How to Plan a Snow Picnic

Excerpts from this post were originally published in January, 2011.

We’ve had a mild winter so far, brilliant sunlight, crisp cool air, and a peaceful blanket of white snow – now that is the mix for a perfect outing. We’ve been getting outdoors every day out of sheer necessity; it’s far too easy to go bonkers when you’re snowed in! Sometimes we go sledding, sometimes walking, but all the kids really need is a snow bank to have fun.

In summer we practically eat everything outdoors, but winter confines us to the dining room table three times a day, and quite frankly, that gets old. Why not plan a winter picnic to change things up?

With proper planning and an adventurous spirit, a snow picnic can be every bit of fun -if not more- than a summer picnic. Here are my tips to keep everyone happy on such an outing – both parents and children!

Tips for a Picnic in the Snow

Start Simple

A thermos of hot cocoa and homemade cookies are a good place to start. Don’t attempt an entire meal on the first try, instead, pack some cookies or other favorite treats in a waterproof container, fill a thermos (I like the Kids Konserve Insulated Stainless-Steel Thermos because it’s BPA-free, portable, and keeps food hot for hours) with hot chocolate, and be on your way.

We like to head out with our snacks when Noah gets home from school. An afternoon enjoyed in the quiet of the forest after a long day in a classroom is my idea of letting my six-year-old unwind.

Dress the Part

In order to enjoy the winter picnic experience, dress to the nines. When we head out, everyone is outfitted from head to toe in warm gear, and while it may not be matching or brand name, it keeps us snug and that’s enough. Don’t forget to wear an extra pair of socks!

Tip: If it is a particularly sunny day, and you’re planning on being out for a few hours, you may want to apply a thin layer of sunscreen on little faces before you get bundled up. The snow reflects the sun’s rays and sunburn in winter is a possibility.

Watch the weather

Make sure you have a good idea of what the weather has in store. Gently falling snow makes for a fun setting, but too much more can be trouble. If there is a chance it may turn into freezing rain, then either stay very close to home, or wait for another day.

Grab the Gear

This is one picnic you can leave the bug spray at home! We don’t bring much more than food (the essentials!), but here are a few items you may want to toss in a backpack to be prepared.

  • Camera. Snap a few photos of your winter picnic and share them with us on our Facebook page.
  • Blanket. We usually sit right in the snow or on a fallen log in our snow pants, but you may want a woolen blanket to spread out.
  • Flashlight. Bring a small one if you are going far from home, as the daylight fades fast in the late afternoon.
  • Kleenex. Inevitably, someone’s nose always needs a wipe.
  • Matches. If you’re rural enough to be able to build a fire, bring the necessary tools.
  • Small plastic trash bag. You know the motto, right? Leave no trace. Pack any garbage out with you.

Cousins and a winter campfire in Northern British Columbia. Photo by Josh Wimbush.

Get out of town

The winter slush in a city is no fun. If you can, hop into a car and make tracks to a local orchard, farmer’s field, or even a golf course for clear, unbroken snow.

If staying in town is the only option, try and head for the biggest park near you and bushwhack off the trail. Find a nice perch with a view and ideally some sunshine.

No matter where you are, make the outing more of an adventure for the kids by pretending you’re in a favorite storybook. My boys like to play Royal and Almanzo from ‘Farmer Boy’. We hunt a lot of ‘panthers’ when we’re tromping through the snow.

Grub that’s Good

Yes, the word ‘picnic’ generally conjures up images of watermelon and egg salad sandwiches, but I don’t recommend those for a winter outing. Instead pack non-messy, easy to eat foods that warm the tummy and don’t require any on-site assembly.

  1. Thermos. Ideal items for a thermos would be Chili, beef stew, lentil soup, or macaroni & cheese.
  2. Foil-wrapped. Many summer camping foods can be adapted to suit a winter picnic. Simply prepare and cook the food at home, keep well wrapped and warm in aluminum foil, and bring them along for the picnic. Try Beef Stew Packets, Campfire Burritos , Frijoles Rancheros or even just baked potatoes.
  3. Cold. Wraps, sandwiches, and simple finger foods are another easy route for keeping little tummies happy. Homemade granola bars are sure to please, cookies are essential, and no one can turn down a freshly baked muffin. Don’t forget a thermos of hot apple cider to help warm the hands up.

As opposite to a summer picnic, food tends to take a back seat in a winter picnic. Eating is secondary when there are snow forts to build and tunnels to dig. PBJ’s we will have with us always, but the snow? It will be gone by April.

Have you picnicked in winter before? Would you?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Martha Artyomenko says

    What fun!!!

  2. Emily @ Random Recycling says

    Clever idea! Now we just need some snow. We went to the playground this weekend and my daughter was expecting us to have lunch there. Now I can remember this post and layer up for an unexpected treat.

  3. I love this idea! I recently posted with more than a 100 frugal winter family activities and I just added it to the list. Thanks!

  4. I have done winter picnics – though not for MANY years! I grew up in the North and when I was a teen we would go out for the day and bring food – where I grew up there were many lakes. You would build a fire out on the ice (in the spring the ashes just “wash away”) and cook something up – NOTHING is yummier than food piping hot on a cold cold day. My specialty was apple crisp in foil 🙂
    You are reminding me how much FUN that is – perhaps we can sneak away to the winter wilderness one weekend with the kids…..
    🙂 Erin

  5. I love this idea! And if it ever gets cold enough for our mountains to get snow (this winter is ridiculously balmy, even for southern California), I’m going to try it!

  6. So cute – we never did a winter picnic, but drank a LOT of hot chocolate while sledding on the golf course as kids.

  7. We don’t get snow here but you’re making me wish we did so we could have a snow picnic!

  8. We did this when the kids were little. There was a pond that froze over near my parent’s house, so my Dad would flood and groom the ice. Then, on Saturday nights the whole family would get together for sledding and skating, with supper around a fire. We put potatoes in the coals, roasted weiners, marshmallows, had hot chocolate, and one year even had our son’s birthday there the night of a lunar eclipse.

    Kids are in mid to late teens now, the pond is in the middle of a new subdivision. They still talk about it.

  9. I remember when I was in my childhood times, Together with my friends we waiting for the snow to flow over our eyes… And the happiness begin to snow.

  10. Oh I wish that we had snow here so that I could have a snow picnic, it looks like so much fun! The best I can do is the beach picnic I am planning for an end of summer celebration in a few weeks!

  11. This makes me miss the snow so much; we’re in the midst of our first winter in a warmer climate. Though it is nice not to shovel every morning…

  12. Melissa @ Baking For The Boys says

    We have picnicked a lot this month, so yes we picnic during the winter…does it count that it has been 60-70 degrees out? I would love to picnic in the snow. Picnics are one of my favorite things to do.

  13. What an adorable idea! We always had picnics growing up, but never one this cool!

  14. Find the perfect spot. There needs to be grass for the kid to play on (so he can play frisbee, fly a kite, run around).

    A nice blanket that grass won’t stick to

    Insect repellent.

    Sandwiches, cold drinks, sweets and savouries.

    And remember the ball, rope, kite, ect.

  15. Tara from AboutOne says

    Aimee, this is just brilliant. My older daughter would think a snow picnic was the best thing EVER. The sad thing is we’ve had less than 8 inches of snow all winter, but hopefully, that will change before spring comes along. 🙂

    That said, it’s supposed to be almost 60 degrees tomorrow, and I think you’ve inspired me to take lunch out onto our porch. The kids will love it.

  16. My daughter has a January birthday, so birthday parties are usually a little tricky. This makes me want to throw a snow picnic birthday party!

  17. I love the idea of a winter picnic. Got to make do with the mac and cheese, though. The kids don’t like the way me and my husband do the chili.

  18. Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies says

    So so cute, Aimee! I want to go on a snow picnic!

  19. So great, Thanks for the idea in order to have a snow picnic. “)

  20. Great information, we love winter picnic and even more if we can do a fire with some outdoor cooking.

  21. It’s SO hard to come up with fun winter activities that don’t cost a lot and be able to enjoy the outdoors. This makes me so excited for the weekend to come!

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