Late summer may be the perfect time for a picnic: Fewer bugs, less heat and a holiday weekend coming up.
What’s to stop you from packing a basket and heading out to the park?
Besides not knowing where to start.
Have no fear; we’ve got you covered, with recommendations from around Lancaster that will fit any type of picnic planner.
Baskets don’t have to just be plain wicker; there are plenty of options to choose from.
Details, 30 N. Queen St., has a wide selection of picnic baskets.
There are classic wicker options, some with insulated cooler boxes inside. These baskets mainly come with their own silverware and dish sets, many of which are plastic, so there’s no need to worry about them breaking.
There are even picnic baskets and coolers that can be worn like backpacks, which are much less cumbersome than a large basket with handles.
Other basket options include collapsible coolers that can double as seats, six-pack beer insulators and wine caddies.
Smaller coolers with handles are also an easy option to pack, and many are now made specifically to resemble picnic baskets.
Blankets or chairs
Some baskets come with their own blankets, but you can always bring your own. A thick blanket or quilt will usually do the job, but you can also seek out a lined, waterproof blanket to make sure that moisture from grass you thought was dry doesn’t seep through. Another option is to bring lawn chairs if you don’t want to rough it on the ground. There are endless varieties of chairs, of course, from camping chairs to more sturdy tailgating chairs with cup holders.
Or, if you don’t want to carry anything or don’t have much on hand, find a park with picnic tables.
Tips for choosing food
When it comes to picnics, it’s easiest to stick primarily with finger foods. That way, you don’t need to worry about there being enough silverware for everyone, or even bringing silverware in the first place.
And of course, choose food that you feel good about. Picnics should be fun, not stressful. But you don’t have to go crazy to pack a successful picnic: all you need is a few key items and you’ll have an impressive spread.
Here’s a look at some Lancaster County recommendations for what to bring to your picnic.
Tarrah Berrier of The Turkey Lady Gourmet Turkey Products in Lancaster Central Market recommends her turkey snack sticks, which come in a variety of flavors.
“The turkey snack sticks are probably my favorite choice,” Berrier says. “They’re smoked so they’re safe to have outside in the hot weather.”
Meat and other perishable food items should be left out no more than two hours, or one hour if it’s above 90 degrees out, before they invite spoilage.
Another easy option is a cured meat such as prosciutto, says Bill Mandros of Mandros Imported Foods, 351 N. Charlotte St.
This, too, is an easier option, as it lasts longer in the heat. The deli has many options, including hot or sweet copa, and Canadian and smoked prosciutto.
Mandros says it’s very common for customers to come in and get a classic combination of prosciutto, some cheese — usually of a harder variety —and crackers to take with them to the park.
“It doesn’t have to be a lot,” he says.
Lastly, if you want to get fancy, you can always bring burgers or other meat items with you to cook, if you have access to a grill at the park.
Whole Foods’ butcher department has a wide range of ready-made kebabs that just need to be cooked.
Cooking them ahead of time, keeping them cold and then simply reheating them on a grill is a simple option.
A perfect, simple finger food is cheese and crackers. Or cheese and fruit. Or cheese and meat. You get the point — cheese is a picnic staple.
Jordan Spangenburg of S. Clyde Weaver recommends his company’s Canadian super sharp cheddar.
He says it’s “good for cubing up and putting on crackers.”
Additionally, the stand has veggie cream cheese and other spreads that are an easy pair with any cracker.
Gouda is the way to go, says Amber Troop, manager of Farm 2 Table Creations at Central Market. The stand’s gouda has been aged three years but is still “really creamy.”
Gouda can easily be paired with crackers, but can also be served with fruit such as apple slices or grapes.
At Deli Grassi at the market, Lauren Marino recommends the sweety peppers and goat cheese as a combo.
Sheila Harrison recommends bleu cheese-stuffed olives, which are the perfect easy-to-pack and sure-to-please finger food.
A great option for your main picnic entree is a salad. Since salads are usually served cold, you won’t have to worry about keeping anything hot. There are also various kinds to choose from, including grain, meat, vegetable and fruit salads.
No matter what, it’ll be easy to please multiple people and easy to transport, too.
You can even buy a ready-to-go pasta salad or potato salad from a store to cut down prep time.
Whole Foods also has a slew of ready-made salads in its prepared food section, including watermelon feta mint salad and broccolini and bowtie salads.
Another hassle-free option is to bring foods that are already pre-made and don’t require any additional preparation.
Stella Xenou-Mylonas of Stella’s Authentic Greek Cuisine at Market recommends her stuffed grape leaves, which you can get already-made at her stand in Central Market. These should be dipped in tzatziki sauce, which she also sells.
“You need finger food,” Xenou-Mylonas says.
If you don’t have time to plan or cook, just pick up some take-out dishes and bring them the park. You can still have a delicious picnic.
Issei Noodle, which has a location on Queen Street and a stand at Central Market, sells to-go dishes in takeout containers.
Many of the noodle dishes can be eaten cold, so keeping them hot won’t have to be a priority — although you shouldn’t let them sit out.
Or head to your favorite deli and grab a couple of sandwiches and some chips.
When it comes to finger foods, there’s nothing easier than chips and dip. Whether you bring salsa, queso or guacamole, it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
To spice things up a little bit, Raidel Marquez recommends the pineapple salsa from his stand in Central Market, Guacamole Specialists. The pineapple salsa is sweeter than his other salsas and also pairs well with meats and sandwiches.
Lancaster County has plenty of great places to picnic. Spread a blanket next to the pond in Long’s Park, or on the grassy lawns of Buchanan Park.
Lancaster County Central Park has plenty of spots to grab some shade and some space to yourself. There are also picnic tables by the Garden of the Five Senses.
And for those who want to picnic with the Susquehanna River as their backdrop, be sure to head to Chickies Rock Park in Columbia.
Or how about heading to a vineyard?
Nissley Vineyards welcomes visitors to bring their own picnic to eat on their grounds, which include a beautiful lawn, patio and creek.
You can make it even easier by going through the drive-thru window at Little Italy down the street and bring your food right to the vineyards, and then grabbing a bottle of wine from Nissley.