At least once every summer since we’ve been dating, Alex and I have had a picnic at Central Park. It’s not something that we ever set in stone, but once the weather starts getting nicer, one of us eventually suggests the idea. There’s just something about spending an afternoon outdoors, soaking up the sun and having a leisurely meal with good people that refreshes me, and no summer is complete without this little tradition.
Our formula is simple: maybe pack a few sandwiches (if I’m feeling up to it), pick up a variety of small bites from Grace’s Marketplace on 2nd Avenue to round out the stash, and find a shady spot in the park.
I’m firmly in the camp that you don’t need to break the bank (or a sweat) to plan a great picnic, especially if it’s just for two people. So I wanted to share a few of our go-to picnic essentials for an easy, but fabulous spread:
Antipasto – Technically you could buy a pre-made platter from any random grocery store, but I highly recommend getting your meats freshly sliced from the butcher’s section of a specialty shop. Not only will you get to choose what you like, but you’ll get better quality and probably even spend less. We usually go for two or three cuts like prosciutto, genoa salami and some kind of spicy sausage like chorizo. Next, add a few accompaniments like olives and your favorite cheese. Just make sure to stick to something that won’t melt in the hot weather.
Dips – Since we were going the super simple route, Alex just picked up a few to-go packages up hummus and pretzels. Salsa or guacamole and chips are also great options for passing around, and you could make all these from home if you wanted (but ain’t nobody got time for that.)
Fruit – This is a no-brainer. Easy-to-eat and shareable fruits like grapes, cherries or watermelon are great for adding some freshness to your spread and can balance out any heavier food items. Although I can binge-eat cherries like nobody’s business…
Drinks – Personally, all I really need is a huge bottle of water and I’m good. But for something a little more interesting, I’ll usually pick out something light, fruity and not too sweet. If you feel like spending a few more dollars and making things a little more special, you could even bring a bottle of rosé or prosecco. Alcohol technically isn’t allowed in New York City’s public parks, so it’ll require some discretion if you’re here.
Picnic Blanket – For years, we made do with old blankets that we found around the house, but the best decision I ever made was upgrading to a more durable and waterproof (!) picnic blanket. Mine conveniently folds up into a little tote so I can carry and store it easily, but there are plenty of great options out there. Here are a few.
Entertainment – I find when I’m outside indulging in fresh air and the joys of nature, the last thing I want to do is look at my phone. So I’ll usually pack cards or some kind of hands-on game, like a frisbee, which doesn’t take up too much space in your bag. Alex even brought a chess set last time, though I definitely recommend finding a flat surface to play on so the pieces don’t annoyingly topple over every two seconds (rolls eyes).
P.S. Here are my favorite things do in New York City this summer.