Going on a picnic is a great way to have fun with your partner, family and friends. And there are many quick and easy picnic ideas that can make your picnic planning a breeze.
Read on to get some great cheap picnic ideas to help you plan some fun spring, summer and fall gatherings.
Table of Contents
- Great Places To Have Picnics
- Great Picnic Food Ideas
- Picnic Essentials
- Picnic Games and Entertainment Ideas
Great Places To Have Picnics
There are a host of places you can choose to have your picnic at. Some are free and some are cheap.
1. Local Parks
City and town parks are abundant in most areas, and usually free to hang out in. Some have additional amenities like playground equipment and basketball courts.
Hint: Don’t just look for parks in your own city or town. Venture to towns and cities nearby so you can explore new parks as well.
2. County, State and National Parks
County, state and national parks are also great places to have picnics. Besides being larger in area, these parks offer a way to take a break from city life and get into nature.
Many national, state and county parks offer hiking trails, swimming areas and more. Note that many state and county parks do have small daily fees for visiting them. You may be able to get annual passes to save money as well.
3. Local Beaches
Local beaches can be a great place to have picnics. Many beaches–no matter how small–often have places for picnics next to swimming areas.
Search online for amenities at your favorite local beach or to find beaches near you. Don’t forget to search for beaches in nearby cities as well.
4. Scenic Overlooks
Scenic overlooks abound in every state. These beautiful overlooks are often situated in places near water or on hills or clifftops.
And many scenic overlooks have a picnic table or two so that visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch.
Check tourism sites for the states you want to picnic in so that you can find an overlook with picnic amenities.
5. Along Public Riverbanks
Many public riverbanks have picnic tables set up not too far from shore. These venues allow you to enjoy your picnic meal while overlooking the beauty of the river.
Popular river towns are most likely to have picnic facilities by the riverbank.
Bonus: You get to watch the boats that are passing by as you enjoy the view.
6. At Public Zoos
Public zoos frequently have picnic areas as well. Picnic tables, grills and other picnic supplies are available for you to eat at when you pack your own lunch.
Be sure to have your picnic at designated tables. Enjoy food shops your local zoo may have if you want dessert or extra treats.
7. Private Entertainment Venues
Private entertainment venues such as amusement parks, water parks, pumpkin patches, apple orchards and animal farms often have picnic areas.
You’ll find lists of venues that have picnic areas on the venue’s website. Be aware that some of these venues may have admission fees.
8. Your Own Backyard
Maybe you don’t feel like traveling to your picnic destination. Or maybe you’re without transportation at the moment.
Why not have a picnic in your own backyard? Set out a blanket, bring some music and your favorite foods and simply enjoy the place you live.
Great Picnic Food Ideas
Picnic food ideas can span the globe and range from casual to elegant. Here are some great picnic food ideas you can use.
Whether you make your own or pick up some sushi from your favorite market or restaurant, sushi is a neat and easy choice for restaurant food. Save money by shopping at your favorite restaurant.
10. Sandwiches or Wraps
Both sandwiches and wraps are easy to make cheaply at home, and offer a variety of options. Choose from a Club sandwich, chicken ranch wrap, tuna or chicken salad and more.
Change up breads, meats, cheeses and veggie toppings to make your picnic meal different every time.
Salads offer just as much variety as sandwiches and wraps do. Put together a large salad at home that everyone can share:
- Mediterranean salad
- Taco salad
- Club salad
- Cobb salad
- Antipasto salad
- Oriental salad
- Caesar salad
- Pasta salad
- American potato salad
- German potato salad
And other ideas. Again, switch up ingredients and dressings to make things interesting.
Kebabs are a great cheap picnic food as well. Use any combination of meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables that appeal to you.
You can add a theme to your kebabs as well:
- Hawaiian kebabs with ham and pineapple
- Italian kebabs with pepperoni, mozzarella and olives
- Fresh fruit kebabs
- Cold cut kebabs with cheese
You get the idea. If you want to bring kebabs you can grill, be sure to find a park that has a grill, and bring your own charcoal.
13. Charcuterie Boards
Charcuterie boards are another great way to feed your picnic bunch. Arrange your selection of meats, cheeses, fruits, veggies, snacks and more on your favorite board.
Wrap with plastic wrap to keep the board stable during transport if you’re not doing your picnic at home.
14. Chips and Dip
Here’s another picnic idea that boasts endless possibilities. Ideas can include:
- Pita chips and hummus
- Potato chips and chip dip
- Tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole
- Crackers and cream cheese dip or cheese balls
- Pretzels and beer dip
15. Picnic Desserts
Try these quick and cost-effective dessert ideas for your picnic.
Pie is the classic dessert of any TV picnic scene. Cherry, apple, peach, blueberry; the choice is yours!!
Bonus tip: Instead of pies, try making this mini ombre cake for your picnic outing.
Cookies are also a great picnic dessert. From your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe to snickerdoodles, there are so many great cookies to choose from.
Check out this list of the best cookie recipes of all time from All Recipes for some ideas, or bring a long-held family favorite.
Fruit and Fruit Dip
Fruit and fruit dip can also be a great picnic dessert. From berries to apples to melons to fruit salad, the possibilities are endless.
Visit Taste of Home’s fruit dip recipes for ideas from cream cheese dips to chocolate dips for your fruit.
Cereal treats such as Rice Krispie treats are easy to make and allow for a lot of variation. Combine your marshmallows and butter with any cereal, such as:
- Fruit Loops
- Honey Nut Cheerios
- Corn Flakes
- Cocoa Pebbles
- Cap’n Crunch
And others. You can add mix-ins too, such as M&M’s, Oreo pieces or Skittles.
You can bring your favorite bar recipes on your picnic outings as well. Seven-layer bars, brownies, chocolate chip bars, Special K bars or a longtime picnic favorite: Lemon bars.
If you’re going to a picnic spot where a bonfire pit or grill is available, consider having S’mores for your picnic dessert.
If not, check out these fun S’mores recipes for other ideas where no flame is needed.
Canning Jar Desserts
Canning jar desserts are fun to make and can be customized to each picnic attendee. Choose from options such as Blueberry pie, Key Lime pie, S’mores and cheesecake.
Next, let’s talk about some picnic essentials you may want to bring on your picnic.
Blankets are a must have on picnics. Even if you’re eating at a picnic table, you may want a blanket for taking a snooze after your meal or hike.
We have a specified “picnic” blanket at our house that we don’t mind getting tattered a bit.
17. Picnic Bag or Basket
You’ll need some place to store your picnic supplies. You can use a cute picnic basket that has room to store all of your food and supplies.
Or you can use a large, insulated cooler bag as well. Backpacks work nice for hauling picnic supplies too.
18. Table Cover and Clips
Table covers are an essential if you’ll be sitting at a picnic table–or if you want to serve food on your picnic blanket without worrying about spills.
Plastic table covers are nice because they’re less likely to hold stains and moisture from spills. Be sure to get table cover clips too, in case you’re picnicking on a windy day.
19. Camping Chairs
Camping chairs can be fun additions to your picnic as well. Especially if you’re planning a longer day out. The foldable chairs are great for storage and easy to haul back and forth.
20. Serving Ware
Serving ware is another picnic essential. You’ll need plates, bowls, forks, spoons, knives, serving utensils and more.
Throw-away serving ware is convenient and can do in a pinch. Consider melamine or plastic reusable serving ware that you save for picnic use only.
The impact on the environment is better and it allows for more of a theme to your picnic as well. Don’t forget napkins and drink ware as well!
21. Other Picnic Essentials
Here are some other picnic essentials you may find handy as you plan your outing.
Charcoal, Lighter Fluid and a LIghter
If you’re planning on grilling during your picnic excursion, you’ll want to be sure to have grilling supplies.
Many parks have charcoal grills available for use. All you need is your own charcoal, lighter fluid and lighter.
Hint: Check out these ideas on where to get free firewood for your picnic bonfire.
Bug spray is another picnic essential. Depending on where you live and what the weather is, you could be inundated with flies, mosquitos and the like.
If you’re searching for a chemical-free bug repellant, check out this list of essential oils that work well as bug repellants.
Sunscreen is another important supply you may need for your picnic. This is especially true if there are little to no trees where you’ll be picnicking.
Be sure to reapply if you’re working up a sweat during your outing or if you go in the water.
Next, let’s talk about some fun picnic games and other entertainment ideas.
Picnic Games and Entertainment Ideas
These games and entertainment ideas are budget-friendly and allow for extra fun during your picnic outing.
22. Conversation Starters
Conversation starters are any questions that help you get a conversation going. Here are some ideas:
- What three words best describe you?
- What three words best describe your neighbor?
- Tell me about your dream job.
- What is your biggest pet peeve?
- What is your greatest fear?
- Name your best (or least) favorite foods?
You get the picture.
Cornhole is a game that appeals to just about everyone. And although it does require that you bring the board and the bags to your picnic destination, most find the work well worth the fun to be had.
Check out these cornhole game variations that will make your gathering more interesting.
24. Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts are great games for picnic outings because you can so widely vary what items players can look for . Here are some ideas you can include on your scavenger hunt list:
- Different types of insects
- Different types of birds
- Leaves from different tree varieties
- Wild berries of different kinds
- Bodies of water
- Animal tracks
- Different flower varieties
Search online for free printable nature scavenger hunt printables to make your hunt easier and more exciting.
25. Would You Rather?
Would you rather is a game that can be played just about anywhere, anytime. Come up with your own comparison questions like:
“Would you rather eat a live cricket or a dead worm?”
Or get one of the many great Would You Rather? books for some great suggestions for questions.
26. Scrabble, Backgammon or Chess
Any board game with pieces that won’t blow away in a breeze can be a great edition to your picnic!!
Challenge your picnic cohorts to a game of checkers, backgammon or chess and see who wins!
As you can see, there are many cheap picnic ideas that are quick and easy. From the food you eat, to the place you go and more, great ideas abound.
Use this list to create the picture perfect picnic for yourself and your loved ones.