Mom and boy having picnic in winter on blanket in the snow

Simple Ideas for a Winter Picnic

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Yes, I know picnics are usually associated with summertime. But why not be adventurous and try it out a winter picnic? Because let’s be honest…summer is short and I still want to do all the awesome things (like picnics!) during the rest of the year.

It’s also great to show kids (and yourself) how to overcome small obstacles or discomforts and be rewarded by a unique new experience!

Not to mention every season has something special to offer. Warm food and drinks are particularly nice to enjoy while fluffy white snowflakes are falling softly around you. And did I mention there are no bugs?

Have I convinced you to try it yet? If so, here are some ideas for a winter picnic that is simple to pull off!

Winter Picnic Location Ideas:

Mom and small boy sitting on blanket in snow during winter picnic eating soup in their mugs.
A completely unprompted snuggle.

The first step is to decide where to have a winter picnic. I would recommend choosing whatever spot would be the absolute easiest option for you, at least on the first time out. Example locations:

  • your backyard
  • a friend or family member’s backyard
  • a nearby park or nature preserve (make sure you clean up after yourself!)
  • a beach (make a fire if allowed – be responsible)
  • a tailgate party
  • or during a winter hike (if you’re already accustomed to such things)

We had ours in the backyard of a home where we recently stayed during vacation. The yard was surrounded by beautiful woods, so we laid our blanket down right at the edge of the clearing. Ours wasn’t waterproof, so I also added a tarp underneath.

Choosing the location is really dependent on you, transportation, and the people coming… so choose wisely. And when in doubt, I’d suggest the easiest location!

Little boy eating soup in a mug outside during winter picnic on blanket surrounded by snow
Yes, his chili did end up all over his snow pants. Thank you for asking 😀

Winter Picnic Food Ideas:

The best way to ensure a successful winter picnic is to keep the food super simple for the sake of packing and eating especially if you have to travel quite a ways to the destination. Finger foods that don’t fall apart are ideal and much easier to eat with gloves on if it’s really cold out. And preferably there would be at least one or two warm food options. It is winter, after all! Oh, and portability is critical; you don’t want to spill the goods before you get to enjoy them but more on this in the packing list section.

Here are some simple but still delicious food ideas:

  • Soup – For the absolute easiest option, I bought some prepared boxed chili, warmed it on the stove right before heading out, and poured it into a thermos that maintains temperature. Since we were just in the backyard, I also packed along a few toppings like green onions, sour cream, corn chips, and sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Stew
  • Sandwiches
  • Quiche or Frittata
  • Pot Pie’s or Pasties
  • Root Vegetable Salads
  • Celery, Carrots, Cucumber Slices + Hummus
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Brownies or Fudge
  • Hot Chocolate in a thermos
  • Sparkling beverages (yes, they’re still good even in the cold!)

Winter Picnic Packing List:

Basket of food for winter picnic

The way you approach packing depends on the location you choose. If hiking, you’ll probably want to pack simple, light, and have as few moving parts as possible. If you’re just heading to the park or backyard and don’t have to carry your food far, you probably feel alright about packing a few more (heavier) options.

After years of backpacking, I’m partial to using mugs for outdoor meals whenever possible. They are just so much easier to work with than plates or bowls! If you drink out of a mug frequently (especially outside), this Yeti mug is every bit worth it! It maintains the temperature better than any mug we’ve ever tried. It also has a cover with a small opening for sipping, which is great news if it might sit a while before drinking or if you’re prone to spilling, like me.

Please do yourself a favor and really think about how you are going to transport the food safely! Take your time to make sure everything is packed up securely. As a professional “spiller”, I can vouch for how frustrating it can be to spill EVERYTHING all at once. Minor spills, however, are no big deal :).

This may be overkill for some but I recommend briefing everyone at the picnic on the best way to approach all the food (what utensils to use, how to scoop things without spilling, and any other helpful info you have).

Here’s my packing list of essentials, accessories, and more:

  • waterproof blanket or tarp
  • adequate snow clothes!
  • tissues for cold runny noses
  • torch, lantern, or flashlight depending on daylight
  • paper towels
  • matches or lighter if planning a fire
  • traditional hard shell cooler or picnic basket for the food
  • insulated food delivery bags are pretty great if you don’t want a big heavy cooler
  • lightweight folding picnic chairs – these are ultra light and compact but super sturdy
  • for those hiking a longer distance, grab a picnic backpack
  • camp mugs or non-breakable bowls
  • spoons for soup and stirring hot chocolate (and any other utensils you deem necessary)
  • water bottles
  • any other necessary dishes for the food you decide to bring

Conclusion

Word of advice, don’t choose an extraordinarily cold or super windy day. Remember, you want as few obstacles as possible to this being an enjoyable winter picnic experience! And, as always during the winter months, make sure everyone is dressed adequately for the weather! You can always remove layers if need be.

As far as involving kiddos in the set up process – that is up to you and what you and your kids are feeling that day. Some kids might enjoy gathering supplies or readying the picnic spot, others might get too impatient and sabotage things. As always, do what you think is best for you and yours!

While picnicking, I’d highly suggest talking about what you hear and see around you. Depending on the age of your kids, discuss the different colors, shapes, textures, animals, plant life, etc. There’s always a way to spark curiosity and interest in the outdoors if we just guide them (and ourselves) to it! I hope this list of ideas helps set you up for winter picnic success!

Looking for other winter activity ideas, check out my ultimate winter bucket list.

PS – Know someone that would like this blog? Please forward it to them!

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