Over the past year, with travel at a standstill and restaurants at varying levels of functionality, more and more of my meals and outings have turned into picnics. And I’m not mad about it – picnicking is one of my favorite things to do anywhere in the world, whether that’s on the western end of Île Saint-Louis or under the row of blossoming cherry trees next to Central Park’s reservoir.
From planned-out picnic meals with a decided aesthetic to the utterly spontaneous and casual, picnics have been some of my favorite memories, traveling or not. With picnic season re-emerging, I’m sharing the best picnic ideas I’ve gleaned – from spots to food ideas to my picnic kit essentials.
I’ve yet to live or travel anywhere that a good picnic spot can’t be found. Here are my go-to options when I’m on the hunt:
Along the water – a river, a lake, the seaside! If your nearest waterfront isn’t exactly scenic, onto the next…
In a park or garden – what city doesn’t have a park? Bonus: park benches are extremely handy if you’re blanket-less and don’t want to sit on the ground.
In a free public space with a lovely view – another of my favorite things anywhere I travel, these spots might require a climb, but that’s all forgotten once you’re eating pizza on Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence.
Your own backyard – or someone else’s! Perhaps less adventurous, but it’s also easier to go all-out when you don’t need to transport your picnic very far.
Here are my rules of thumb: picnic food should not need to be kept warm, and should be easy to eat – the fewer utensils required, the better. I personally am not willing to lug around a cooler either, though I will slip a bottle of rosé into an ice sleeve if needed. 😉
There’s the ever-classic array of cheese, charcuterie, fruit, and nuts – and it’s a hard one to argue with! But if you’re looking for more of a meal, some of my favorite picnic recipes are pasta salad, baguette sandwiches, chicken salad with crackers, a generous scoop of guacamole with tortilla chips and raw veg, and pre-packed soba noodle bowls.
For pre-packing individual bowls of food, containers like these are a dream. Don’t forget a beverage – water, lemonade, wine – and a little something sweet for dessert!
For perhaps the most spontaneous sort of picnic, head out with just your picnic essentials (more on that below!), and gather your menu along the way. Maybe it’s coffee and an egg sandwich, or a handful of snacks and a bottle of wine. Pastries and sparkling water?
A farmer’s market is perfect for picking up a bit of this and a bit of that, and with everything local and in-season, it really can’t be beaten! And isn’t a farmer’s market haul the exact dream that every basket tote aspires to?
My, how very New York of you! Now this can be practically anything – except messy foods, like, soup? Though here in the city I’m partial to my favorite pizza, burgers, or tacos. Simply place a pick-up order somewhere near your picnic spot, bring along a blanket, and you’re good to go.
The truest picnic essentials are (1) food to eat and (2) a place to sit outdoors. A picnic doesn’t need to be editorial-worthy to be enjoyable and make a great memory! That said, I’ve built up quite the mix-and-match picnic kit over the years:
Theeee best corkscrew: buy an extra one to keep in your picnic kit, because it’s something you do not want to discover you’re missing!
Napkins: more essential than you might initially think, and nice to wrap your glasses or utensils in pre- and post-picnic.
my free printable five-step
guide to packing light &
traveling in style