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When was the last time you went on a picnic? Picnicking grew in popularity with the advent of the automobile. Long drives through the countryside became a popular pastime throughout the early 1900s and would often include an alfresco meal packed in a basket or hamper.
The popularity of picnicking waned in the late 1900s and early 2000s as fast-food and restaurant dining became more common. However, picnics made a big comeback in 2020 when families were forced to get creative when dining out. That’s when my family took the leap and started a family tradition of going on at least one picnic a month.
Sometimes we have a plan and a destination in mind. Often it’s a State Park as we are completing our Arkansas State Parks Passport book. Sometimes we just pile in the car, pick a direction and see where the open road takes us.
The benefits of packing a picnic are many. First, we save money. With rising food costs, saving money is always a plus. Second, many Arkansas State Parks are quite a distance from town, and having a picnic on hand lets us eat when we are ready. Finally, finding something everyone wants to eat can be a challenge. When we pack a lunch, we all get to decide what we want before we leave the house.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.
Packing your picnic doesn’t have to be complicated. Wine, cheese and grapes sound romantic but aren’t often practical as they require extra gear and tools. For my family, a few sandwiches, some fruit and a couple of water bottles are tasty, easy to pack and don’t typically require an extra trip to the store. We love to pick up food from a local BBQ joint if we’re not packing sandwiches. (Find some of The Mighty Rib’s recommendations here.)
If you feel up to cooking, here are a few recipes that we know you will enjoy.
We always carry a compact nylon blanket which can also double as a tablecloth. This gives us the ability to cover the table but makes it possible to comfortably use the ground if that’s the only option.
Lakeside picnics are our favorite, but the breeze coming off the water can turn things chilly in a hurry. Especially in the springtime, when temperatures can fluctuate greatly, dressing in layers ensures you’ll be comfortable.
Always pack out what you bring in and leave the picnic site better than you found it. Make sure all trash is removed and disposed of in the provided receptacle. If there is no trash collection area, take it home for disposal.
Arkansas has so many parks and nature areas to choose from that you really can’t go wrong when it comes to choosing a location. Keep in mind that many parks which offer camping have designated picnic areas and you should not picnic on campsites. If you plan to hike to your picnic location, be sure to account for the added weight of the food and drink you will carry and adjust your hiking plans accordingly. Here is a sampling of some of our favorite picnic spots across the state along with a sampling of things to do in the area.
April 23 is National Picnic Day and June 18 is World Picnic Day. There are plenty of opportunities to plan a few picnics before the summer heat rolls in. Where will you be headed first?
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