Backyard Picnic Ideas for Casual Summer Entertaining

Happy weekend and welcome to the Saturday Spotlight!  Are you enjoying all this beautiful summer weather?  If it’s not too hot where you live, I hope you’re spending time outdoors.  With that in mind, this week we’re focusing on outdoor summer entertaining.  After all, July happens to be National Picnic Month!  So, if you’re looking for backyard picnic ideas, here are some tips for your next outdoor gathering!

*For your convenience, please note that this post may contain affiliate links.  If you make a purchase after clicking my links below, I will receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Casual table setting on patio - backyard picnic ideas

Summer Entertaining

What’s the Difference Between a Backyard Picnic and Barbecue?

For most picnics…

Most likely, you’ll be serving a variety of casual summer dishes like veggie platters, salads and sandwiches. Basically, when you invite guests over for a backyard picnic, you’re implying that most of the food has been made earlier in the day. 

For a barbecue…

You’ll be grilling most of your food while the guest are there…hot dogs, hamburgers, kabobs… 

So, save the burger flipping for your next barbecue. At a backyard picnic, you get to spend more quality time with your guests!

Backyard Picnic Ideas – Good Food for Good Friends:

An Easy Baked Beans Recipe:

Whether you’re entertaining in your own backyard or bringing a covered dish to a picnic, this baked bean recipe is sure to be a hit with friends and family!

Baked beans in white casserole dish - backyard picnic ideas

When I’m planning a picnic menu, I try not to create too many mayonnaise based dishes like chicken salad or potato salad.  As we all know, they don’t hold up well at room temperature – and especially not on a hot summer day!  (Plus, I’m not even a fan of mayo anyway!)  Lately, baked beans have become one of my favorite picnic foods.  Not only are they a great side dish for hamburgers and hot dogs but your vegetarian friends can enjoy them too.  (Just leave out the bacon for them!)

Summer Salads Perfect for a Backyard Picnic:

If you’re a fan of arugula, be sure to check out my 3 favorite arugula salad recipes!  

Arugula salad with parmesan and tomatoes in white dish - backyard picnic ideas

Besides being perfect for a backyard picnic, you’ll want to eat these easy salads everyday!

More easy picnic food ideas:

  • Fresh fruit such as watermelon slices
  • Fruit salad
  • Cheese platter
  • Tortilla chips with salsa or guacamole
  • Fresh veggies and dip
  • Charcuterie board (because they’re fun to make and people love to say “charcuterie” – haha)
  • Mozzarella with tomatoes and fresh basil (my favorite easy appetizer to make!)

Roasted peppers, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil on white plate - backyard picnic ideas

Don’t forget the beverages:

Overall, I don’t think there are rules for picnic beverages…anything cool and refreshing will do.  When I think of picnics, I think of iced tea, homemade lemonade and white wine to name a few.  For more summer beverage ideas, read Refreshing Summer Beverages We Love!

Iced tea and lemons by the pool. Backyard picnic ideas.

Backyard Picnic Ideas – Setting Your Outdoor Table:

Decorate your patio table to welcome guests:

Instead of being super-casual with paper plates, dress up your table at your next backyard picnic.  When I entertain outdoors, I like to mix indoor and outdoor dishes and accessories.  Usually, I’ll bring out my classic white dishes and layer them with galvanized metal chargers and melamine plates on top of easily wipeable placemats.  Instead of fussing with napkin rings, I’ll just tie a knot in the napkin on each plate.  Oh, and I also like to use plastic wine glasses outside.  You never know when a breeze might knock over your glass!

Blue and white place setting on patio table - casual backyard picnic ideas

If you’re planning to dine al fresco and want to see more of this summer table, read –  simple summer home tour!

Even if you’re serving food on a wooden picnic table or even a picnic blanket, it’s always nice to dress it up!  Buy some pretty napkins, a coordinating tablecloth and add some fresh flowers!

Backyard Picnic Ideas for the Evening:

Entertaining tips for after the sun sets…

When the temperatures cool off in the evening, bring out the s’more’s!  If you have a fire pit, it can be the perfect spot to enjoy an evening with friends.  For even more night time picnic ideas, read – Summer Nights – Entertaining on the Patio which also includes ideas from a group of bloggers.

Marshmallows and graham crackers - backyard picnic ideas

If you don’t have a firepit or outdoor fireplace, buy a portable firepit like this mini tabletop one!  Now everyone can enjoy s’mores in the evening.

Shopping Finds for a Backyard Picnic:

As a picnic guest, you’ll want to keep your food cool when transporting the dish you bring.  An insulated picnic bag like this one is perfect for carrying all your summer treats.

Besides being collapsible and easy to store, you could also carry it to the beach, fill it for a romantic picnic date or bring it on your next road trip.  Plus, it comes in a variety of colors like blue and white…which really caught my eye!


Back when I was younger, horseshoes was the popular backyard picnic game.  Nowadays, everyone plays cornhole at picnics…which is basically the same idea only quieter…and cleaner.  Plus, you can find cornhole boards in a variety of colors and designs to coordinate with your own backyard.  How many horseshoe games can do that? – ha!  If you want to personalize your own cornhole set, you can buy them here!

Also, since cornhole is also portable, you can bring it to any picnic…and you don’t need to dig up your backyard for those horse shoe pits!

As I mentioned above, roasting s’mores are always a fun picnic activity.  If you’d rather go flameless when cooking your s’mores, this electric s’mores maker is a great alternative!


For even more barbecue and backyard picnic tips, here are some great finds from around the internet.

Hopefully, I’ve given you some backyard picnic ideas for your next outdoor gathering!

And while you’re making the most of these summer days, don’t miss these blog posts:

What are your favorite backyard picnic ideas?

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Backyard picnic ideas - patio table set for summer

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  1. I love your list of easy picnic foods! This time of year, its exactly what we need. Of course, we can’t do without the S’mores! Thank you for sharing your post with the Home Imagined Link Party.

  2. What lovely ideas, especially love the salad. Pinned it
    I visited you via Saturday Sparks Link Party 575
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    I love what you have here and would love it if you will join us at SSPS and share your awesome post/s with us
    You will find the linkup information (1) In the Top bar under Blogging: Weekly Senior Salon Pit Stop OR 2nd image In the sidebar. We hope to meet you there virtually.

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