The days are long and blissfully warm, the birds are singing and everything is green and blooming; the delicious signs of summer are all around. There’s no better time to enjoy the fun of a relaxing picnic surrounded by nature’s beauty. Here are some tips to help you get on your way to a perfect picnic escape.
No matter where you are, urban or rural, mountain or prairie, there is certainly a perfect picnic destination near you. National and state parks are ideal spots for picnics, not only for their beauty, but also for the adventures that can be found there as well. Visit www.nps.gov to look for a national park near you. To locate a state park in your area, try your state government website, or check out www.touristinformationdirectory.com/parks/state_park.htm for a directory of all state parks. Local beaches, lakes and community parks are also great options. Even laying a blanket out in your own backyard can be a relaxing break to the every day routine.
Once you know where you’re going, establish a theme for your picnic. Consider your picnic guests or companions; a romantic escape on a wooded bluff watching the sunset might call for a different menu than a picnic accompanied by a rousing game of Frisbee with the kids after your meal.
For a romantic afternoon or evening, perhaps a French- or Italian-inspired picnic is just the ticket; a bottle of chilled white wine, some artisan cheese and crusty bread, sweet red grapes or even chocolate-covered strawberries will set the mood. Plan ahead and pack plastic wine glasses and even a trusty can of bug spray. Broken glass and mosquito bites could ruin a perfectly good picnic.
If you’re looking to take the kids out for the afternoon, take along finger foods that aren’t sticky or prone to spill. Make their favorite sandwiches, but use cookie cutters to cut them into fun shapes. Bring along treats they might not normally have to make the picnic special. Be sure to pack plenty of toys or games to entertain them once they’re done eating. Playing Frisbee or catch, kicking around a soccer ball or even a lively game of tag will entertain for hours. And of course, for anytime spent outdoors, bring along sunscreen.
Once you have considered your guests, theme and menu, be sure to pack all the necessary supplies. Find a sizable cooler that offers enough room for both your food and enough ice packs to keep necessary food cold. Better Homes and Gardens suggests taking two coolers: One for drinks and one for food. Food will stay cold longer in a cooler that’s not being opened and closed every time someone wants a beverage. Pack the food cooler just before leaving the house and, on those hot summer days, keep it in the air conditioned part of the car – not the trunk – so it stays cooler longer. Another great tip is to put bottled water in the freezer beforehand; use the frozen bottles as ice packs on the way to your picnic and you’ll have ice cold water to enjoy later.
If you intend to grill anything, find out in advance whether grills are available at your picnic destination or if they’re allowed. If you’re grilling meat, don’t forget your meat thermometer, and make sure you know the meat’s safe internal temperature. Remember to bring plates, utensils, napkins, cups and especially a blanket or blankets large enough to fit everyone in your party.
If there are no trashcans at your site, be sure to bring something to store all your garbage afterward, so you can take it home to dispose of it. Help keep the parks beautiful by keeping them clean. And last but not least, if you’re going anywhere beyond your backyard for your picnic, be sure to check the weather so you’re not surprised by a pesky rain shower. Having an umbrella or two on hand just in case might not be a bad idea.
With a little forethought and some imagination, you can take your picnic to the next level and impress those who mean the most to you.