Baskets laden with food, red and white-checkered tablecloths laid out over patches of perfectly green fresh-cut grass and tall pitchers of pleasantly pink lemonade paint the images that spring to mind when I think about picnics.
Okay, so I don’t own a dainty lace parasol to protect me from the harmful UV rays of the sun or a fifties-inspired dress to go with those perfectly well-mannered children who couldn’t possibly belong to me anyway. And, I might be thinking right about now that my picnic attempts in the past have often resembled the bumbling attempts of Yogi Bear to steal pic-a-nic baskets in Jellystone Park, not the idyllic image of a Seurat painting.
But now is the time to let all of that go and reclaim the picnic! Not only can picnics be fun and easy, they are a cost-effective (think cheap) way to spend an afternoon.
The word picnic traces back to the French word piquenique from the verb piquer, meaning to pick or peck. Apparently, in their love of vernacular rhyming, the French added a nonsense-ending syllable to complete the word. Food historians have determined that picnics evolved from outdoor meals enjoyed by Medieval hunting parties, Renaissance banquets in the country and Victorian garden celebrations. The common thread throughout history seems to be “a moveable meal enjoyed outdoors.”
Today, picnics take on many forms from a blanket on the beach to a picnic table in the park and even a tailgate meal in a parking lot before the big game. Picnics can be casual or formal, pre-planned or spontaneous. They can be a large family gathering, an intimate romantic outing for two or a moment of quiet solitude with a good book.
No matter what form your picnic may take, here are some tips to get you started when planning an outdoor meal in the Stonington and Mystic area.
What to Pack
- Picnic essentials include food, ice packs, beverages, napkins and dinnerware like plates, forks, knives and spoons.
- You may want to also include a bottle opener if you plan on enjoying wine or beer with your meal.
- Other considerations might include seating options like a blanket, a towel, a large sheet or folding chairs in case there is not a picnic table available.
- Sunscreen, bug spray and a small first-aid kit will help to make the day more enjoyable and enable you to deal with any small mishaps like a scraped knee.
- Items can be packed in a basket, cooler, backpack, large tote bag, plastic bin or even re-usable grocery shopping bags.
- Keep it simple. Pack items that will not spoil quickly and are easy to eat.
- Sandwiches, fruit skewers, yogurt, baggies of finger foods like carrot sticks, crackers, granola, nuts or chips make easy to travel meal combinations.
- Stop by a local market and pick up a loaf of your favorite bread. Add some cheese, deli meat and fruit to round out the meal.
- Pre-made salads like potato, macaroni or quinoa go a long way for side dishes.
- Purchase pre-made meals like pizza, lasagna or specialty sandwiches at a local market or restaurant.
Where to Go
- on Coogan Boulevard, next to the Mystic Aquarium, is set on lush green lawns complete with blooming plants and wooden benches throughout the village.
- at 109 Pequotsepos Rd., in Mystic offers acres of wooded trails, scenic meadows, brooks and ponds. There are benches located on the preserve as well as several tables around the nature center. There is a small fee to enter the grounds.
- is located at the end of the Mystic Bascule Bridge along Route 1 in downtown. A small park tucked along the scenic Mystic River, there is a nice grassy spot to spread out a blanket and watch the boats go by.
- at 1 Harry Austin Drive is a small sandy beach with a children's playground, tennis courts, large trees and a grassy picnic area.
- is situated off of Front Street in Stonington Borough and offers a playground in addition to a picnic area.
- Stonington Recreational Complex, located behind the Stonington High School on Spellman Drive has a playground, basketball courts and tennis courts in addition to a picnic area.
- Stonington Borough Point is a scenic spot at the end of the village to enjoy an in-car picnic with sweeping harbor views of the three states of New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.