Mona Shield Payne/Special to the Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, June 25, 2017 | 7:52 a.m.
Blankets in grass, birds in the sky, sticky corn-on-the-cob hands — nothing beats a good picnic. Unless it’s 117 degrees.
Summer in Las Vegas drives us to pack our lunches and dinners beyond the city, maybe to the cooler climes of Mount Charleston or scenic spots in Utah. But now is an opportune time to strategize for rustic dining in the desert’s perfect fall weather.
Taking your meal outdoors isn’t just about escaping fluorescent lights. Sure, the sun’s rays make us happier, but also, picnics give us a chance to build memories with friends, loved ones and fellow Right Swipers. Here are a few tips for picnicking smart, and for setting the mood for something unique. Don’t forget your selfie stick!
• Location: A family picnic is even more fun with bathing suits and splashing. Scout a location near a lake, or a peaceful river, where everyone can go for a cool dip after lunch. (But be sure to wait an hour after eating to do any full-on swimming.). Improvise with a sprinkler and a couple of Super Soakers if you’re in the backyard.
Except for the music and a few family photos, put your phones away. Be present.
• Equipment: Swap the standard service items for recyclable paper plates and flatware. You may even forego the traditional picnic basket, opting for a nice big cooler and spill-free sippy cups for the kiddos.
• Food: Packing everything you need to keep kids entertained, plus food, can be overwhelming. Stick to sandwiches and store-bought options like pulled pork, potato salad or sushi rolls. Then keep everything chilly in the cooler with the Popsicles you’ll have for dessert.
• Music: Show Junior how we rocked it in the ’90s with the MC Hammer Pandora station. Also acceptable: Marky Mark.
• Location: You can do this in just about any beautiful location, but a large, leafy tree and a soft blanket will set a cozy tone. Pack parasols or umbrellas to keep the sun at bay.
Bring the romance
Maybe you have a single rose hiding there in your basket. Maybe you bring berries, or a flavored brick of dark chocolate for dessert. Bacon chocolate. Bring mints.
• Equipment: For the best impression, go with the traditional wicker picnic basket, lovely cloth napkins, a wine opener and plastic wine glasses.
• Food: To keep the focus on romance, pack like a Parisian. A nice, crusty baguette topped with meat and cheese is easy to consume, and it eliminates any food-related challenges from dripping, sloppy fare. A little bit of Dijon mustard and a grapey Beaujolais make this picnic a total hit.
• Music: Put the French Café station on your app. Ponder the nature of the accordion, and how it got to be so romantic.
• Location: Choose a site with a cookout pit. A public park, campground, or even an HOA common area with a grill works great for grilling or fish-bakes. Picnic tables in shaded areas are a must in the Las Vegas sun.
Put someone in charge of activities —Ultimate Frisbee, tag football, cornhole or even silly team-building games like the three-legged race. Improv games are great for building camaraderie.
• Equipment and Food: If it’s a small group, potluck style works best. Designate a leader to assign plates, napkins, garbage bags, plastic ware, hot dogs, burgers, buns, chips or vegan options. Many people suffer from allergies and special dietary restrictions, so take time to ask around and accommodate special needs.
• Music: You’re gonna need a bigger speaker. Find that tech-savvy guy from the IT department, and invite him to bring the Bose and play DJ.
Essentials for comfort and safety
The best picnics need 1) food, 2) a comfy place to nestle, and 3) at least one other person. Making room in your basket for the following extras will help you maximize comfort and minimize distractions.
• A tarp: Wet bum is a bummer. Pick a tarp large enough to go under your entire blanket, forming a waterproof barrier between your butt and the ground.
Spread the word
Work gatherings are a BYOB situation (Bring Your Own Blanket), so raise awareness about the power of tarps and camp chairs.
• A decoy meal: Place something smelly (like a can of BBQ baked beans) about 30 feet away from you. Do it five or 10 minutes before unveiling your own feast. Right away, the greedy bugs will signal to the other bugs to go there — instead of to your basket.
• Bug spray and citronella candles: For the odd bug who does his own thing (like “Z” from “Antz!” Anyone? Anyone? No? Cool, never mind), you should up your defense with some immediate protection. For a natural bug repellent, try a DIY garlic-mint insect spray, or an open tub of coffee grounds.
• Wet naps and hand sanitizer: Sanitize after contact with others, before you eat, and after you use the restroom. You don’t know where that Frisbee’s been (though a dog’s mouth is a good guess).
• Garbage bags: Do not pull a Betty Draper and leave your picnic garbage all over the ground, blowing around. Have a bag ready so you can clean as you go.