Upicnic | How to Plan the Perfect Picnic: Everything You Should NEVER Do

How to Plan the Perfect Picnic: Everything You Should NEVER Do

BY MARTA
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6/24/2016

We’ve all had our share of unplanned, spur-of-the-moment, grab-a-blanket-and-go type of picnics. Sometimes they’re fun. Most often they spell picnic disaster. Chances are you are reading this blog post exactly because you don’t want to experience that again, and are looking for tips and tricks on how to throw/host/plan perfect picnics.

Let me preface that by saying that there is no such thing as a “perfect picnic”. For crying out loud, there are how many 3-star Michelin restaurants in the world? If you are looking for perfection you should probably go eat there and leave picnics to people that are ok with a little extra wind, maybe a touch of morning dew, slightly annoying blanket neighbors, and that generally like experiencing the authenticity and honesty of an imperfect yet sublime life.

Having said that, your New York picnics can absolutely be totally and completely amazing, epic, memorable, and overall the stuff legends are made of.

And I figured that in order to explain to y’all how to exactly achieve such splendid results, maybe I should start by telling you everything you should NOT be doing – because, experience. Cue sunburns, cue stomach aches. Yes, you are totally allowed to make fun of me, but pay attention cause I’m about to drop some knowledge.

 

1- Do not be fooled into thinking picnics can be a collaborative endeavor: no sir, you are in this alone. Friends and colleagues will tell you how much they will help, but in reality they will forget until the last minute, at which point everybody will buy a bucket of KFC, Trader Joe’s chips and a bag of baby carrots.

Picnic Tip: Make sure you plan all the food and drinks that you’ll need waaay ahead of time. Granted, you could have Upicnic deliver everything you need directly to whatever spot in the park – but if you decide to go at it alone, you can get some things (like pizza) delivered to edge of the park. Some others you might be lucky enough to be able to source from a bodega “only” 20min away.

 

2- Nobody cares about the middle-of-nowhere picnic spot you discovered on your latest walk: not all picnic spots were created equal. Accessibility is important – consider trying to give 400 people directions to a remote Prospect Park location over spotty cell reception. Clue: not your ideal company picnic scenario.

Picnic Tip: New York City Parks offer some terrific options for all types of picnics and group sizes. Nearby subways, clear instructions ahead of time, balloons everywhere are all part of the winning recipe.

 

3- Styrofoam coolers are not, in fact, coolers: they are a time bomb. Do not trust them – they look sturdy but as soon as you fill them with a bag of ice and, I swear, like 3 water bottles, they will miserably fall apart. And you will have to pick up tiny particles of Styrofoam from the grass for a good hour and a half.

Picnic Tip: You are better off bringing a big salad bowl/bucket/any kind of large plastic container from home and a bag of ice…or honestly, just the bag of ice will do. And hey, how about keeping food and drinks in the shade and not under direct sunlight – that sounds smart, right?

 

4- If each person brings a picnic blanket, you will still not have enough blankets: because half the people will “forget” it at home (they never had one nor will they ever buy one [and why would they, New Yorkers have no closet space for such nonsense]) and the other half will remember exactly where it is up on that green shelf in their aunt’s garage in Connecticut. Go Red Sox.

Picnic Tip: 1 average blanket seats 4 average people. If you plan to lay down and relax, that same average blanket will allow for 2 people. Our advice is that bringing extra blankets is always better than skimping on them. And if you don’t have proper, waterproof blankets, try tablecloths instead. Your bedsheets are much too precious for grass stains.

 

5- Nobody wants to eat caviar and drink warm champagne: honestly, if that’s the type of food and drinks you need to have fun on a picnic, you will be dramatically disappointed by the outcome – and I weep a little for ya. Keep the fancy stuff for fancy places.

Picnic Tip: You need tips for the types of food to bring to a picnic? Make it both kids and spill-proof: freshly-made sandwiches, grain-based salads, simple appetizers, no soups ever for the love of god, and desserts that are easy to share (so no over-decorated 3-tiered cakes). When in doubt, always remember you’ll have a very limited supply of napkins and water by your side, so choose picnic food that is least likely to spill, drop, and drip. Hey, that was almost a rhyme – yay me!

 

6- Butt-cracks are only attractive on Victoria’s Secret angels: please, please, please wear something you look decent in when you sit down. Ladies, I am not bashing on dresses altogether, but unless you enjoy showing-off your underwear, you might want to keep them flowy and on the longer side.

Picnic Tip: Remember that for as much as you love your white clothes, and as for dramatic as they look on your brand-new tan, you will be sitting on grass, and those stains are really hard to get off.

 

7- Plastic bags and random cardboard boxes do not scream “classy”: and they’re going to ruin all your otherwise very Instagram-worthy pictures.

Picnic Tip: there’s a reason why picnic baskets were invented, and there are also reasons why they are not obsolete. They are easy to clean, easy to stack and easy to transport. They are traditionally made out of wicker, which keeps moisture out, and if you were smart enough to get your picnic baskets with cotton or linen liners, they will keep ants and other random tiny creatures away from your food. 

 

8- Really think about the outdoor viability of your board games: we love games, in fact, I do not recall a single picnic event we have ever organized with Upicnic that did not include at least a few lawn games. Problem is, what New Yorker uses their closets to store lawn games?? When you look around your apartment you might be tempted to bring Monopoli or Clue or even Scrabble to the park – newsflash: the wind will get rid of any tiny piece of paper you brought, and the grass will envelop all your placeholders, dice and other tiny plastic pieces.

Tip: Volleyball, cornhole, badminton and even bocce ball – they are all games that will enhance your picnic experience, give you something to talk about past the first hour of chit-chat, bring everybody closer together, and up the level of your neighbors’ picnic-envy

 

9- Alcohol does not count as good hydration: let alone the fact that you should not be drinking at all in any NYC park - but really, you want to mix running around in 100°F with anything else other than water and iced tea?

Picnic Tip: plan to have at least 2 non-alcoholic drinks x person. It’s summer guys, and even if spend the afternoon chilling in the shade, you will need at least 2 bottles of something to stay somewhat hydrated. However, the more the merrier – if you are planning an active after afternoon we recommend 3 to 4 drinks x person.

 

10- Public urination has very legal consequences: and it’s just plain nasty. Plus, I don’t think I need to remind you that odors are more persistent and carry much further in the summertime. For the love of everything you hold dear, just don’t do it.

Picnic Tip: If you plan on being in the park for at least a couple of hours, make sure you map out where the closest public bathrooms are. Every majorly recognized lawn and touristy spot in Central Park has one, and if you are absolutely at a loss, a lot of playgrounds have very good facilities.

 

11- Picnic tables are the devil: reasonably, you are better off laying on the grass. And here’s why: outdoor picnic tables are wobbly, their benches are super uncomfortable, they require you to be a contortionist to sit down or get up, they have surprisingly little surface space for you to put anything on after you set up the table, and they provide mad aerodynamics for plates and napkins to fly away. Plus, and I can’t be the only one concerned with this, who cleans those tables, ever?

Picnic Tip: honestly, it’s so easy to find wonderfully grassy lawns in New York City parks. First off, grass is cushy and smells great; it will keep you comfy all day long, and if you have a problem sitting down with your legs crossed, be inspired by the acrobats we see every weekend in Sheep Meadow – sit down, roll around, do cartwheels and summer salts – it all feels good on grass.

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