In celebration: 20% off for Jo’s birthday! Shop the sale.

Good things go quickly—psst, we're almost out of these spring favorites. Shop spring best sellers.

Find something to celebrate all the women in your life. Shop Mother's Day gifts.

A Guide to an Outdoor Picnic

by Magnolia
Published on May 12, 2023

A picnic basket and snacks on a blanket.

As the days lengthen and dinner hour blends with golden hour, there’s hardly a better place to dine than under the summer sky. With these warmer, longer days comes a sense of wild abandon and a willingness to say yes to go where the wind blows.

Whether it takes you to an open field, a table at a park, or your very own backyard, here’s a simple three-step guide for enjoying an outdoor picnic. Read on for a few tips on what to prep, pack, and play!


Step One: Prep

The key to preparing a practical picnic spread is curating a menu that travels easily, is fuss-free to assemble on-site, and simple to enjoy. The fewer utensils required, the better! It’s also important to note if the foods you choose are able to handle a little time under the sun. We’ve pulled together a few recipes ideal for bringing in your basket next time you take it outside.

Pesto Caprese Sandwiches with Balsamic Glaze

Pesto Caprese Sandwiches with Balsamic Glaze

From Picnic on the Ranch—Ranch to Table with Elizabeth Poett

homemade pesto, fresh mozzarella, and thinly sliced tomatoes layered between toasted ciabatta rolls

Watermelon Blackberry Skewer Bites

Watermelon Blackberry Skewer Bites

From Perfect Picnic Quiche—Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines

watermelon, fresh mint, cheese, and blackberries lined up on a skewer, topped with a glaze and sea salt

Homemade Potato Chips

Homemade Potato Chips

From Shrimp Boil—Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines

thinly sliced potatoes fried in oil with garlic and sprinkled with salt and pepper

Sweet Kale Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Sweet Kale Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

From A Simple Roast Chicken—Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines

kale tossed with dried cranberries, carrots and sunflower seeds, drizzled with a homemade poppyseed dressing

Blueberry Lattice Bars

Blueberry Lattice Bars

From Blueberry Bars—Zoë Bakes with Zoë François

blueberry filling on a shortbread cookie crust with a lattice top

Strawberry Sweet Tea

Strawberry Sweet Tea

From Monte Cristo Sandwiches—Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines

steeped Earl Grey tea sweetened with strawberries, sugar, and fresh lemon juice

Step Two: Pack

A Magnolia serving board on a gingham tablecloth and napkin.

Now that you’ve got the goods, it’s time to pack them! First up is choosing a versatile basket, cooler, or tote you can take on-the-go. Next, start collecting any storage containers, linens, and tableware you’d like to bring along. While some days call for paper plates, others might be well suited for bringing indoor pieces out just because. Pulling best-kept ceramics off the shelves and gathering linens from the cupboards helps make any al fresco fare feel that much more special.

As a general rule of thumb, try packing heavier items—like serving boards and large ice packs—toward the bottom of your tote and more delicate pieces near the top. If you’re worried about precious cargo getting damaged en route, try layering linens between breakables to provide some extra cushion.

Natural Utensil Caddy
Terracotta Gingham Tablecloth
Woven Lidded Carafe

Storage Containers: When it comes to packing food, condensing is key. For example, if you plan on bringing a big batch of salad or pre-cut fruit to share, try separating individual portions into Weck sealable storage jars to avoid lugging around a heavy container plus extra bowls to serve. Opting for other multifunctional pieces—like a utensil caddy and bread bag—also helps carry and serve in style, while saving a little extra space along the way.

Linens: Long live linens! They set the scene in any setting and can act as beautiful backdrops for mealtime memories. Our Terracotta Gingham Tablecloth features a traditional pattern that feels just right for a picnic, and its warm hues play well with the yellow plaid in our Daybreak Plaid Napkins. But any cloth napkins you love will do. The best part? Our tablecloths and napkins are machine washable, so no worries if they pick up a little dirt along the way.

Dinnerware: There’s an art to choosing the right plates for a picnic. It’s important to consider if they’ll pack simply, clean easily, and stay intact from point A to point B. We love that these Sandia Adobe Dinner Plates are lightweight, break-resistant, and dishwasher safe. Inspired by hand-thrown pottery, these melamine dishes stack up slim while also bringing natural form to the table (or blanket).

Drinkware: A good carafe is essential to keeping you hydrated while enjoying a meal in the elements, just ensure it’s leakproof for the sake of packing. Our Woven Lidded Carafe features a stainless steel clamp lined with a silicone stopper seal, so it functions as a spill-free vessel for ice-cold water, sun-soaked tea, or even a favorite salad dressing. Add in a few glass tumblers for a full set of drinkware to keep you quenched under the sun.

Serveware: Last but not least, serveware. A charcuterie board is welcome on any picnic spread, and no recipe is required. Simply fill a serving board, like this marble one, with a few favorite meats, cheeses, nuts, and fruit for a savory snack everyone can graze. And because every good board warrants great serving tools to match, these vintage-inspired cheese knives are just the thing.

Step Three: Play

What’s a picnic without a little play? Bringing along a deck of cards or a few board games makes for a great reason to stay outdoors that much longer. Break out a game, set the mood with a summertime playlistOpens in new tab, and linger while the light lasts.

Backpack Cornhole
Victrola Lily Mini Bluetooth Speaker
Bandana Checkers Set

Question Starters

Is there an interesting book you’ve been reading lately?

What is something you’re learning right now?

Who is someone you admire and why?

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?

What’s a dream you have, big or small, for the next year?

Here’s a peak at more new kitchen + dining arrivals to bring along on your next outing. Now go soak up the sun!

Weck jar
Yellow Rimmed Ceramic Colander and Plate
Rachel Round Food Cover
Vintage-Inspired Cheese Knives
French Grey Ceramic Food Storage Bowl
Dusty Blue Striped Napkin Set of Four