As soon as the weather is nice, everyone in New York City heads outdoors. A gathering at a picnic makes up for all of those lost days stuck indoors due to cold weather. So plan a date, buy some sunscreen and check out the suggestions below for an outdoor event to remember.
Running through September 20, various New York City performance companies will showcase their talent at Manhattan’s Bryant Park. Dubbed “Picnic Performances,” the shows take advantage of the city’s burgeoning outdoor culture and, hopefully, good weather. If you missed experiencing live music, concerts and opera over the past year, this is a wonderful chance to grab a lawn spot or chair, spread out your picnic with a chilled rosé and enjoy an evening of some of the best talent around.
July’s schedule kicks off with the New York City Opera performing “Carmen,” followed by four contemporary music performances from Carnegie Hall’s Citywide series. The balance of the season is filled with jazz from Jazz at Lincoln Center, dance performances by Paul Taylor and Elisa Monte Dance, New York City Opera’s Rigoletto, theater from the Classical Theater of Harlem and a centennial celebration of The Town Hall.
What to bring: Park Avenue Liquor Shop near the Morgan Library is the go-to choice of chilled wines. Then, visit Grand Central Terminal’s market by 7 p.m. to put together a picnic from Eli Zabar’s Farm to Table, Murray’s Cheese or Pescatore Sushi & Noodles. Don’t forget your blanket and some reusable wine glasses.
For the ultimate picnic experience, Governor’s Island is the place to be for the Pinknic Festival, a combination all-day picnic and music festival. Scheduled this year on September 4 and 5, Pinknic celebrates its fifth anniversary with a pink-and-white assemblage of picnickers on the lawns. Your ticket includes a Pinknic tote for your goodies, a wine cup, blanket and more.
A variety of NYC restaurants at the food garden add the main ingredient, offering pink beverages, including rosé and frosé. Then sit back and indulge while you listen to live bands and DJ sets, all with fabulous views of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Wear something pink and something white, and you’re sure to be Instagrammed as part of the end-of-summer party.
Central Park has a wide variety of locations for picnicking, many not far from the East Side’s Museum Mile or the Upper West Side’s American Museum of Natural History or New York Historical Society. Favorites are the Great Lawn which sits more or less in the middle of the park between 79th street and 85th street, Turtle Pond at the southern tip of the Great Lawn near Belvedere Castle and Sheep Meadow a bit further South. Depending on whether you’re arriving from the East Side or the West Side, there are delis, specialty food shops and a picnic specialist to help you construct your outdoor feast.
On the East Side, Butterfield Market is a popular gourmet shop with a variety of food departments. You can choose from prepared foods at the gourmet counter, including crab cakes, chicken wings and more elaborate dishes like poached salmon or skirt steak, or stay small with pre-made sandwiches, sushi or salads. The talented baristas at the coffee bar will customize your beverage – try an iced dirty chai or an iced matcha latte for a break from a traditional coffee -- or choose from many of the gourmet sodas and waters. Add one of the gorgeous cupcakes, and you’re good to go. From the West Side, deli fave Barney Greengrass will pack up a super-portable bagel, cream cheese and nova sandwich along with Boylan’s cream soda and a black and white cookie for a very New York-y nosh.
Celebrating ten years of feeding hungry New Yorkers, Perfect Picnic NYC puts together picnic assortments from simple to elaborate. Start with a base and add on beverages, a blanket and a basket, if you wish, or just pick up a grab ‘n go meal to add to your own set-up. You can even arrange a “picnic experience” that is full-service, including delivery and clean-up. Owner Wendy Weston creates a menu that changes based on “her cravings” and ingredients of the season. Located near the northern tip of Central Park at 100th Street and Central Park West, Perfect Picnics can be ordered in advance or onsite.
Brooklyn's parks are equally popular for on-the-lawn and by-the-water spreads.
To tempt you with her upcoming salon dinner series in Fort Greene, Cami Jetta has put together a preview Dinner Party picnic basket for takeaway dining in the park. Plan your food menu for a day in Fort Greene Park or Prospect Park with the likes of sourdough pita, Ellie’s salad Shirazi, beet hummus, roast eggplant and baklava shortbread. The menu is available online and changes frequently. Select from the “Picnic of the Week,” a cookie box or a sandwich. A tote bag is also available for purchase.
Williamsburg’s popular Black-owned and operated Kokomo offers a kicky picnic package complete with a blanket, canned signature cocktails and an array of Caribbean cuisine. For some authentic island flavor, sample Kokomo’s signature Yardie shrimp pizza with callaloo and grilled pineapple, braised oxtail with rice & peas, a guava BBQ-sauced Calypso burger or jackfruit tacos. Add a Coconut Negroni or a Pain Killer cocktail for the finishing flourish. The restaurant sits in a convenient location for picking up your picnic goodies for a day in Brooklyn’s McCarren Park, Domino Park, 5th Pier Park or by the waterfront on Bushwick Inlet.