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13 Picnic Party Ideas for All Ages

13 Picnic Party Ideas for All Ages

Have an epic picnic party on the horizon? Make sure no one is left out with these 13 picnic party ideas adults and kids will love!

Not sure how to create a fabulous picnic party everyone will love?

You've come to the right spot!

picnic party ideas

Picnics are the perfect way to celebrate, especially since researchers have learned that being outside improves your health and your mood.

In this article, I'm going to provide 13 fun and creative picnic party ideas. Follow them as is, or borrow ideas to create your own.

Let's jump in!

1. Retro drive-in theater

These retro picnic party ideas are sure to take you back to the days of rock 'n' roll, diners, and T-birds.

You'll need a power source for this one, but the backyard can be the perfect place for a nighttime picnic.

Grab a classic from the 1950s or 1960s. For an older crowd, choose a film like Psycho or Doctor Zhivago. Younger kids might appreciate The Parent Trap or The Sound of Music.

Rent or borrow a projector, and hang a sheet on a tree or just use the side of the house.

For food, start with the basics. You can't go wrong with hot dogs, deviled eggs, and pasta salad. Be sure to keep things the right temperature in a portable cooler.

Eat at dusk, and once it grows dark—turn on the flick!

2. Good ole' fashioned cook-off

Get your competitive side going with these classic picnic party ideas.

Challenge a few friends, family members, or neighbors to beat your best recipe for hamburgers or another grilling favorite.

Assign a few neutral parties as judges. (In truth, there won't be any "neutral parties"—but that's part of the fun!)

Bring a few sides, and tell the contestants to bring their main dish. Be sure to have a hibachi, or find a campsite with a grill nearby.

Once everyone arrives, get cooking!

The picnic will take a little longer, as everyone gets to sample each chef's creation fresh off the grill.

Enjoy everyone's unique recipe, and savor the rivalry that goes along with it!

3. Midnight stargazing

Whether you want a romantic celebration or something the whole family can enjoy, these stargazing picnic party ideas have you covered.

Choose a place as far away from light pollution as possible. The further away you are, the better the stars will look.

Pack your bags with tasty midnight snacks, like crackers, cheese, cookies, and dipping vegetables.

Remember that lighting is going to be dim, so bring along a few electric lanterns or flashlights so you can see. It's also a good idea to have some bug spray in case the mosquitos decide to stargaze with you.

For an extra surprise, grab a handful of sparklers and light up the night along with the stars.

4. Swim & munch

One of the best picnic party ideas for a hot summer day is having a picnic near a local swimming hole or beach.

Bring bathing suits, sunscreen, and a basic basket of food. If you like, the adults can stay on shore while the kids splash around in the water.

After time in the water, dry off with a tasty picnic meal.

Oh, and don't forget the watermelon!

5. Pie-eating contest

They say nothing is more American than apple pie, but they're wrong.

An apple pie may be American, but an entire contest built out of eating it captures the carefree, optimistic spirit of the USA. That's what these pie-eating picnic party ideas are all about.

To get started, buy a whole pie for each contestant. It might be a good idea to get smaller, personal-sized pies—a whole one might make the eater regret the activity altogether.

Carry the pies to your campground in something large and durable—a large cooler is an excellent choice.

Decide whether you want to have the contest before or after a meal.

If you have it after the meal, bring a few boxes for the eaters to take the pie home—it's going to be a challenge to finish eating!

If you're going to have the contest at the beginning, don't worry too much about the non-dessert food. Perhaps pack a few appetizers, but realize most people won't have the stomach for a large meal after the pie.

6. Themed potluck

Not all potlucks are boring—the secret is knowing how to spice them up. Find a few picnic party ideas here that will bring life to any potluck.

Most potlucks lack creativity because they have no guidelines. Everyone gets store-bought fried chicken, coleslaw, and pasta salad—because that's what they've come to expect.

Instead, make creativity a central part of the picnic.

To start, choose a topic that isn't related to food. This allows for creative interpretation, and that's what a great potluck is all about.

For example, a "Blues" themed potluck might include soul food, blueberries, or even soup in a blue thermos.

Some other fun topics might include:

  • A type of music, like jazz or rock & roll
  • An unusual location, like the Moon or Antarctica
  • A book or movie, like Huckleberry Finn or The Godfather
  • A time period, like the Middle Ages or 1980s

7. Feed yourself, and the ducks

If you want something unique with a touch of wildlife, choose one of these picnic party ideas.

Do your research and find a local park or pond where you can feed the ducks.

In addition to a core set of picnic food, bring a bag or two of stale bread. Take turns feeding the ducks—but beware!

You'll need to keep your distance from the feeding grounds, so you don't get attacked.

8. Outdoor murder mystery

Imagine this: all the fun of a murder mystery, with the excitement of being outside. If you're looking for no-fail picnic party ideas, search no further!

To get things set up, you'll need to plan plenty of finger food to eat while the participants talk to each other and discover clues.

Search online for a murder mystery kit. This will include characters, backstories, and a plot for your guests to use.

Explain the rules, set out the food, and let the party begin!

For bonus points, ask each guest to arrive in a costume based on their character—a 1920s mobster, mysterious circus performer, or whatever the plan calls for.

9. U-pick your meal

If you're looking for picnic party ideas that include something unusual, exciting, and fresh, you're going to love this.

To start off, find out what fruits are ready to harvest in your area. Favorite picks (no pun intended) are blueberries, peaches, and strawberries.

Find a local U-pick farm and call ahead—you can find nearby farms on PickYourOwn.org.

If you can have your picnic on the property, that's best. If that's not something you'll be allowed to do, make your picnic have two stops.

Begin first at the U-pick farm, and collect as much fruit as you want to eat (or even more, if you plan on preserving it later). Put the fruit in a medium-sized cooler to protect it, and head to your picnic spot.

For your meal, include a simple main and side dish, and fill up the rest with the fruit you picked fresh.

10. Luxurious picnic party

Back in the 1800s, picnics were a fashionable way to eat for respected, well-to-do citizens.

You can emulate some of that class and Victorian prestige by making a few of these picnic party ideas your own.

The first and most important requirement is to use fancy china and goblets. If you're afraid of your best plates getting shattered, pick up a few on the cheap at a thrift store.

Plan a gourmet meal with multiple courses. Start with a salad, proceed to a soup (use a thermos that will keep it hot), have a main baked dish, and finish things off with a delectable dessert.

11. Dinner and a show

If you're looking for fun picnic party ideas that don't involve a lot of preparation or hassle, this is for you.

Find a local event happening outside, then have a picnic before or even during the event.

You can pack basics for the food because the focus will be on the show. Look for these in your area:

  • Historical reenactments
  • Outdoor concerts
  • Community movie screenings
  • Local drama performances

12. Life-sized chess party

If you can find a life-size chess set nearby, you don't need to look for other picnic party ideas.

Just pack a fun meal than can be eaten between turns and head out.

But what if you don't have a life-sized chess set? Not a problem.

Before you go, cut out chess shapes from two different colors of construction paper (or just large circles if checkers would be easier for your troupe).

Bring some masking tape and outline a giant chessboard on the grass. It'll be eight squares by eight squares, and you'll probably want to make each square two feet wide.

Set up a tournament-style match, and everyone will win with incredible picnic food.

13. Choose-your-own-adventure meal

We all like choosing our food, and a picnic is no exception.

Here's your menu:

  • Hot dogs with these toppings: mustard, ketchup, relish, pickles, onions, sauerkraut, chili, and cheese
  • Baked potatoes with these toppings: sour cream, cheese, chives, bacon bits, corn, salsa, and jalapenos
  • Ice cream sundaes with these toppings: whipped cream, sprinkles, peanuts, chocolate syrup, maraschino cherries, and Oreo crumbs

Serve one dish and set of toppings at a time, and let everyone make their meal.

You'll need to keep food (especially the ice cream) at its correct temperature in medium-sized coolers.

Choosing the best picnic party ideas

If you need picnic party ideas, you've found everything you need for an awesome party.

The next step? Get your supplies in order, and get started with the best party of the year!

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