Ideas and Tips for a Winter Picnic in the Snow

A recent article in my local paper touted a few local shopping malls as great destinations to get exercise in the winter. It claimed one could get a good workout by walking their sprawling real estate. Uh, non merci. Even though I happen to live ten minutes from the largest mall in the province, you could never convince me to go there for any other reason than a quick one-stop-shop and that is it.

Whatever happened to getting fresh air? Exercising and window shopping may appeal to some, but I’m guessing a couple times around my mall would only leave me hankering for a Starbucks, — and six new pairs of shoes.

We’ve had a mild winter so far, and if you dress for it, the cold does much more help than harm. Brilliant sunlight, crisp cool air, and a peaceful blanket of white snow – now that is the mix for an invigorating, yet calming work out. 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 skating, but all the kids really need is a snow bank to have fun.

My niece & a friend sharing hot chocolate in Northern British Columbia. Photo by Laura Hols.

Try a Winter Picnic for a change

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 easily executed and every bit of fun -if not more- than a summer picnic! You’ll see, it will be one meal of the season that your children will remember for years to come.

Here are my tips to keep everyone happy on a winter picnic in the snow – 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, lest you get discouraged. 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 probably do this 2-3x a week when Noah gets home from school. An afternoon snack enjoyed in the quiet of the forest after a long day in a classroom is my idea of letting my five-year-old unwind.

Dress the Part

You wouldn’t show up at a pool party wearing a parka, would you? 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 where the weather is headed. Gently falling snow makes for a fun setting, but 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 and share them with us on our Flickr group!
  • Blanket. We 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. Night falls quickly!
  • Kleenex. Inevitably, someone’s nose always needs a wipe.
  • Matches. If you’re rural enough to be able to build a fire.
  • Small plastic trash bag. You know the motto, right? Leave no trace.

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.

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, egg salad sandwiches and cupcakes, but I don’t recommend any of 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, 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 or even just easy 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, 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. We ate lunch at our backyard picnic table (sans snow) on a recent milder day. But I love the idea of a real picnic in the snow…as soon as our temperatures return to double digits!

  2. Aimee, this is a great post. My boys and I have been going bonkers inside as I’ve been nervous to take them out to play in the cold. After seeing the fun your family has been having I think I need to take my boys out in the snow! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Great, Diana! This isn’t my usual type of content, but I had to share how much fun we’ve been having. Glad to inspire. Share some photos in our Flickr group!

  3. This is such a brilliant post.. you are absolutely right!!! IF the temps were above zero here I might have done this today… but alas, I think it will have to wait until its at least 10 degrees here. 🙂

  4. We hike every weekend, year round. In the winter we sled on these cool backcountry sleds.

    But anyway Yes! We do picnic in winter, every weekend on our hike. It’s awesome. We take a lunch that we prepare in advance and heat on our little camping stove. This is our recipe:

    It’s an asian inspired miso, rice and green tea soup. And we love it!

    We love the outdoors – all year round. Great post and thanks for encouraging us all to get outdoors, even in winter.

  5. We’re supposed to get another 20cm here tomorrow afternoon. I should make some cookies Saturday morning and get out for a picnic treat after my daughter’s nap! We have a sleigh ride planned for Sunday, very excited about that!

  6. I love the idea of a winter picnic. I had planned to take the kids today to the beach so they can see people ice fishing. I think this will be a good time to have a picnic!

  7. What a fantastic idea! I would do it in a heartbeat if we had snow! What great memories for the kids and hunting panthers as Almonzo and Royal is fantastic!

  8. Oh my gosh, I’m 23 and my inner child is squealing with glee! I SO WANT to go on a winter picnic! As a kid my sister and I would spend hours playing in the snow and I can’t believe we never tried this. I love Renee’s idea about hiking in combination with a picnic (I do this during the rest of the year, so why NOT winter!?).

    • Hiking certainly helps one keep warm – and work up an appetite! We would camp overnight when I was in my 20’s. I’ve slept in both a snowbank and an igloo! Such fun adventures.

  9. Love the ideas! I’ll have to wait for when it warms up and we have a fresh layer of snow. This -17 thing going on right now isn’t meant for picnicking, but my kids will love this…as will my winter hiking husband.

  10. Wonderful idea! In Calgary, we need to switch it up a bit like this. Especially now that it’s up to a balmy -9! Thanks for the ideas!

    • You guys are just an hour away from THE most beautiful picnic spot in the world, Julie! I imagine Banff is pretty frozen over right now, though.

  11. Wow, that brings back memories! I remember long ago taking some kids on a sled hike at a state park. We brought cookies and hot cocoa mix and a fondu pot with burner to heat water. The water didn’t get very hot but we had a lot of fun. My sisters and I would also sometimes bake potatoes, put them in our pockets and eat them out in the snow. Now I live in the south and, well until this year, we haven’t seen much snow. But we can still do winter picnics! Loved all the ideas!

  12. Karen Robert says

    I just did a posting on winter weddings in the snow. And I am about to do a post on amazing snowmen….that could be a reason for having a picnic, taking a break from making an amazing snow sculpture.

  13. I’m a terrible winter parent. I hate the cold and snow, so it’s really hard to get motivated to get outside. But this is a SUPER idea. My 5-year-old especially will be all over this. Thanks!

  14. Karen Robert says

    In fact, I just posted a collection of pictures of the best snowmen you’ve ever seen, and I linked to this posting on Simplebites. I really think that a snow picnic combined with a making “THE BEST SNOWMAN EVER” would be a memory to last a lifetime for a child. I could see it being retold many times as they grow older…

  15. Sounds like a lot of fun! I’d love to spend a winter day like this!

  16. Magic and Mayhem says

    This looks like fun! I’d jump at it if it weren’t sooooooooo cold here in Minnesota. I’d be happy just to get above zero. We’re on a five day stretch right now where the highs aren’t ever supposed to get out of the negative numbers. Sigh…. 🙂

  17. Very cool idea!! Although, I am personally grateful for snow where we live. 😉

  18. O.k. could those little darlings be any cuter? Looks like such fun! We are getting hit with some pretty substantial snow today! Think I shall join you in a picnic in the snow!

  19. Brilliant – we have indoor carpet picnics in the winter. Never once thought to take it outdoors!

  20. What a fun idea! We are supposed to get more snow tonight, so I might have to go out and enjoy it with a mug of hot chocolate!

  21. Such a cute and simple idea to have some family fun! Love it!

  22. I am not a cold-weather person, & tend to hibernate in the winter time. A winter picnic would be great to do with my kids! 🙂

  23. I really love this. With two hockey loving boys in the house we spend an inordinate amount of time outdoors at the ice rink. We’re always packing food to go (soup in a thermos is a popular choice) but I never really thought of it as having a picnic. I think next time we should take a blanket, find a nice spot and sit and enjoy the food and some scenery instead of sitting on a bench with our skates on. Thanks!

  24. Two Chicks and a Hen says

    Great idea–I love it! I’m pretty sure it has never before occurred to me to do this, aside from bringing hot chocolate (which my four year old hates!) I think we’ll try this after the upcoming super cold streak passes.

  25. Love this post–great ideas! Thanks.

  26. Too fun Aimee!
    I featured your post in the I’m Lovin’ It wrap up post! Thanks for linking up!

  27. Love this post. Inspiring to read about your selflessness. I too rather be warm and cozy in my home with a good book or movie, than outside in the rain (we live in southern california). But yesterday my daughter wanted to play in the rain so I dressed her appropriately and we headed out. She had a blast and could have cared less that it was raining. Here’s to more adventure!

  28. So excited to come across this blog! My family and I are going snowshoeing on Christmas Day and I was looking for ideas for our picnic. Thanks for the wonderful info!

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  33. Amazing post, Thank you for sharing this idea, I will definitely go for a mind freshening picnic with my family.

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