’t get crushed as easily. These healthy road trip snacks also work well for picnics. 

Fresh fruits like berries, cherries, grapes, peaches and watermelon are excellent picnic treats. For something a bit sweeter, pack desserts that don’t need utensils like cookies, cupcakes and brownies.


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Finding a Spot

When planning a picnic, you may want to call the park beforehand or check online to see if they are open and what types of facilities are available. Remember to have proper park etiquette and carry out what you carry in.


Any one of Connecticut’s 139 state parks and forests, from Black Rock State Park in Watertown to Wharton Brook State Park in Wallingford, would make for an ideal picnic setting.

For scenic landscapes, visitors can picnic informally on the grounds of the Topsmead State Forest in Litchfield. The park grounds of Weir Farm National Historic Site in Ridgefield are also open daily, sunrise to sunset, year-round.


Dunn State Park in Gardner and Look Park in Florence are classic Massachusetts picnicking spots. Fans of flowers can picnic on the tables or mowed grassy areas throughout the grounds of Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston (purchasing admission tickets online in advance is recommended). And those planning a picnic with waterscapes will appreciate Crane Beach in Ipswich and World’s End in Hingham.

New Hampshire

Pack a picnic and head to one of New Hampshire’s 93 state parks, including, Bear Brook State Park, Flume Gorge, Miller State Park, Monadnock Sate Park, Pawtuckaway Sate Park, Rollins State Park and Winslow State Park.

Anyone looking for a lakefront view should consider Kezar Lake in Sutton, Massabesic Lake in Manchester or Garvins Falls Dam in Concord.

New Jersey

New Jersey is home to 33 state parks and 11 state forests. Picnic areas are available at parks like Allamuchy Mountain State Park, Cape May Point State Park, Fort Mott State Park, High Point State Park and Liberty State Park. Monmouth Battlefield State Park and Washington Rock State Park are also nice places to lay down a blanket.

New York 

From the urban parks of the city to the scenic landscapes of upstate, New York offers a variety of picnic-perfect settings to cater to any mood. For great views of the water, visit Chittenango Falls State Park in Cazenovia, Lake Erie State Park in Brocton, Letchworth State Park in Castile or Heckscher State Park Beach on Long Island. Those looking to feel close to nature will like Orange County Arboretum in Campbell Hall and Yaddo Gardens in Saratoga Springs.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island parks like Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, Brenton Point State Park in Newport and India Point Park in Providence all provide beautiful settings for your picnic.

What’s your favorite part of planning a picnic? Share your favorite picnic spot in the comments below.  

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2 Thoughts on “Tips for Planning a Picnic

  1. As a AAA member, I enjoy your road trip tips. After reading the picnic ideas, it struck me that you list the number of state parks for all but Massachusetts. I know our state has fewer than most, and they are difficult to find, but as a Massachusetts native, I would find that information interesting.

    1. Hi Marilyn. This is just a sampling by state. Massachusetts has 150 state parks. This guide on the state website is a great place to start.

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