Is there anything better than leaning back in the cool breeze on a grassy slope with a cup of hot cider in hand?  Sigh. Fall is approaching and it is hard not to get excited. Picnics are the perfect outdoor adventure that marry meal time and playing outside. Family dinners are a staple at my house – it’s the one time of day in our busy schedules that everyone comes together to download each other on there day and enjoy each others company.  When the weather is perfect, we simplify our menu and take it outside! Here are some tips for planning the perfect family picnic.

Choose Your Picnic Spot

Picnics are usually associated with a grassy knoll in a park but there’s no reason you can’t mix it up!  Sometimes we pack a picnic and go out in the boat, anchor up in a cove and eat over the water. If it’s stormy, we’ve been known to lay out a blanket in the family room and watch a movie while we dine.  An evening outing to the neighborhood park is the perfect chance for a dinner picnic on a lovely day. My kids love picnic lunches packed in their lunch boxes that they can take to the tree fort. You may not even need to go any farther than your own backyard for a simple fun picnic.  Why is it more fun to eat outside? It just is!

Favorite Picnic Spots

  • Bee Cave Park
  • Reimers Ranch
  • Mount Bonnell
  • Mueller Lake Park
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
  • Bell Springs Winery
  • Pedernales Falls


Keep Your Menu Simple

Focus your menu on finger food and pre-prepared mains.  Part of the fun of a picnic is that you don’t have to do the dishes after, so stick with simple-to-clean-up- from menu items.  I like to include lots of fresh veggies with hummus, muffins or scones and seasonal fruit. We’ve been known to drive through P-Terry’s, Rudy’s, or Chick-Fil-A if we’re planning to picnic at the ball field or are in a rush.  Remember to avoid glass containers! Since you’re transporting food, put anything that can get crunched or smashed into tupperware. Make sure to pack a blanket or towels to sit on and look for ant hills before you set up shop.  There’s a teaching moment at the end of every picnic…take your trash away and teach your kids to leave your picnic site cleaner than you found it.


Sample Menu

Pumpkin Spice Muffins (use this pancake recipe!)

Sliced Cucumbers & Hummus

Apples or pears with peanut butter

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates or Figs

Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

Dried Cranberries, Blackberries or grapes

Apple Cider for the kids

Wine in a Box for Mom (or a hot toddy if I’m feeling festive)  

Make it About Play

At our home we take manners and sitting through dinner seriously (yes, even though I have three energetic little boys) but for picnics we’re much more chill – I allow them to eat a bit, run around, and come back for more.  Kids love picnics because they can be active during meal time without getting in trouble for tipping their chairs back or sneaking scraps to the dog. I like to bring individual servings in a lunch box or brown bag so I can see how much everyone has actually finished since they don’t sit straight through the meal.  We bring football or soccer balls, fishing rods if we’re near water, and no one has to sit still in a chair or be too tidy.


What do you like to pack in your outdoor feast? 

Where do you like to picnic in Austin?



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