How to have a good picnic, because all your favorite summer activities are canceled | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

How to have a good picnic, because all your favorite summer activities are canceled

After a few cold months of quarantine, we have finally hit spring and summer weather. Since regular summer activities like traveling for vacation or going to the pool or drinking a margarita at an outdoor restaurant are not available, it's time for the humble picnic to shine.

Especially for those of us who don't have a yard or a porch, picnics are likely going to be a big part of summer 2020. If you spread your blankets out far enough, it's also a great way to hang out with friends from a safe distance.

If you haven't had a picnic in a while, you might not know how to prepare, so this is a guide to help you dress, sit, eat, and drink on a blanket in the park during a pandemic.


What to sit on
This is arguably the most important part of a good picnic. If you bring the wrong sitting material, like, say, a single beach towel for two people to share, then you'll spend the whole picnic fruitlessly trying to find a comfortable sitting position.

Bigger is better, and you're never going to say, "I wish I had less room to stretch out." An extra-large towel would work, or two regular-sized towels. If like me, you never use top sheets and have a bunch taking up space on the linen shelf, they work as a great picnic blanket since they're light but big. Unused blankets or quilts would also work, just make sure it's not a hot fabric like fleece.

Food and drink
You have to bring food and drink to every picnic, no exceptions! If it's a hot day, you need water (in addition to whatever else you bring). Especially if you brought snacks (which you have already done, as instructed above), because the snacks will make you thirsty.

Good picnic food can range from a carefully made sandwich to a big bag of something crunchy. Fruit or cut-up veggies are always good and refreshing, but so are Cool Ranch Doritos. (I had a picnic with takeout from the Arby's drive-thru, so no judgment.) Be sure to bring whatever utensils you might need, and maybe extras in case you drop one in the dirt.


Drink-wise, water is obviously crucial, but cold water is even better. Drop some ice cubes in your water bottle, or get one of those metal ones that keeps water cold for a very long time. Aside from water, a cold seltzer or soda is a delicious treat. Now, I'm not going to tell you to bring alcohol to your picnic because Pennsylvania doesn't allow for open containers. But if you were to make a mixed drink ahead of time or bring a sidecar of vodka that looks just like water, no one would know. But again, I am not telling you to do this.

How to pack
Having a cooler of some kind is really an advantage for a good picnic. Pop an ice pack in there and your food won't get weird and sweaty! Not to brag, but I have a Guy Fieri branded cooler that says "Flavortown" in the Hollywood sign font. But I also have a cooler that I got for 50% off at Rite Aid ($6!). The seasonal section at places like Rite Aid or Aldi often have good and cheap picnic supplies. But any bag will do, really.

In addition to snacks, drinks, and a blanket, it's also key to bring some other accessories and entertainment, like a book or magazine. If you're with a group, Mad Libs or another kind of interactive game is also great. Any kind of sports equipment, like a soccer ball or a frisbee is good to have on hand, even if you're not a sports person.

Other useful things to bring include napkins, a plastic bag to put trash in, sunglasses or a hat, sunblock, a deck of cards, a portable speaker.

Once you have all your items, find a perfect spot at a park or cemetery or another grass knoll near you. 

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