When the weather turns warm, sunny, and just this side of spectacular, we take it as a sign from above that it’s time to grab our honeys, round up the family and friends, and pack a picnic. If you’re feeling the same way, keep scrolling for some easy picnic recipes, tips for how to pack the perfect picnic, ideas for a little extra outdoor ambience, and more.
We’re not exactly sure what it is about picnics that makes them something we could never tire of, but bugs, dirt, and rain be damned—we don’t need an excuse to put together a terrific spread; find a sweet spot on the lawn, the hiking trail, or the beach; toss a blanket, a throw or an indoor/outdoor rug on the ground; and get snack happy. Here are five great picnic ideas to try this weekend, and all summer long.
1. Pick up a copy of The Tanglewood Picnic.
Multitalented author and friend of Fresh American Gina Hyams has put together this little gem of a book, which features 150 archival and contemporary photos of one of our all-time favorite picnic venues: Tanglewood, home of concerts and culture in the Berkshires since 1940. Gina’s book also includes menu inspiration and original recipes, plus a handy checklist for picnic supplies. The recipes and tips are applicable to picnics just about anywhere, so keep a copy in your favorite picnic tote or basket all season long.
2. Choose a handful easy-prep, easy-pack recipes.
We’re partial to these simple, stay-cool recipes, but you can also try this curried chicken salad, or this peanut-sesame soba noodle salad, which is equally tasty hot and cold. No matter what you choose, think good-quality, fresh ingredients that will keep well in a cooler for an afternoon or evening. Add in some crowd-pleasing favorites like sliced cheese and crackers, veggie chips, and fresh sliced fruit, and you’re as good as gold.
3. Gather your comfort essentials.
Sure, picnics are all about al fresco simplicity. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice comfort. Pick up an inexpensive indoor/outdoor rug—so much sturdier than a blanket, plus it provides some extra under-cheek protection—plus cotton throws for chilly evenings, a floor pillow or two, and some bright, fun linen napkins. Then follow these tips from Annie on the other essentials you’ll need to make your picnic a big success.
4. Think outside the wine bottle.
Don’t get us wrong: a bottle of wine makes every picnic (especially one with lots of kids 😉 ) just a little more relaxing. But this summer we’re mixing it up with mixology, and adding these picnic cocktails from our friends at Food & Wine to our repertoire. The Blackberry & Cabernet Caipirinha and Cajun Lemonade are standouts.
5. Light it up.
Even if you’re hosting a picnic during the day (and as long as you’re not in a public venue that prohibits open flames), candles are a nice touch for two reasons: they add an extra bit of ambience, especially as the sun goes down, and you can make them do double duty as bug repellant. Stock up on mini candle lanterns, like this industrial-sleek style from UCO or these rustic galvanized lanterns from Crate and Barrel, and hang them on metal stakes—the best option, especially if there are children in your picnic party—or arrange them on the ground around your picnic; use flat rocks or pieces of wood to help keep them upright on uneven ground.