Outdoor theatre is a beloved summer tradition, one not to be missed if you’re near a venue. Many of these outdoor spaces—such as Tanglewood in the Berkshires, California’s Hollywood Bowl, Chicago’s Ravinia Park Pavilion, or even London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre—offer picnic spots for use before and, sometimes, during the performance. Picnicking can be as much a part of the experience as the show.
But if you’ve ever made last-minute plans to visit one of these outdoor venues, you may have learned that picnics favor the prepared. Playbill created the ultimate check-list for a successful and relaxing picnic, guaranteed to have you perfectly prepared and ready to go.
1. Check in with your specific venue
First things first: always go to the venue’s website to review their specific setup is. Different places have different rules about what is and is not allowed onsite, and, of course, it’s always important to know what the picnic area is like. Is there food available at the venue, or do you have to bring your own? Is there a picnic lawn or just an area with picnic tables? Is it BYOB or no alcohol allowed? All of these questions and many more can be answered by visiting the venue’s website.
2. Bring a blanket—but check the weather!
A big blanket or quilt is a picnic staple, but it’s always important to check and see if it has rained recently. If the ground is wet, your blanket—and pants—could easily become a soggy mess. In those cases, it’s best to bring a folding camp chair to sit in. Many venues offer chairs to rent on-site. Extreme picnickers go all out with tables and tents—if you care to join their ranks.
3. Pack food in disposable containers
The less you have to carry around with you, the better, which means any time you can pack food in a disposable container, the better off you’ll be. Recyclable plastics and cardboard containers make great eco-friendly options. You can even bring disposable wine glasses to avoid the risk of glass.
4. Be thoughtful about food choice
Unless you’re a very intense picnicker, you’re probably not going to have a dining table in front of you. It’s best to not pick foods that you’ll have to cut with a fork and knife to be able to eat. There’s a reason meat and cheese plates are such a picnic staple. Cold packs can keep cold foods cold, but it’s harder to keep things warm, so keep that in mind as well. If you plan on continuing your picnic during the performance, your neighbors will also appreciate if you select food that’s relatively quiet to eat. (Make sure to pop that champagne cork before the show begins.)
5. Get a pre-made picnic if you’re from out of town
If you’re going to a venue that isn’t local to you, don’t fret; many local vendors feature pre-made picnics, complete with food, drink, and often picnic supplies like a blanket, chairs, and plates. Visit the venue’s website to find links to nearby vendors offering pre-made picnics, or information about similar offerings available on-site at the venue.
6. Don’t forget a corkscrew
You may have a perfectly chilled bottle of Rosé ready to go, but if you didn’t think ahead and remember to bring a corkscrew, you may find yourself out of luck. It could also potentially make you popular on the picnic grounds when your neighbors start looking for a corkscrew to borrow!
7. Watch the open flame
It’s not unheard of for regulars to bring dishes as elaborate as fondue to their picnic—or for the less culinary ambitious, citranella candles to keep the bug away—but be sure to check out the rules of the grounds about open flames.