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. Although this summer is going to look a little different than past seasons, there’s no better time for planning a picnic. As we recover from the pandemic and slowly ease into our new normal, alfresco is the way to go, especially when gathering in small groups.
Whether you plan to take advantage of your own backyard or venture out to a local park, 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. Pack 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 household 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 consider packing 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.
When you’re going on a trip, sometimes the best thing to do is to follow your stomach. In recent years, food tourism has become more and more popular.
The best picnic foods are snacks, drinks and meals that are easy to transport and eat. Foods that can be made ahead of time are also preferable.
Classic picnic foods include sandwiches, wraps and grilled or fried chicken. Sides like fruit, pasta and potato salads are also popular, along with coleslaw and deviled eggs.
Staying hydrated is important when it’s hot. While water is always a good idea, drinks like iced tea and lemonade are tasty and seasonal — and who can resist an Arnold Palmer? If you’re staying home to picnic, you can always mix up a spiked version for the adults.
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 are also great for picnics.
Seasonal fruits like berries, cherries, grapes, peaches and watermelon are excellent summer picnic treats. For something a bit sweeter, desserts that don’t need utensils like cookies, cupcakes and brownies are ideal.
Finding a Spot
As summer weather draws more people outdoors, public areas are beginning to reopen. If you’re going out in public, continue using caution and try to stay local. Follow state and CDC guidelines like only visiting parks that are close to home, staying at least six feet away from non-household members and avoiding gatherings of over 10 people.
When it comes to picnicking, always check online beforehand to see which parks are open. Please note that in many areas, public restrooms and indoor facilities are closed and wearing masks/face coverings is encouraged or many be required.
If local parks are overcrowded, consider planning a picnic in your own backyard. If it’s raining, there’s no need to cancel either. An indoor picnic can be just as fun for kids and can be a creative date idea. Simply lay a blanket down on the floor of your living room or den, enjoy the food you prepared and play longer games like Monopoly or Risk or watch a movie.
Connecticut’s 139 state parks and forests, from the American Legion State Forest in Barkhamsted to the Windsor Meadows State Park in Windsor, are open with restrictions. The grounds of the Old Lighthouse Museum in Stonington, Weir Farm National Historic Site in Ridgefield and Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam also offer scenic landscapes that pair perfectly with lunch.
Massachusetts has guidelines for park visitors. Dunn State Park in Gardner and Look Park in Florence are classic picnicking spots. Fans of flowers will like the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston or Cape Cod Lavender Farm in Harwich, while those who are planning a picnic with waterscapes will appreciate Chapel Brook Falls in Ashfield or Sages Ravine in Sheffield.
Residents of New Hampshire currently have to make online reservations to visit several of its 93 state parks, including Bear Brook Sate Park, Flume Gorge, Miller State Park, Monadnock Sate Park, Pawtuckaway Sate Park, Rollins State Park and Winslow State Park. Anyone looking for a waterfront view should consider Kezar Lake in Sutton, Massabesic Lake in Manchester or Garvins Falls Dam in Concord.
In New Jersey, picnic areas are currently closed and can be enjoyed virtually through the #njparksfromhome social media campaign. Once the state opens up more, New Jersey is home to plenty of state parks where you can picnic, like High Point State Park in Sussex, Hacklebarney State Park in Long Valley and Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Duke Farms in Hillsborough, Historic Smithville and Stokes State Forest in Branchville are also nice places to lay down a blanket.
Great views of water can be found at Chittenango Falls State Park in Cazenovia, Lake Erie State Park in Brocton, Letchworth State Park in Castile and 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.
What’s your favorite part of planning a picnic? Share your favorite picnic spots in the comments below.