Plan the Perfect Spring Family Picnic

Best spots, gear and tips for making your next outdoor picnic a success.


Published:

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Jewel tones and heavy layers make way for pastels, open-toe shoes and fragrant, longer days during spring. The grass needs cutting, gorgeous bushes bloom and allergies to nature’s own brand of confetti — in the form of pollen — kick into overdrive. Yes, spring in North Carolina is magical — so much so that it can inspire some extra-special adventures with your family in the great outdoors.

Nothing says “spring” or “quality time” quite as well as a meal shared in the form of a neatly packed picnic. Or, it could be a disheveled one. The point is to spend this time in nature with loved ones.

Picnic-Perfect Recipes

Yvonne Madden of Charlotte is stepmom to Ivy, an aspiring young chef. Madden and her stepdaughter use any opportunity they can to spend time together in the kitchen. Madden’s Vietnamese heritage drives her love of delicious, fresh foods, so her suggestions for picnic goodies do not disappoint.

If you’re picnicking in an area where a grill is available, Madden suggests considering burgers for your main course.

“Ivy loves making patties with me. You can have most school-age kiddos mix the ground beef and form them into patties,” she says. “In fact, any ground meat or meat substitute works wonderfully for this. You can also buy premade patties from any of our fresh, local grocers.”

Madden also raves about the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in the Queen City and Triangle region. “We’re really lucky to live in a climate where we can access most anything any time of the year,” she says.

A true hallmark of North Carolina is that fresh produce is often locally sourced, making it more economical.

“Pre-slice everything and toss them into some Ziploc baggies for easy snacking,” Madden advises. “Bonus: Kids can help bag up the veggies and fruits.”

Though some fan-favorite recipes call for it, mayonnaise is not the most picnic-friendly of foods since it can spoil if not refrigerated. Madden’s suggestion: Replace it with pesto in salads. One of her favorite recipes involves slicing up a handful of cherry tomatoes and adding in some mozzarella pearls, fresh basil, pesto, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Madden says this dish offers the perfect accompaniment to crusty bread, can be eaten alone or be made into a sandwich.

Another tasty traveling recipe is bowtie pesto pasta salad. Just toss boiled bowties with pesto, then add some salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese.

For a sweet but healthy treat, scoop out the centers of large strawberries and fill them with melted chocolate chips using a small spoon or piping bag, then store them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so until the chocolate hardens. Use an egg carton to prevent the strawberries from tipping over.

Prepackaged Goodies

If you’d rather spend less time preparing for and more time enjoying your spring family picnic, consider purchasing seasonal, prepackaged foods.

“Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of someone else’s labor, but you’re actually able to be present in the moment with your kiddos, saving time and potential frustration when things don’t go according to the plan,” says Durham-based nanny Krysta S.

Suggestions include nongreasy chips that don’t leave a residue, and prepackaged salads, fruits and veggies. Add some precooked grilled chicken strips and you’ve got this picnic “in the bag.”

Top Picnic Spots

North Carolina offers perfectly picturesque picnic locations come spring — whether you’re at William B. Umstead State Park for a piece of outdoor sanctuary in Raleigh or Jetton Park hitting up a little slice of a beach at Lake Norman.

Other honorable mentions for Triangle families include Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, Pullen Park in Raleigh and Ayr Mount in Hillsborough.

The Charlotte area offers perfectly picturesque picnic locations come spring — whether you’re at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden or Freedom Park. Other honorable mentions include Latta Park in Dilworth, and Romare Bearden Park or First Ward Park uptown. Independence Park is great for its view of uptown and playground, and you can picnic by the playground at Colonel Francis Beatty Park which also has bike trails by the lake.


Hassle-Free Accessories

Pack the right accessories to achieve picnic perfection. Here are a few good ideas to consider.
 

Camco’s Handy Mat With Strap folds out to 60-inches by 78-inches and into a compact 10.5-inches by 15-inches for storage. (A 72-inch by 108-inch mat is also available). Built-in handles assist with easy transport, and the mat also features convenient pockets and mildew-resistant material that can be cleaned with soap and water. camco.net and amazon.com, $7.64-$19.43.

 



REI’s Sea to Summit Alpha Utensil Set

This fork-spoon-knife combination is made from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy for increased durability and weighs only 1.3 ounces. The product includes a small accessory carabiner so you can clip all three utensils together. rei.com, $19.95.

 

 

Scuddles Cooler Picnic Basket

This modern take on the nostalgic wicker basket features strong leather straps and keeps food hot or cold for 12 hours. The cooler includes a set of four stainless steel spoons, forks and knives; four plastic wine glasses; four washable napkins; salt-and-pepper shakers and a bottle opener. scuddlesusa.com, $35.99. (Scuddles also offers a picnic backback for $49.99.)

 


Extra tip: If you’re planning to be out for a while before eating, partially freeze water bottles to surround your food in the cooler. Not only do frozen water bottles do a fantastic job of keeping your goodies cold, they also come in handy once the ice melts. Use your own reusable water bottles to score extra eco-friendly points.


Lauren Ramirez of Lexington is a new mom, former teacher and higher education professional.

 

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June 2019

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

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National Institute for Environmental Health Scienc
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4815 Six Forks Road
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5 E. Edenton St.
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4815 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Cost: Free

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Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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Cost: Free

Where:
Trinity Baptist Church
4815 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Sponsor: Trinity Baptist Church
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Contact Name: Katie Medlin
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Cost: Free

Where:
Bass Pro Shops
801 Bass Pro Ln.
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Telephone: 417-413-9368
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Cost: Free

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Cabela's
201
Cabela Dr.
Garner, NC  27529
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Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (6 - under)

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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Cost: Free

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1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
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Cost: Free

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Cary, NC  27511
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Cost: Free; donations accepted

Where:
American Tobacco Campus
Blackwell St.
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View map »


Website »

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Cost: $5

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Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
Website »

More information

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Cost: $14/resident, $18/nonresident

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101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free; donations accepted

Where:
American Tobacco Campus
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Website »

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Cost: $15/$10 for members

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Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-821-2787
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Cost: Free

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Raleigh, NC  27601
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

It`s 1863 at Yates Mill, and the yard is alive with activity! Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal.  Tour fee:...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (ages 6-under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: $10-$20

Where:
1321 Athens Dr
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Vacation Bible School is a FREE event at Trinity Baptist Church. All families are welcome! June 12-15, 2019. Wednesday - Friday 6-8pm and Saturday from 9-11:30am. Children can come enjoy...

Cost: Free

Where:
Trinity Baptist Church
4815 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Sponsor: Trinity Baptist Church
Telephone: 919-787-3740
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Cost: $30-$33/person

Where:
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.