Summer is here. OK, I know technically summer starts next month, but let’s be real. Here in Houston, summer comes early. May is one of my favorite months because summer hasn’t gotten unbearably warm, meaning outdoor activities are less sweaty and sticky. Aka, the time to plan a picnic is NOW.
I got all dolled up and headed out to have a picnic because, well why not, but also because I’m headed to CultureMap’s Hello Summer Social on Thursday, May 18, to talk about my picture-perfect picnic tips, which are as follows.
I hope to see you all at the event! Check out our Instagram contest to win tickets to the event (but PSA, tickets are only $20 and go straight toward the Memorial Park Conservatory!)
Hermann Park was my favorite park in college (it was super close to UH campus and Coogs got free entrance into the Houston Zoo!). I had plenty of picnics in Hermann Park from huge groups to just me and a few friends, and it was perfect for both. There’s a whole dedicated picnic area, but my favorite place to post up is right by McGovern Lake, where there are cute turtles, persistent geese and pretty ducks! Not sure if it’s allowed, but I fed them all some crackers.
- HUGE! You can def find a good spot secluded from other people and still with a great view.
- Picnic tables galore.
- Wildlife to feed, either legally or illegally. Plus, the Zoo is right there if you need more animal interaction.
- Zoo parking nightmares.
- Tons of children running around, because zoo.
- Zoo parking nightmares.
- Zoo parking nightmares.
I know Memorial Park as a 3-mile track that I ran almost daily preparing for my quarter marathon earlier this year, but it’s way more than that. First of all, it’s got some incredible hiking trails. Second of all, the park has dozens of picnic tables and areas for your enjoyment. The best spot set up camp is south of Memorial Drive on Picnic Loop (go figure).
- Also huge, with tons of trails to discover.
- There are volleyball courts, bathrooms etc. all around you.
- Picnic areas perfect for big groups.
- Definitely more of an exercise-focused park. It’s never fun to have to watch fit people run by while stuffing your face.
- Kind of disjointed and hard to find out where to park/go/etc. Definitely plan where you want to go.
Discovery Green is a little more straight-forward of a park to picnic in. It’s significantly smaller than Memorial or Hermann parks and there are restaurants and food trucks surrounding the area, so you don’t even need to pack a basket. Because it’s small, go with a small group here. There aren’t tables, so opt for the traditional picnic blanket experience.
- Small park surrounded by street parking, so you won’t have to walk too far.
- Even better: There’s a parking garage.
- Sometimes there are performances and entertainment.
- Surrounded by restaurants and sometimes food trucks.
- Small park so can get busy and not very intimate.
- No drinking, since the park is in the Central Business District.
OK, so we all know what to bring to a picnic, but here’s my own comprehensive, 100% serious list that you can print out and check off as you pack. Or not. Whatever. I’m just here to help.
- Adorable picnic basket you bought half off at Michael’s with a cute totally useless piece of fabric that pops in photos.
- 2-3 bags and coolers to actually hold things your useless basket cannot.
- Fresh cut
plasticsunflowers also half off from Michaels.
- An entire pineapple you have no intention of eating because how the heck would you… pineapples are hard enough to cut in a kitchen.
- A picnic blanket, aka a normal blanket you are OK with converting from snuggle accessory to tarnished, damp and dirty “picnic blanket.”
- Napkins and/or paper towels (pack as much as you think you’ll need then double that).
- Paper plates and cutlery.
- Wine/bottle opener.
- Trash bag if you’re with a big group. If not, reusing grocery bags would suffice.
- A cute hardback book that you will pretend to read for a photo but then will turn into a level place to put your drink.
- A tray (if you don’t even want to go through the charade of the hardback book reading and just want a damn spot to set your drink down).
- It’s Not Hou koozies. All other koozies are illegal. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
- Hand sanitizer. Trust me.
- Bug spray and sunscreen, for the weak. (JK, use ’em).
- Fun cups (with lids!!!!) with fun straws to use probably for photo purposes until you feel too basic to continue.
- Lastly, and most obviously, food and drink (see below).
Eat and drink
What’s a picnic without food, eh? Here are my favorite, picnic-friendly food around town!
Side note: Drinking in Houston is legal aside from state parks and the Central Business District in downtown (the parallels of which are Dowling Street and I-45, McGowen Street and Buffalo Bayou). Anywhere else, you can drink out of cans or plastic — most likely, glass is forbidden. PSA: Discovery Green is in the Central Business District, so hold the booze there.
Local Foods. With multiple locations, chances are there’s a Local Foods near where you wanna picnic. Plus, their sandwiches (which you can get in a gluten-free wrap) both travel and photograph really well. Plus how good do their homemade chips and fresh fruit sound?
Antones. This Houston sandwich staple has been feeding picnickers and other patrons for more than 50 years, so you can’t go wrong with an original po’boy or, my favorite, the turkey and swiss. Pro tip (or should I say “po” tip): HEB sells Antone’s sandwiches!
Central Market. If you’re not looking for take out from a restaurant, Central Market is my favorite grocery store for photo-ready food. They have a great prepared foods section, amazing bread selection for sandwiches, and yummy fresh juices — all for cheaper than Whole Foods. Win, win, win.
Three Brother’s Bakery. My favorite sweet spot has amazing desserts that make for an excellent touch especially if your picnic is in celebration of something.
OK, real talk. This has all been about planning the PICTURE-perfect picnic, right? I mean, pics or it didn’t happen. And if we lived in a world where me in a park wearing sweatpants with no makeup on got a buncha likes on Instagram, well, that would be just too heavenly to be the real life. Let’s talk style. Here are my (obviously expert) tips:
- Think about your footwear. Chances are you might be hiking to that perfect picnic spot. Wear comfy shoes, or hate your life later. Also, closed toe shoes might be preferred (ants!!) but depends on where you’re going.
- Jacket, no jacket? If you’re picnicking in the evening, you might want to grab a jacket for when the sunsets. Also, it doubles as a pillow if you need.
- Don’t wear pants. OK, minds out of gutters. I just think picnics are the types of things you wear shorts/dresses to. HOWEVER, one important note: If you are picnicking at a picnic table or maybe without a blanket, pants may be preferred. I’m mainly thinking in terms of you might be a tad hot in full pants. I will say though, there are only one or two graceful ways to sit on a picnic blanket in a tight dress, and you will not like either.
- Sunglasses or squint. Don’t forget your sunnies! Especially if you’re taking photos — for fear of squint shots/wrinkles.
- Hat game strong. Sort of for the same reasons as sunglasses, but also how chic does a hat at a picnic look. Do it for the insta.