As people continue to get back out into the world after the events of the last few years, picnics are becoming a popular pastime. A luxury picnic combines gourmet dining, relaxation, and closeness to nature into one delightful package. Whether you want to celebrate an occasion, go on a memorable date, or relax and unwind an outdoor picnic is a great place to start. Here, I’ll offer some easy planning and preparation tips for the perfect picnic.
Choosing the Right Spot
The first and most crucial picnic planning tip is to choose the right location. Every area has hidden gems, and it’s up to you to find a place with great amenities and beautiful scenery. While local picnic spots may seem like obvious choices, a more intimate and exclusive locale will provide an elevated experience.
Picking a Theme
A theme is an easy way to unify a picnic’s diverse elements. It can help you choose a setting, determine what type of food will be served, and encourage guests to dress up for the occasion. A teatime theme, complete with live roses, tea sandwiches, and refined, yet durable serving pieces, will have everyone talking. Alternatively, shell-print blankets, umbrellas, and sun hats will create a beachside ambiance. When planning a picnic, your theme options are endless.
Handling the Logistics
Organization and planning will ensure a relaxing, seamless picnic experience. When I set up my last picnic, I stayed a step ahead by checking the weather forecast and planning accordingly. Be sure to secure any necessary permits and follow all local regulations—and don’t forget about guest parking, transportation, and catering, which can make for a stress-free picnic.
Setting the Table
If a picnic blanket isn’t in your plans, a few basic tweaks will dress up your picnic table. It isn’t the time for plastic tablecloths—fabric table coverings will give your guests the look and feel they deserve. Fresh flowers make charming centerpieces, and candles will lend a relaxed ambiance to an evening picnic. Consider adding a few citronella candles to keep bugs away.
Creating the Menu
A successful picnic is made up of many parts, with the menu at the core. My most successful picnics have been those that delighted guests and complemented the occasion. When creating a picnic menu, be sure to offer a range of high-quality gourmet foods, but don’t forget about guests’ dietary restrictions. For a stress-free experience, choose packable treats that will stay fresh all day.
Preparing Culinary Delights
Food preparation is one of the hardest parts of picnic planning, but it is also rewarding. It’s the perfect opportunity to show off your cooking skills—but if you’re anything like me, you’ll opt to hire a caterer or a chef! Proper storage and transportation are crucial, as is the selection of serving dishes that make the experience more luxurious while preserving the food’s flavor.
Adding Charcuterie Boards
Charcuterie is trending—and a great meat and cheese board is a must for a memorable picnic. From summer’s best fruits to boards loaded with fall flavors, charcuterie boards are an easy, cost-effective way to add refinement to a picnic.
Start by selecting an eye-catching board made of wood, marble, or melamine. Load it up with cold cuts, nuts, dips, olives, cheese, and fruit, mixing and matching shapes to create intricate designs. Don’t forget to add dipping spoons, spreaders, slicers, and tongs, so guests can grab and go. I get most of my ideas from Instagram and Pinterest, so start there if you’re stumped.
Impressing Your Guests
Creating a warm and welcoming ambiance is another important part of planning a successful picnic. Consider seating choices like cushions, blankets, and chairs, and create an elegant atmosphere with sophisticated decorations and refined lighting. To offer guests a next-level experience, add a few outdoor games, set out some memorable books, and play some soothing music. With the inclusion of picnic baskets and tableware sets, you’ll add a touch of class.
Savoring the Experience
Once it’s all set up, it’s time to kick back, relax, and become immersed in the picnic experience. Encourage guests to bask in nature’s beauty, savor delicious food, and enjoy the company of family and friends. Offer plenty of opportunities to create memories, such as taking a sunset walk, snapping a stunning photo, or creating a family video.
Packing the Right Accessories
For a hassle-free picnic experience, bring the right accessories. I usually have all these basics in my picnic kit:
- Cutting boards
- Serving dishes (I like melamine for its durability and easy cleaning)
- Extra utensils
- Wet wipes
- A cooler for drinks
- A bottle opener
Put it all in a tote or a basket and be sure to add some to-go containers (so you can send guests home with leftovers) and some bags for cleanup and recycling.
Leaving No Trace
When we dine al fresco, we don’t dine alone. To minimize risks to wildlife and avoid pest infestation, bag up food waste and pack leftovers into containers. If you’re in an area where bears are known to roam, the National Park Service offers guidelines on safe food storage. And, to keep yourself off the menu while reducing the risk of skin cancer, be sure to pack a spray that offers protection from sunburn and bug bites in a single application.
Like a good camper, a good picnicker should follow the age-old rule: leave the site better than it was when you arrived. Bring some extra cleanup bags, so you can put trash in its place. And, if you’ve used park tables, grills, or other communal items, be sure to clean them after use.
Togetherness and Taste
Outdoor picnics combine the best of nature, dining, and relaxation. By choosing the right location, planning a delicious meal, setting a welcoming scene, and enhancing guests’ experience, you can create memories that last a lifetime. Gather your family and friends, pack up a picnic basket, and dine in style!