Community Things to Do

Your Picnic Must-Haves

Picnics are a long-standing American tradition, and they’re a great way for families to find a way to disconnect from the rest of the world and reconnect with each other.

Summer will be done before you know it so don’t let the time pass without at least one family picnic date. 

What Do You Need to Have a Fabulous Picnic?

Whether you’re an old hand at picnics or a total newbie, we’re going to make it easy for you to have the perfect picnic, by outlining exactly what you need:

The Perfect Place

The first thing you need is the right spot for your repast. Half of the allure of a picnic comes from finding a spot where you can escape the daily grind and relax. Fortunately, living in Indiana means you’re spoiled for choices, given the number of fabulous state parks around. 

Some of the top local choices for picnics around Indy include:

  • Monument Circle: If you’re fond of people-watching and not so fond of the great outdoors, you can grab a spot on the steps of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The kids can also hike the steps for a spectacular view of the city (while burning off a lot of extra energy).
  • The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: Located at Newfield, the Funky Bones sculpture is a family favorite and vastly entertaining for kids – and there are 100 acres of space to spread out.
  • Holliday Park: There’s something existentially awesome about going to Holliday park for your holiday, and the bike trails and ruins make this an idyllic place for a break.
  • Eagle Creek Park: There are almost 4,000 acres of woods and meadows to explore, and you can even rent boats to explore the local reservoir. 
  • Garfield Park: Real nature lovers will definitely appreciate the vast array of flora and fauna to be found in this park, which makes an incredible backdrop for any meal.

The Right Equipment

Picnics can be as simple or luxurious as you prefer, so scale up or scale down according to your preferences. Here’s a list of suggested equipment you should consider:

  • Portable chairs: You can find spots with picnic benches, or you can just throw a blanket on the ground – but anybody over 30 will definitely appreciate a comfy sitting spot.
  • Picnic blanket: Whether you sit on the ground or score a table, you need something to cover the surface before you lay down your food. A nylon-backed blanket is ideal to protect your items from dirt, bugs and moisture.
  • A cooler: You definitely don’t want to go on a picnic with a heavy-duty cooler that can keep your cold food and drinks appropriately chilled. Check the ratings to make sure that you buy one that will handle the high summer temps. (Use a bag or a second cooler for food that doesn’t require cooling.)
  • Serve-and-store bowls: If you’re environmentally conscious, skip the tossable plastic containers and get a set of lidded bowls that you can use to transport food without the risk of a spill.
  • Plates, cups and tableware: You can go with disposables, but investing in a nice set of washable plates, cups and tableware is a good idea if you intend to make picnics a regular event.
  • Bluetooth speaker: Want a little music to set the mood and liven things up during your meal? A Bluetooth speaker turns your phone or tablet into an immediate sound machine that will enhance the atmosphere of your picnic site.
  • Corkscrews, cutting boards and knives: These are essentials that you don’t want to forget, especially if you have a bottle of wine, bread or a charcuterie spread on hand.
  • Trash bags and paper towels or wipes: Cleaning up after your meal will be a breeze – as long as you have the basics on hand that help with the process. 

Don’t forget the other basic essentials you may need: Ice, cold packs, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, bug spray and personal misters or battery-operated fans can keep you comfortable in almost any situation. 

The Ideal Food

One of the joys of a picnic is that you can go as elaborate or as simple as you like. Historically, picnics started out as lavish outdoor feasts for royalty – but they’ve evolved to something that can be customized to anybody’s tastes.

If you know that your picnic spot has a grill (or you have a portable one and it’s permitted where you’re going), burgers and hot dogs are always excellent. If you don’t want to cook while you’re trying to enjoy the day, go with:

  • Cold chicken
  • Cold cut sandwiches 
  • Chopped vegetable salads
  • Hummus and pita chips
  • Pasta salads
  • Whole fruit, like grapes, oranges and watermelon
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Carrot and celery sticks
  • Cornbread or rolls

And, naturally, you want to stock up on sweets. Desserts are one of the best parts about picnics, so go heavy on the cupcakes, brownies, mini fruit pies and Rice Krispie treats or S’mores.

Family Entertainment

A picnic doesn’t have to end when the meal is over. If you want to extend your fun time, take some family-friendly games or toys along with you. Jenga and Trivial Pursuit are easy games to pack and play, but corn hole sets are also easy to acquire. You can even have a blast with simple items, like frisbees and bubbles. Even a simple deck of cards can be used to play “Go Fish” with the little ones and gin rummy with the adults.

The best part about picnic planning is that 90% of what you need can be packed ahead of time, which can make the day feel absolutely effortless – so, enjoy!