Picnic Pointers: How to Plan the Perfect Meal in the Great Outdoors

It’s June 18th, which means today is International Picnic Day! While we certainly don’t need any extra incentive to pack up our picnic gear and head to the state parks for a leisurely meal in the great outdoors, there’s no better day than today to honor this holiday by doing just that. Wondering just how to plan the perfect picnic? Here are some tips to make sure your International Picnic Day celebration is a smashing success.

Image: www.dailyhealthchallenge.tumblr.com

These old fogies are showing us how it’s done!
[Image: www.dailyhealthchallenge.tumblr.com]

Location, location, location!

If there’s one thing to nitpick on your picnic, it’s the location. After all, it would be a huge bummer to descend on a park at random only to discover there isn’t a picnic table to be found or that it’s right next door to an unappetizing-smelling sewage plant. Allow us to toot our own horn and suggest using your Pocket Ranger® app to search for destinations By Activity to find the complete list of state park picnicking locales – there really is no better way to find the perfect place for a picnic. Perhaps you’re traveling with a large group and could use a picnic pavilion, or maybe you require a grill to fire up your lunch. Whatever type of picnic spot you have in mind, your app will give you the detailed information you need on each park’s facilities so that you can decide which picnic area best suits your needs.

Fabulous Food

Yes, please. [Image: www.thisoldhouse.com]

Yes, please.
[Image: www.thisoldhouse.com]

You can’t have a picnic without a meal. Well, maybe you can, but it would be very sad and unenjoyable and everybody would have a case of the Hunger Grumps. Avoid that by preparing killer foods to enjoy in the great outdoors. Keep it simple; this is not the time to perfect your paella recipe. Aim for the classic crowd pleasers that can be whipped up in a flash. Need some inspiration? Check out our Recipe tag for delicious outdoor recipes that can be easily made in nature’s kitchen, or prepared ahead of time for easy transporting!

Keep it Cool

As anyone who has hit up an outdoor salad bar in summer can attest, warm food that is supposed to be cold is pretty gross. While classic picnic baskets are whimsical and cute, they sure won’t do much to keep your food cold. Instead, use an ice box or invest in a top-notch cooler that will keep temperatures cold for hours to ensure that your veggies stay crisp and your marinating chicken isn’t half cooked by the time you reach the park. This will also keep foods at a safe temperature, which is great because nothing ruins a pleasant picnic like a nasty case of food poisoning.

Set the Mood

You've got the food, the setting, and the sunset. Now all you need is some James Taylor.  [Image: www.marie-cristen.tumblr.com]

You’ve got the food, the setting, and the sunset. Now all you need is some James Taylor.
[Image: www.marie-cristen.tumblr.com]

We already know you’ll be surrounded by stunning natural scenery, so why not introduce some jams to really take the atmosphere over the top? While some people may enjoy the occasional chirping of birds or the lull of crashing waves, you never know when an overzealous choir of crickets or, worse, unsavory neighbors, may roll in and spoil the ambiance with their noisiness. Bring along a portable iPod or MP3 player (some of which go for as little as 10 smackers) so you will be able to offset any unforeseen auditory annoyances with the soothing sounds of Billy Joel.

Prepare for the Clean-Up

This doesn’t just mean bringing extra napkins to take care of every last drop of BBQ sauce smeared on your cheeks (but those wouldn’t hurt either). Wet wipes, especially antibacterial ones, will allow you to easily clean your hands and face both before and after you dig in. Don’t forget to bring plastic bags or some other kind of trash receptacle.

It's no surprise that Barney would make an excellent picnic companion. [Image: www.playrific.com]

It’s no surprise that Barney would make an excellent picnic companion.
[Image: www.playrific.com]

Many parks have a carry-in, carry-out policy, meaning that anything you bring into the park you must also take with you when you leave (think of it as No Garbage Left Behind). Not only will cleaning up after your picnic ensure you abide by park policy, it will also help keep the parks green and the picnic areas enjoyable for all. Think of it as good picnic karma.

What pointers did we forget? Do you have any tips you’d like to share for our next picnic post? Let us know in the comments!

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