There’s no better time than summer to dine al fresco. With bare feet, good eats and the sun on your shoulders, few things get us as excited as an outdoor feast in the brightest season of them all. Today, then, we’re sharing ideas for those who want to picnic pro. So put that Sauvignon Blanc on ice and dig out your favorite sun hat—we’re stepping up our picnic game big time with this one.
Choose Your Spot Wisely
There’s nothing worse than planning the perfect picnic only to have it ruined by mosquitoes, marshy grass, or loud construction noise. Scope your spot beforehand to ensure it will meet your needs. You should look for level ground, the option of shade, pretty aesthetics and a relatively clean area (you’ll be eating food there, after all, so stay away from areas heavy with dog-traffic or birds). If you’re hosting a picnic for a larger group (or even just want to ensure you’ll have your own pretty space to picnic in), try renting out a pretty park or outdoor venue for the afternoon.
Plan it Like You Would a Party
We love the idea of taking the everyday picnic to another level by treating it like you would a party. After all, this is no average picnic you’re throwing. Proper planning is key.
Be sure to choose a time of day when the weather will be comfortable and the sun won’t be directly in your eyes, melting your yummy eats. Invite a group of friends or family a few weeks beforehand with a picnic-themed evite. And, while the food will always be the centerpiece of any great picnic, don’t be afraid to brainstorm other ways you can add a special touch to your outdoor get-together. A few of our favorite picnic ideas include:
- Bring in some florals, however simple (think: fresh-cut garden roses in mason jars).
- Create a playlist to set the mood and bring along a quality wireless speaker to play it throughout the event.
- Skip the styrofoam plates and opt for matching outdoor dinnerware instead.
- If you have access to trees or a structure of some sort, string solar- or battery-powered market lights around your area.
- Come up with a custom hashtag and encourage your guests to use it. Include it on the invitation and on signs throughout the picnic itself.
- Add an activity to the agenda—bring along a glow-in-the-dark frisbee for post-meal playtime or even a simple deck of cards for some fun drinking games. If kiddos will be around, be sure to include some fun things for them to do as well.
- If you’re feeling extra generous, include a party favor for your guests. This could be anything from a to-go brown paper bag filled with homemade brownies to a colorful summertime graphic you download and print on nice paper for each guest.
Stick to a Theme
Every great party has some sort of theme guiding its overall aesthetic, and your pro picnic should be no different. Choose a theme for your al-fresco event and let it help define your design choices. Just remember, when you invite people to a picnic, they’ll obviously expect it to be super casual, so don’t choose anything too upscale. Instead, stick to themes that are conducive to dining on the grass in bare feet but that, at the same time, add a little something extra to the typical sandwiches-in-Ziploc-bags kind of picnics we’re all used to. Some of our favorite themed picnic ideas include:
Breakfast All Day: Bring in pitchers of Bloody Marys and mimosas, and pair your breakfast cocktails with breakfast bites, like mini quiches, bite-sized pastries or bagel sandwiches.
Beer & Burgers: Setup a beer-tasting station with seasonal IPAs and local ales. Bring in mini sliders and brown paper bags full of french fries or sweet potato fries.
Great American West: Pair vodka lemonades paired with fresh bison burgers. Bring in classic red-and-white checkered napkins and linens. Fill brown paper bags with salty potato chips or sweet-and-savory trail mix.
Summertime Sammys: Add your own twist to this classic picnic food by setting up a custom sandwich station or offering mini sandwiches. Try a fresh take on classic sandwiches (our favorites include Apple & Brie, Grilled Veggie & Hummus or Peanut Butter, Bacon & Banana). Bring along fresh fruit (think: frozen grapes on skewers) and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
Be (Over) Prepared
The best picnics are those where the host thought of everything. Things you should be sure to bring along include:
- Extra coolers filled with ice
- Bottle openers & corkscrews
- Hand wipes & hand sanitizer
- Extra blankets/jackets if your spot is known to cool down at night
- A solar charger for your guests’ phones and/or your wireless speaker
- Sunscreen to share
- Cleaning supplies (like paper towels and soap) to take care of inevitable sticky spills
- Lighters, lighter fluid, charcoal (if you're grilling)
Step up Your Seating
Typical picnics take place on the ground, but there���s no rule saying you can’t be comfy. If you want to stick to ground seating, make sure the blankets you use are thick enough to create a comfortable pad between your guests and the hard ground.
We also really love the idea of creating additional lounge areas by bringing in outdoor floor cushions, outdoor rugs, and even hammocks. If you’re having older guests or anyone with an injury, be sure to bring along some comfortable patio or folding chairs as well. We especially love this outdoor poof from World Market for a fun alternative to chairs.
Focus Your Attention On One Menu Item
You’re not going to be able to focus all of your attention on every single food item making an appearance at your picnic, so we recommend choosing one item to execute really well—think of it as the highlight of your menu. We love the Cheesemonger’s Guide to Building a Next-Level Cheese Plate for all of those charcuterie fans out there.
Another option is to craft up the perfect Bloody Mary bar by bringing in a folding table, draping it in a pretty picnic-inspired linen and laying out everything from jars of spices, to crispy bacon, to an array of olives, to pickled asparagus. We also love the idea of focusing heavily on desserts. Bake homemade apple pies and place warm slices in brown paper bags. Serve them with forks for an all-American treat that's mess-free and easy to eat.
Overall, crafting the perfect picnic is all about spending some time and energy planning everything from invites to event aesthetics. Have any pro picnic ideas we missed? Share them with us below. We'd love to hear what picnic tips and tricks you have up your sleeve.