I can’t think of a nicer way to end a hike or to enjoy a spectacular outdoor view or sunset than with a fall picnic. Fall is the perfect time to enjoy eating outdoors with your family and friends as the cooler temps make spending time outside more enjoyable. You can enjoy foods from the harvest while enjoying the last days of nice weather before the dark days of winter.
Picnics can be casual or sophisticated, depending on the type of meal and experience you want to share with your guests. But no matter your style preference there are definitely some tips that I can share that will help you have fun and make wonderful memories, without stress or extra work. A picnic, unlike a hosted event at your home, comes without the amenities and conveniences of home, like running water and lights so it definitely takes a little bit of thoughtful planning. So if you’re ready to host an outdoor fall picnic, let’s plan an amazing one you’ll enjoy as much as your guests.
PICK THE PERFECT PLACE TO PICNIC & MAKE YOUR GUEST LIST
Your picnic spot will to some extent determine what type of picnic you can have and who you will want to invite. If you pick a high alpine meadow that can only be reached after hiking up hill for many miles- well you might not expect too many people to come. However if you chose a spot, even a remote one, that is easily accessible from the car and that provides a peaceful and relaxing setting, it will be more inviting for your guests. Make note of whether there are restrooms, running water and if the area has lighting after dark. Popular places for picnics are lakes, parks and outdoor areas with scenic and sunset views. Once you know the location, you’ll want to make your guest list.
PICK AN OCCASION OR A THEME & SEND OUT INVITATIONS
You can choose any theme or event you’d like for your picnic; a birthday, anniversary, an annual softball or football game, the fall harvest or let the beauty of the outdoors inspire your meal. The style of your invitations and the information on them will tell your guests a lot about the event. Just be sure to include any specifics you want your guests to know. For example, do they need to bring chairs, jackets, clothes to play a game in, is the picnic pet-friendly, did you include directions? The more information you include in your invitation the better prepared your guests will be for the picnic. `
PLAN YOUR MENU
Your picnic menu can follow the pattern of a traditional meal; appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and dessert and can be a casual or formal as you like. Fall is a great time to use fresh seasonal foods, as the bounty of harvest time gives you endless options for creating tasty amazing meals. You can start with something as simple as a bread and cheese board followed by a crock of roasted squash soup, a simple tossed salad of greens, a roasted meat and a few sides. Honestly, your options are endless, however a few points to keep in mind:
- Choose Food that Travels Well
- Make Sturdy Sandwiches
- Have Vegetarian Options
- Separate the Hot and Cold Food
HOT AND COLD DRINKS
Picnic beverages should be fun and festive and made for sipping as your guests lounge away the day. With cooler fall temperatures you’ll want a variety of options for your guests:
- Apple Cider & Hot Chocolate served in a thermos labeled with decorative paper and tied on with twine.
- Serve cold drinks in an old metal tub with ice
- Mulled wines or hot toddy’s can be a welcome and warming drink for adults
- Swing cap bottles are practical and pretty, especially when filled with your own homemade herb and fruit infused drinks.
CREATE A FALL THEMED DESSERT BAR
A fall favorite—caramel apples—can be made picnic-easy with a caramel apple or pear dessert bar. Apples and pears drizzled with caramel sauce and toppings served in vintage pie-tins like nuts, dried fruit, gingersnaps, chocolate chips or candy make the perfect picnic sweet treat.
MAKE IT AN ECO-FRIENDLY PICNIC
Bring real dishes to reduce trash: use vintage pie tins lined with homemade beeswax wrap paper or melamine (hard plastic) plates.
Silverware the simplest route is assembling a mismatched but full-of-charm set from thrift stores or garage sales, wrapping them in cloth napkins and tying them with twine.
Aluminum camp cups, mugs or glass jelly jars, have a great look, but if you want drinks to hold their temperature and be unbreakable, go for insulated plastic.
Cleanup: bring a big plastic lidded tub where people can deposit their dirty gear. When you get home, throw it all in the dishwasher. Don’t forget you will still need trash bags for food wrappers and bottles.
PACK YOUR BAG IN REVERSE
Everything that is on top of your bag or basket will come out first, so plan accordingly. Have a tablecloth at the very top of your bag, utensils and accessories in the middle and the food on the bottom. If you have a pressure cooker, you can use it since it’s pretty travel-proof. Remember to avoid anything creamy that can leak and ruin the rest of the food, such as mayo or ice creams.
BRING ACCESSORIES TO GLAM YOUR PICNIC
A formal table setting may not work for your picnic, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t add some accessories to glam your event. When you are in a natural setting you won’t be able to compete with nature, but small touches can add some elegance. Here’s a list of some of my favorite picnic glam accessories.
- Jars, large or small, work well as drinking glasses or utensil receptacles.
- Hanging lights, candles and tea lights add a whimsical ambiance.
- Flowers make any table elegant.
- Baking pans, pie plates and muffin tins make indestructible plates or condiment holders.
- Baskets are classic for a reason, they are easy to carry and pretty.
- Cutting boards – even if you have nothing to cut, wood boards are attractive and sturdy for serving.
- Earth-toned tablecloths and napkins can dress up a park picnic table and adding gourds, pumpkins, fall flowers and apples instantly sets a festive table.
- Plaid blankets! Throw one over a camp chair for instant style. Pack extras for snuggling or spreading on the grass.
BONUS HOW-TO: HOMEMADE BEESWAX WRAP
You can make your own eco-friendly and re-usable wrap for bowls, dishes and baking pans using fabric, beeswax and your oven.
- To start you’ll want to preheat your oven to 175 degrees.
- Line a large baking sheet with baker’s paper.
- Cut fabric with pinking shears to assorted sizes to wrap cheeses & meats, cover jars, bowls or baking dishes.
- Lay a single layer of fabric and sprinkle with grated beeswax.
- Place in the oven and allow the beeswax to melt into the fabric. You can use a pastry brush to spread the beeswax evenly across the fabric. If you need to add more beeswax, just sprinkle it on and pop back in the oven.
- Once the fabric is evenly saturated with beeswax, allow to cool completely before using.
- Wash between uses with a warm water rinse, hang and allow to dry completely before storing or using again.