Close your eyes and imagine … a wide open field of green surrounds you as you sit on a red-and-white checkered blanket. Flowers in bright pops of reds, yellows, and purples lightly scent the breeze. You've slipped off your shoes and the grass feels cool between your toes. The sun's rays offer that perfect warmth of early spring as it filters through the tender new leaves on the trees. You can hear the laughter and cheers of people around you playing Frisbee or catch or Bocce or horseshoes …
Ready to go on a picnic?
While the location makes a difference, we can't all have access to New York's iconic Central Park or Boston's legendary Boston Common. But you may have a hidden gem in your backyard. It could be a peaceful neighborhood park or a local treasure. Here in North Georgia, we're lucky to have several gorgeous parks. My favorite is Cloudland Canyon, located on the Georgia-Tennessee border just south of Chattanooga. Your city website can help you find the ideal park. A nearby national park will provide additional activities such as hiking trails, historic sites, or camping. Some parks have designated picnic areas or pavilions – if you are interested in a picnic pavilion, table, or grill, you may want to call ahead and ask about reserving a space.
Now that you have your spot picked out, it's time to prepare a menu. First, decide if you want to go the traditional route of fried chicken, coleslaw, lemonade, and cherry pie, or if you want to go in a sophisticated route with wine, cheese, crackers, and habanero pickled peaches. You can also pack a vegetarian or vegan picnic basket. Some items you'll want to make a day or two ahead (or more, in the case of the pickled peaches), while others you can cook on-site, such as hot dogs and hamburgers. Take a hibachi or use the park's grill stations. You'll want an ice-packed cooler for perishables (potato salad and meats, for example) and a picnic basket for your blanket and utensils.
The perfect picnic should include a few basics beyond the plates, forks, napkins, and cups (although forgetting any of these could ruin a great day). Be sure to include sunscreen, bug spray, a first-aid kit (or at least Band-aids and antibiotic ointment), a Frisbee or football, and if you take your pet, water and pet food. If you plan to picnic near the lake or beach, don't forget towels and water toys (floats, pails, shovels).
From a romantic twilight picnic complete with a fiery sunset to a full day spent with family and friends, get out and enjoy the ideal weather, your beautiful local parks, and great food!