Perfect Picnics
by Dave

Couple relaxing on a blanket during their romantic picnic
Why don't you find a scenic spot to enjoy the fresh air and get to know your date in a low key setting - with some of these romantic picnic ideas! Maybe you're looking for the perfect setting to take a date that doesn't involve so much hustle and bustle. During picnics you're not staring at each other across a table, trying to make conversation through a noisy restaurant while waiters constantly check in. Instead it's more of a relaxed, natural vibe as you sit there watching the world go by, talking about interests and the scenery, playing cards, or even just laying back to take in the sky. And there's no set routine for the meal either; if you're not clicking then pack it in and head home, but if things are going well, you're free to lounge around for hours. Perfect.

So what makes a perfect picnic? Is it the right food or location, good weather, things to do, privacy, or peace and quiet? I think it's probably a combination of all that stuff. Of course good company beats the rest of it, but since I can't write the perfect person into your date I'll just offer some ideas for the other parts and hope the company works itself out. The two big issues for romantic picnic ideas are where to go and what to bring. Let's start with the where:

Picnic with a View

Places with interesting scenery are good choices - they show you're not boring, provide things to talk about, and the setting makes it easier to relax and open up. How about:
  • A hilltop where you can see people fly kites, sail, surf, paraglide, fly remote-controlled gliders, or do any other fun-to-watch activities. Avoid noise, things like waverunners are better from a distance.
  • A place to watch sports while you picnic, like a polo field, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee, or any other local club sports
  • A view of the city skyline, a bridge, bay or harbor, stadium, or other attractive landmark
  • Botanical gardens
  • Historic areas with old buildings and architecture

Back to Nature

The wild has some amazing areas for a romantic picnic. Try to find a spot that doesn't require too much of a walk and keep the meal light if you're hiking in. National or state parks are good places to start and remember that bathrooms can be an issue in the wild. Try:
  • Along a lake, river, or near a waterfall
  • An open meadow
  • Hillside looking out across a valley
  • Nature preserves
  • The desert during more temperate months
  • Wooded areas or a forest clearing

The Beach

Beach picnics provide all kinds of fun things to see and do. If crowds are an issue consider going later in the day when families are heading home and remember to bring a beach umbrella or canopy for shade. The biggest issue with picnicking at the beach is sand being blown into your food. I recommend finger foods that can be eaten out of Tupperware containers so that you can keep the food covered while eating. When thinking of beach spots, consider:
  • Cliffs along the shoreline where you can see miles and miles of coast
  • Beaches with built-in bbq's for grilling
  • Fire pits are a fun way to stay past sunset and roast marshmallows
  • If on a lake or other calm body of water, think about small docks
  • If you have a lake in your area, could you take a rowboat to a secluded spot?

Parks

Parks are the picnic staple and can be great if you have a well-maintained one nearby.
  • Look for parks that offer concerts or other productions by talking to your parks department
  • Investigate parks in surrounding areas by visiting city websites
  • Find one with good space and shade so you can get away from the crowds and sun

Seasonal

Picnics are suited to warmer times of the year but that doesn't mean you can't have one in the dead of winter!
  • Enjoy the changing of the seasons by taking a drive to an area where you can experience the brilliant colors of fall. Bring a waterproof blanket, warm clothes and hot food!
  • Plan a picnic is the snow with hot cider, cocoa, coffee, tea, or mulled wine, along with a big container of hot soup. Bring a waterproof blanket and keep food warm in cooler with heated bricks (see food section below). While you're out there pick a spot to go sledding or build a snowman!
  • Enjoy the blooming spring flowers by taking a drive to the country and having a picnic in a meadow among the wildflowers. Pick a bouquet to take home and enjoy for the rest of the week. Don't forget a container to keep the flowers watered for the ride home.

Others

  • Rooftop
  • Festivals
  • On a boat
  • Pick your own fruit farm
  • Vineyard, along with wine tasting

What to Bring

I’m not going to lay out a menu here, but take a look at our picnic ideas page for suggestions. Because of the natural issues with picnics, such as bugs, wind, dirt, and food heating issues, my personal preference is to keep things very simple with foods that can be eaten by hand, right out of Tupperware containers. The menu choice is up to you, but here are some basic food tips:

  • Mayonnaise spoils quickly, keep it refrigerated and add to salads or sandwiches after arrival
  • Keep eggs and dairy products well-chilled
  • Keep food cold with frozen bottles of water that you can drink later after they’ve thawed
  • If you’re bringing hot food, one trick for keeping it warm is to put a few bricks in the oven at 250 degrees F for 45 minutes or so, and then wrap them in tin foil and place in a cooler on top of a towel (so they don't melt through). This will keep anything you put in the cooler warm for up to an hour.
  • Use Ziploc bags to keep food fresh
  • Pack soft foods in hard containers so they don’t get squished
  • Pack food just before leaving for the picnic
  • Make sure alcohol is permitted if you plan on bringing it

This is a big list of possible items that may give you ideas or at least keep you from forgetting important things:

  • Thick blanket (waterproof if area's damp)
  • Small cooler
  • Picnic basket or backpack
  • Napkins
  • Disposable plates, plastic cups and utensils
  • Condiments
  • Wet wipes
  • One plastic bag for trash and another for used dishware or glasses that you're taking home
  • Jug of water and 2 light towels to clean up. Dampen the towels and use to freshen up, remove sunscreen, clean dog paws, etc
  • Bug spray (optional)
  • Wine glasses (optional)
  • Corkscrew (optional)
  • Umbrella or canopy for shade (optional)
  • Hats or sunscreen (optional)
  • Warm clothes if it might cool off (optional)
  • Flashlight (optional)
  • Camera (optional)
  • Talcum powder around the outside of the picnic blanket to keep ants away (optional)

And some romantic picnic ideas:

  • Small vase and flowers, picked upon arrival if possible
  • Tealight candles in glass tumblers or large shot glasses, or a solar sun jar if you're staying past sunset
  • Music
  • A pillow or two

What to do

Sometimes sitting down and getting to know each other is plenty, but other times you'll want to do something besides talk. Try:

  • Flying a kite
  • Play games like backgammon, cribbage, or cards
  • Frisbee
  • Let your dog(s) enjoy the picnic with you and play
  • Swimming
  • Bocce ball or other lawn games
  • Hiking
  • Listen to each other's favorite music
  • Bring 5 or 6 types of wine and have you own wine tasting
  • Play catch with a football or kick a soccer ball around
  • Do a crossword puzzle together
  • Lay back and spot cloud shapes
  • An after-lunch stroll
  • Bring bubbles!


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