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Guide To Throwing The Perfect Summer Picnic Party

Whether you have a backyard or not, think outside the box and consider what you can put in a picnic basket this summer. Picnic parties are great for all ages, and you can host them in either your backyard or a local park. The only thing the age of the guests will determine? What’s on the menu!

Before inviting guests over for a picnic party, start planning the party with these tips and menu suggestions. The key to it all: keep it simple, especially if you’re heading more than a few feet from your home.

Gather Picnic Items

Summer Picnics
Photo Credit PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/GettyImages

In addition to a picnic basket, be sure to have other items to make the party “comfortable.” That includes either blankets or some sort of seating, like park benches, tables or folding or camping chairs. You’ll also need to gather together utensils and plates; disposable options require less cleanup and offer more portability. A cooler for your drinks—whether you’re serving wine, beer, or lemonade—as well as for your cold and perishable items is also a must have.

Photos: Best Summer Dishes

Craft Your Menu

Picnic Food Menu
Photo Credit Thinkstock

If you’re hosting the picnic party in your backyard, you can have more elaborate dishes if you like, but for a picnic, fancy meals aren't a necessity. Rather, keep it simple with dishes that you can easily transport or make beforehand.

Start with appetizers like cured meats, cheese and crackers and olives. Also be sure to have some salads, including a fruit salad, corn salad or a potato salad to please your vegetarian guests. Of course, the main course is the most important, and sandwiches are often the most easy to transport and assemble. But if you have a grill at your disposal, consider making burgers or hot dogs. Or you can get creative and do something that really stands out, pizza rolls or a pasta that can be served either warm or cold.

Whichever main course you choose, pair it with a few portable side dishes, such as coleslaw, marinated vegetables, couscous and fusilli, to add some variety to your picnic blanket. Lastly, don’t forget dessert! Perhaps serve berries with whipped cream, cookies, cupcakes or something more "adult," but still simple, like pear served with Camembert cheese.

Related: Best Craft Beers To Serve At Your Summer BBQ

Bring on the Entertainment

Summer Games Cornhole
Photo Credit Christopher Polk/Getty Images

While the company you keep can be some of the best entertainment, bring some other games to keep everyone entertained—and to work off that meal! Frisbees or a ball for a pickup game of softball or kickball are standard go-tos. Other outdoor game favorites include ladder ball, cornhole and bocce ball. Bring along some sidewalk chalk so the kids can play hop scotch or draw. You can also bring some games that are easy to play on a picnic blanket, like bingo, but leave games with small pieces at home, as they might be more trouble than they’re worth when you’re hanging outside. Last but not least, don’t forget some music to keep the picnic party going.

What will you serve at your next picnic party?

Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she's scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at

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