Inside: Here are 43 picnic ideas for the whole family to enjoy. Involve your kids in the planning and preparing; focus on healthy foods; entertaining fun and creating lasting memories.
Picnic Ideas for Everyone
Does your family love picnics? Summer is a great time for picnics, but in my experience—all seasons of the year are good times for a picnic—even winter. It may have a few challenges, but with a little creativity, a picnic in the snow is possible.
I came from a family of very modest means. Summer was not synonymous with vacations. But it did mean family picnics. And we created some fun ones that made us feel like we were going on a fancy vacation.
I wish I could say our family came up with the idea of “picnics posing as vacations,” but alas, we were not that clever. We borrowed the idea from another family whose circumstances were similar to ours. The mother in that family was a creative woman who wanted to give her kids an “away-from-home” experience by creating imaginative picnics.
So, our family copied her (although our picnics were dull in comparison).
After I got married, I wanted to have a picnic tradition with our kids. However, they were not a substitute for family vacations–they were something our kids loved doing and a way to relax and have fun.
Here are 43 ideas, suggestions, toys, games, food, menus, etc., to use as a springboard when planning picnics for your family. Be creative—theme your ideas and remember—it’s possible to take your children to distant lands all wrapped up in a picnic!
None of these are specific to a holiday or time of the year which makes them more universal. Whether you’re celebrating the 4th of July, Memorial Day or one of the fall holidays–these picnic themes will work. And–be sure and include grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins–make it a fun family affair!
15 Locations for Family Picnics
There are many places you can take your family for a picnic depending on where you live. Here are 15 suggestions, but put on your thinking caps; talk to your kids and vary the spot from one picnic to the next.
- A fun place in your city
- A nearby city or town
- Your backyard
- Summer concerts
- Fairs (Renaissance Fairs, Craft Fairs, etc)
- Sporting Events
- The Library (the grounds around the library)
- The Mall
Picnic Ideas: 10 Preparation Tips
All picnics require planning and a few basics. Here’s a list of 10 things you may need:
#1: The Proverbial Picnic Basket
Purchase a sturdy picnic basket or picnic backpack. Check out: HomeGoods, Michael’s, Jo-Ann’s, or Amazon. If you don’t want a basket for your picnic, consider a fun bucket, container or cooler.
#2: Picnic Tablecloth
You can purchase amazing tablecloths at HomeGoods—and they have a great selection of plastic-coated tablecloths that are perfect for picnics at great prices. If you are going to “theme” your picnic, look for tablecloths that will match your theme.
#3: Picnic Necessities: Cutlery, Cups, Plates & Napkins
The cups, plates, napkins, and cutlery are essential for a picnic. You have two choices; disposable (recommended) or inexpensive “real” plates, silverware, etc. Check out the Dollar store, Target, or Wal-Mart for disposable picnic necessities. The advantage to disposable is obvious—you can throw them away and eliminate washing.
#4: Candles: Not Necessary but a Nice Addition
There are so many wonderful LED candles—grab a few for your picnics. They come in handy when you have a sunset or midnight madness picnic and they are just plain fun to add to the ambiance of the occasion. I would NOT suggest real candles—can be dangerous around kids.
#5: Insulated Containers
Check out this insulated cooler to keep foods cold. And check out this insulated cooler for transporting and keeping foods hot.
Another alternative that works for keeping food hot is wrapping the hot food in several layers of newspapers; putting the dish into two brown paper bags. Most hot foods will stay warm for 2-3 hours if you use the newspaper/paper bag method.
#6: Ice Jug or Cooler
Sometimes a cooler or ice jug is necessary to keep your drinks and other foods cold. A smaller ice jug is great for transporting ice to put in your drinks. And a cooler is great for transporting all your foods that need to remain cold. The disadvantage: you have to put ice in the cooler which makes it heavy to transport.
#7: Decorations to Theme Your Picnic
If you theme your picnic or are having a picnic to celebrate a holiday or birthday, consider adding some fun decorations—balloons, streamers, centerpieces, posters, etc. The Dollar Store is perfect for finding lots of cheap decorations to turn your picnic into a fun celebration or to give the feeling you’re visiting a foreign country.
Also, purchase items in the “off-season,” to save for later. I’ve also found that as I cruise around the Dollar Store, my creative juices start flowing and a picnic theme I never considered pops into my head. Keep your eyes peeled for fun ideas!
#8: Picnic Chairs or Blankets
Investing in picnic chairs or a blanket is a good idea if you will be picnicking at the beach other places where there aren’t tables or chairs. Check out Amazon—a big selection and less expensive.
#9: Make Your Picnic Healthy
When choosing foods for your picnics, please don’t overload your kids on sugar or unhealthy snacks. I’ve added recipes that contain plenty of fruits and veggies and small doses of sugar (we just can’t get completely away from that white sweet stuff!).
#10: 12 Toys & Games for Brain-Building, Outdoor Fun
Depending on your picnic location, bring toys and games for outdoor play. There are links to 12 toys and games for kids and brain-building fun. Consider these 12 outdoor toys:
- Assorted balls
- Plastic Rings & Beanbags
- Bubbles Machine
- Instant-Fill Water balloons
- Colored chalk (STEM)
6 Family Picnic Ideas (the menus)
Here are 6 family picnic themes and menus. I’ve included one or two recipes from each menu and linked to recipes on my blogs. Some recipes are from friends or have been in my family for years. Others are not included because you’ll find dozens just like them online. I’ve kept each picnic to 4 food items, but you can add according to your family’s needs.
Include your kids in the DIY planning, the baking, the cooking and anything to help them feel a part of creating a memory-building family tradition.
Picnic Idea #1: Concert in the Park
- Chinese Chicken Salad
- Marinated Veggies
- Trader Joe’s Oat Bran Muffins
- Homemade Peach Cobbler
- 3 carrots (1/4-inch slices)
- 1 small head cauliflower
- ½ pound French green beans
- 1-2 broccoli stems
- ½ pound fresh whole mushrooms
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon dry basil
- 2 Tablespoons minced dry onions
- ½ teaspoon oregano leaves
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
- ¾ cup of vegetable oil
- 10 cherry tomatoes
- 2 zucchinis, cut in slices
- Steam to almost tender the carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and broccoli
- Add the mushrooms and steam another 3 minutes
- Rinse with cold water and drain well
- Cover the mixture with the rest of the ingredients except the tomatoes and zucchini.
- Marinate 4-24 hours
- Before serving, add the cherry tomatoes and zucchini
- Option: after marinating, you can put the veggies on skewers and grill
- 2 ¼ cup Trader Joe’s Oat Bran
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup dry milk powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 egg whites
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¾ cup warm water
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Butter and flour muffin tins or line with paper liners
- Combine dry ingredients
- Combine all the liquid ingredients in one bowl
- Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir until blended (don’t over stir)
- Allow to sit for 10 minutes
- Bake for 15 minutes or until brown and slightly firm to the touch
Picnic Idea #2: Welcome to________ (Los Angeles)
This can be a fun picnic idea when family or friends come to visit you. Insert your city in the title or the name of a country.
- Dough—you can use a sugar cookie dough recipe or use refrigerated sugar cookie dough from the store
- Grease a round cookie sheet
- Spread sugar cookie dough evening around the cookie sheet
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes; cool
- 1 8 oz package cream cheese
- ½ cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup cool whip
- 1 ½ cups of sugar
- 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup of orange juice
- ¾ cup of water
- ¼ cup of lemon juice
- Dash of salt
- Fruit in season: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, mandarin oranges, peaches, grapes
- Mix together until smooth the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and cool whip.
- Spread on cooled sugar dough.
- Combine in a pot the sugar, cornstarch, orange juice, water, lemon juice, and salt.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until thick.
- Cool; spread and layer over mixture
- Arrange the fresh fruit you have chosen as the topping. Arrange in a circular fashion
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
Picnic Idea #3: Sunset at the Beach (or any nature spot in your town)
This picnic is easy to transport except for the ice cream. However, homemade ice cream tends to be very hard when frozen and takes almost 30 minutes to unthaw. Put in an insulated bag for transporting.
- 1 package dry yeast
- ¼ cup of warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 Tablespoon minced dry onion
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 2 Tablespoons dill seed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 ½ cups flour
- Dissolve the yeast in the water with 1 tsp. sugar
- Warm cottage cheese and put in a bowl
- Add the sugar, dried onion, butter, dill seed, salt and baking soda
- Mix together
- Add the yeast mixture; mix well
- Add the flour, mix until it forms a dough
- Put the dough in a buttered dish
- Let rise until double; about 1 ½ -2 hours
- Form into a round loaf
- Prepare a cookie sheet that has been greased with shortening and cornmeal sprinkled on it
- Place the bread dough on the cookie sheet
- Let rise until double—about 45 minutes
- Brush with melted butter before putting in the oven
- Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes
Picnic Idea #4: “In the Hood” Winter or Summer Picnic
Pop-up the hatch of the car; set out your picnic and have everyone grab their food and eat inside the car. Crank up the stereo and have a family sing-a-long.
- Chicken & Corn Tostada Salad
- Fresh Fruit Kabobs
- Darn Good Chocolate Cake
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 whole chicken breasts, skinned, deboned, cut into strips
- ½ teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 package (16 oz) sweet frozen corn
- 1 cup chopped plum tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can black beans; rinsed and drained
- 5 green onions (scallions) thinly sliced including tops
- 2 medium avocadoes, peeled, chopped
- 1 head butterhead, Boston, or Bibb lettuce; torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 2 cups (8 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 3 cups slightly crushed blue corn tortilla chips
- In a jar with a tight-fitting lid combine the dressing ingredients: vinegar, honey, cumin, salt, and pepper. Shake well and set aside
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot
- Add chicken. Cook until no longer pink (5-10 minutes)
- Transfer chicken to a very large bowl; sprinkle with garlic salt
- Prepare corn according to package directions; drain
- Stir corn with chicken
- Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes
- Add tomatoes, black beans, onions, avocados, lettuce, and red pepper to chicken mixture; toss to combine
- Shake dressing; pour over salad mixture
- Toss lightly
- Just before serving, add the cheese and tortilla chips
- Toss gently
- Serve with bowls of sour cream and salsa
- 1 package devil’s food cake mix
- 1 (3.9 oz) box instant chocolate pudding mix
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- ½ cup of warm water
- ½ cup of vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
- Add all the ingredients together in a mixer except for the chocolate chips
- Blend for 1 minute
- Scrape the bowl, then mix for another 2 minutes
- Stir in chocolate chips
- Pour into a well-greased Bundt pan
- Bake at 450 degrees for 45 minutes
- Check for doneness—stick in a knife but also juggle the pan. If it moves, cook longer
- Let cool for 20 minutes then flip over onto a plate
- Best when completely cool.
- Freezes well
- Note: Do NOT use the Betty Crocker deluxe moist—it’s too moist and will not work as well.
Picnic Idea #5: Picnic Under the Stars
This picnic can be celebrated at dusk at any great location.
- Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Cold Shrimp w/horseradish or cocktail sauce
- Lemon Bars
- ½ pound fusilli pasta or any pasta shape you prefer
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil
- 1-pound ripe tomatoes, diced
- ¾ cup black olives
- 1-pound fresh Mozzarella cheese, diced
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
- 5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
- 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 6 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoons capers, drained
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoons black pepper
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves; julienned
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water with a splash of oil to keep from sticking
- Boil for 12-minutes or according to the directions on the package
- Drain well and allow to cool
- Place the pasta in a bowl; add the tomatoes, olives, Mozzarella, and chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- For the dressing: combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, pepper in a food processor and combine until almost smooth
- Pour the dressing over the pasta
- Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese, basil, and toss
Picnic Idea #6: Rally Round the Barbeque
- Barbeque hamburgers, chicken, beef, hotdogs, etc
- Mom’s Best Baked Beans
- Nachos & Cheese
- Homemade Fruit Ice Cream
The fun part about this picnic is you can do it at home with all the conveniences at your fingertips. And, what would a barbeque be without baked beans and homemade ice cream?
- 2 ½ cups pork & beans
- 2 ½ cups chili beans
- 8 slices bacon, uncooked, cut in pieces
- ½ cups brown sugar
- 1 cup catsup
- 2 Tablespoons chili powder
- 1 ½ cups Monterey Jack cheese diced in cubes
- ½ onion, chopped
- Mix all the ingredients together in a large dish suitable for the oven
- Bake in the oven at 325 degrees for 1 ½ to 2 hours; stirring occasionally
So you don’t run out of food, take along some additional snack foods. The great outdoors makes everyone hungry for sweet, salty snacks.
- Grapes or other finger-fruits
- Veggie Tray
- Chips & Dip
- Nuts or Seeds
- S’Mores (not just a camping dessert)
- Bottled Water
- Juice boxes
Picnic Ideas: A Family Tradition
So grab your kids; plan the perfect, healthy family picnic, immortalize your event with pictures and you’re on your way to creating a lasting family tradition.
Does your family love to picnic? If so, what are your experiences? What fun places have you had family picnics? Any favorite recipes you’d like to share? Please comment in the section below.
Want to remember this post? Post, “43 of the Best Picnic Ideas to Last a Lifetime!” on your favorite Pinterest Board!