Perfecting the Picnic
Dining alfresco allows travelers to enjoy memorable meals while exploring new environments.
By Jackie Adams
The picnic, complete with a checkered blanket and woven basket, is an iconic American image. From newlyweds sitting together on the beach, watching the sunset and enjoying a curated dinner, to families bonding in parks over PB&J sandwiches, it’s a familiar scene from movies, books and even our own fond memories.
These alfresco occasions are also great opportunities for travelers to immerse themselves in new environments; they allow you to continue exploring while also having a memorable meal. After trying the top-rated fare at nearby eateries, picnics offer a nice break from the restaurant routine—particularly for those traveling with children—and the chance to enjoy the area like a local.
While picnics are often tied to thoughts of summer, the wide variety of outdoor dining options enable them to remain a staple year-round. They can also be as complex or as simple as desired: Stopping at a park bench to dine on takeout food is just as acceptable as bringing your own table, gourmet meal and LED lights to the beach.
Whether you’re aiming for a casual affair or planning every elegant detail down to the napkin rings, the most important thing is the setting and, of course, who you choose to share it with.
Palm Coast Picnicking
The beautiful landscapes and year-round inviting weather of Palm Coast, Florida, make it an ideal location for a picnic. Set right on the sand of the Atlantic Ocean, Hammock Beach Resort is the perfect place to enjoy salty breezes and warm afternoons with a basket full of goodies. The staff at the resort is happy to help accommodate guests’ outdoor meals; filled picnic baskets can be ordered through room service and taken anywhere on the property—including the beach. For those who want to dine long into the evening, fire pits can be prepared on Fridays and Saturdays between the hours of 6 and 10 p.m. The fire pit experience is available for two hours at a time and includes a s’mores kit for four people.
Off-site, those wanting to escape into nature should explore Washington Oaks State Park, located less than 3 miles from Hammock Beach. The park is a premier hiking spot and wedding destination with stunning scenery, bike trails and nature preserves. It features a dedicated area for picnics with plenty of tables, making it a favorite for both active couples and visiting families.
Also located just off the main property is the Yacht Harbor Village marina. It’s a great place to watch boats sail by while taking in gorgeous sunsets, and the quiet marina is perfect for couples looking for some privacy.
There are also a plethora of kid-friendly parks for family picnics. Options include Long Creek Nature Preserve, a 9-acre space that has areas for fishing and kayaking, or the Palm Coast Community Center & Park, where the locals like to gather. There’s plenty of room to run around; try bringing along some fun lawn games or a Frisbee to make a whole day out of the experience.
Alfresco in Virginia
Home to Salamander Resort & Spa, historic Middleburg, Virginia, and the surrounding area provide numerous picnic opportunities. In the summertime, pack a meal to enjoy during Twilight Polo at the Great Meadow, an exciting sporting event with theme nights for the kids, live bands and games for youngsters. The resort is also close to beautiful hiking trails, as well as a handful of wineries that are set on picturesque properties and feature live music. The nearby Greenhill Winery, for example, encourages visitors to enjoy a picnic lunch. It also offers tours, tastings and even horse-drawn carriage rides.
“We arrange a lot of picnics for guests to go to the local wineries, and we also provide complimentary transportation to them. That’s always really popular,” says Elizabeth Gingerich, a concierge at Salamander Resort & Spa. “No reservations are needed for our drivers or for the wineries.”
Gingerich says that Market Salamander, a small, gourmet market in town, is packed with transportable treats. “It has everything available, from sandwiches to pasta salads and cheese plates and charcuterie, so we will have our drivers stop [there] before taking guests to the wineries, or we’re able to go by and pick up the picnic for the guests so they can take … [it] with them,” she says.
The resort also offers an array of inviting outdoor dining options on-site to enjoy a picnic, including a Culinary Garden and Grand Lawn. Stop by the Gold Cup Wine Bar for tasty, easily portable fare like sandwiches and cheese plates, or ask the concierge to assist with an alfresco experience. The concierge can provide guests with everything they need, from a basket to blankets, food and wine.
But regardless of what you choose to pack or where you dine outside, only one thing really matters when it comes to the perfect picnic: getting to spend quality time with loved ones while enjoying the great outdoors.
Beyond the Basket
This hand-picked gear will elevate your picnic lunch to the next level.
Vacu Vin’s RAPID ICE WINE COOLER, $11.99, is the perfect cooling sleeve for wine. Once frozen, it will cool a bottle in just five minutes. (wine.com)
Enjoy a cup of coffee in the great outdoors thanks to REI’s TABLE TOP FRENCH COFFEE PRESS, $54.95. The carafe will keep beverages hot for up to four hours and takes only four minutes to brew. (rei.com)
The STACKING ACRYLIC CLEAR WINE GLASS, $3.95 each, is great for drinking wine on the go, as the cups stack up neatly to fit into the smallest of storage spaces. (crateandbarrel.com)
After your meal, use the 2-PLAYER BACKYARD RACQUET SET, $9.99, from Franklin Sports for a fun, brisk game of badminton. (franklinsports.com)
The TWO PERSON BACKPACK WITH BLANKET, $94.95, contains everything you could need for a picnic, including plates, napkins, wine glasses, a cheese board, cheese knife, corkscrew and fleece blanket; just add your favorite food and drinks. Its storage compartment includes Thermal Shield insulation to keep your snack selections at the perfect temperature. (thepicnicworld.com)