Outdoor Living

7 Creative Tips for the Perfect Backyard Picnic

Patio barbecues are great, but a backyard picnic is a delicious change of pace now and then. Breaking open the picnic basket (or baskets) is an adventure and a fun twist for your outdoor living. Read on for 7 creative tips to help you plan delightful backyard picnics that are a breeze to throw together.

Backyard Picnic Style

1. Choose Your Backyard Picnic Style

Your picnic planning should be informed by the type of outdoor feast you envision. Here are the main types of picnics to consider:

Impromptu backyard picnics. These are last-minute ideas. You walk outside and realize the weather is picnic-perfect. In these instances, you’ll probably make do with the food you already have in the fridge.

Romantic backyard picnics. Any picnic is romantic when it’s just the two of you. But for an extra measure of romance, you’ll want to prepare some special treats (think chocolate-covered strawberries) and have some wine, champagne, or ginger beer at the ready.

Big backyard picnics. Throwing a large-scale picnic requires easy and portable recipes for a crowd, seating for everyone, and fun decorating ideas.

Kid-friendly backyard picnics. If there are kids joining in the fun, you’ll need a few kid-friendly food options and some activities to keep them busy so they don’t trample across the ‘table’!

 Select a Special Spot

2. Select a Special Picnic Spot

Where will you place the blankets for your alfresco gathering? You may set up your picnic in the center of your lawn, but that’s not your only option. The best spot will depend on your yard and garden. Look for a spot that is dry, has some nearby shade, and puts some distance between you and flowers that are popular with the local bees. Some ideas to consider:

  • Beneath your shadiest tree, especially if you’re having a midday picnic.
  • Near a piece of garden architecture, such as an arbor or a gazebo.
  • On the patio or back porch. If you have a small yard and a big patio or porch, spread your blankets on the planks or pavers. You may need to double up to provide extra cushioning.
  • In the front yard. This is an area that can go underused. But if you’ve got a lovely tree out front, why not enjoy it? You may even inspire a trend in your neighborhood.

Get Your Basket Ready

3. Get Your Picnic Basket (or Two!) Ready

Picnic baskets are outdoor accessories you’ll love once you have one or two on hand. A wicker picnic basket with a check lining and leather buckle closures is the classic style—and still makes a charming option for modern picnickers. But today you can find a variety of picnic baskets to match your taste or needs, including:

  • Baskets with a double lid
  • Heart-shaped wicker baskets
  • Barrel-shaped coolers (perfect for transporting wine and cheese)
  • Picnic basket coolers (insulated, modern baskets)
  • Backpack picnic baskets
  • Trolley picnic baskets

Whether you choose a modern or classic style, these picnic baskets typically include acrylic wine glasses, melamine plates, utensils, and napkins for two to four people.

For more than four people, you can get creative with other portable options, such as rolling coolers, collapsible cooler totes, backpack coolers, and even the freezer bags you use for grocery shopping.

Do your best to pack well, even when the picnic is in your yard. That way you’ll get to fully relax. But you won’t have to worry too much about forgetting something—you can always run inside if needed.

Easy to Eat Picnic Menu

4. Create a Mouthwatering, Easy-to-Eat Picnic Menu

The best food for picnics is easy to carry and easy to share. You can make gourmet sandwiches and salads, put them in kitchen storage containers, and pop them into your picnic basket. Or, you can cook up a grilled feast, load up serving platters, and carry them to the picnic blanket. Choose recipes meant to serve cold, or that taste just as delicious cold as they do when warm. Here are some ideas for your next picnic:

    • Brie with thin-sliced Granny Smith apples on a French baguette
    • Macaroni salad
    • Fruit salad
    • Empanadas
    • Marinated vegetables
    • Olive tapenade with toasted crusty bread
    • Broccoli salad with dried cranberries, bacon, and almonds
    • Cucumber and summer herb cream cheese finger sandwiches
    • Summer dips

Don’t forget a passable dessert, such as brownies, cookies, or cupcakes. If you’ve got a fire pit roaring, s’mores are a backyard favorite.

Festive Blankets

5. Gather the Festive Blankets

For your picnic blankets, you can use retired cotton blankets or quilts from your home. You can also opt for outdoor picnic blankets that fold into a tote, or pop-up blankets (good for the beach too). Choose bright colors and patterns to add another layer of cheerfulness to the occasion. The key is to procure blankets intended for outdoor use so you don’t have to worry about grass stains or spilled wine and juice. Picnics are for relaxing!

Easy to Eat Picnic Foods

6. Make the Setting Extra Special

Don’t stop with a collection of pretty blankets, especially if it’s a party picnic or a romantic picnic. Move a few patio side tables next to the blankets. You can use them for citronella candles to keep the bugs away, and guests can set drinks on them. Use outdoor patio pillows to make the seating extra comfortable.

For a distinctive touch, create a family-style ‘table’ using a row of wood palettes or an upcycled door elevated on crates. Cover the door or palettes with table cloths and surround the table with pillows for seats. Decorate the table with flowers and candles for a rustic and elegant picnic dinner.

Plan Fun Activities

7. Plan Fun Picnic Activities

If it’s an all-day picnic, have a few yard games ready for kids and grownups. You can opt for classic lawn games like bocce, croquet, horseshoes, and bean bag toss. If you have the yard space, set up a badminton net or a potato sack race.

Though there’s an impromptu quality about picnics, they take some prep. But once you have the baskets, blankets, and go-to portable recipes, you’ll be in the swing and ready to throw together picnics in no time.