For such a compact city, Lisburn really packs a punch. One of the areas it excels in is beautiful public spaces like Castle Gardens and Wallace Park.
Public parks offer the opportunity for budget-friendly family days out, casual catchups with friends or romantic date days for couples.
The most traditional of which is the good old-fashioned picnic!
But scratch below the surface of your fun day out and it might pose some challenges; what food is best? How do deal with wet grass? And what about those all-important changeable weather patterns?!
So here at Lisburn Square we’ve created a handy guide to help you plan the perfect picnic to enjoy in the city this Summer:
The central focus of any picnic is the food and drink, it is al fresco dining after all!
You can pre-bake some easy snacks like breakfast bars using granola, oats, or cereal flakes.
Snack foods like hummus and vegetable sticks, bread sticks or crisps are also popular at picnics because they’re easy to pack and allow people to literally “dip” in and out between games, sunbathing or looking after the kids.
Sandwiches of any kind, pitta pizzas and filled-bagels are all popular picnic lunches and offer people the chance to build their own if you pack the fillings in different tupperware bowls.
An easy and cute way to package individual salads is to layer the ingredients in small mason jars, allowing people to mix and match their own salad and then add their sauce or condiments separately.
Similarly, any mix of ingredients on skewers can offer a ready-made snack that looks as good as it tastes. Think antipasto and olives, tomatoes and cheese or ham and pickle!
Cold pasta salads, potato salads or quinoa and couscous mixes travel well and taste as good cold as they do when freshly cooked. They’re also a super alternative to meat dishes for vegetarians.
For dessert, you can bring fruit pieces on skewers such as watermelon, or you can get creative and make chocolate-filled strawberries. They’re also perfect for transporting upright using an old egg carton box! Brownies and muffins are also good-travellers and can be baked easily in advance.
In order to enjoy all those tasty treats in comfort and style, there are a few basic picnic essentials that you’ll want to bring with you.
The most iconic of course, is the picnic basket. Now this doesn’t have to be an expensive-bought specially-made basket (you know, the ones with the cutlery racks built in!) You can use a simple backpack or you can get creative and add a handle to a wooden fruit or vegetable crate and make your own DIY basket!
Next up is the humble picnic blanket - all important to create a clean and comfortable space for eating if you can’t guarantee - or don't want to use - a picnic bench. You can invest in some cool designs if you think you might make picnicking a regular occurrence, many of which have built-in waterproof layers and roll up easy with handles for transporting.
Another important element is cutlery, plates and glasses. Of course you can simply take some from home, but that could end up adding a fair bit of weight to your basket, so reusable plastic picnic sets are pretty handy. They also come in lovely Summer colours and patterns. For most foods you can pack snacks in tupperware and simply use your hands - just remember to bring plenty of napkins to help clean up afterwards (wet wipes are also really good for sticky foods and messy little ones!)
Managing our climate means it’s a good idea to come prepared for all weathers. That requires sunscreen on a hot day and an umbrella or two on a showery one! A sun shade parasol for the beach can be equally used at the park and slotted into soft grass the way you would in the sand. This is great for keeping children covered over a longer period of time. Pop up beach tents are also good, providing weather protection and a space to changes nappies, have naps, etc.
Insect repellent can also be a good idea as all those sweet smells may attract some unwanted picnic visitors. Just be sure to use a skin-based spray, not directly onto your food!
And providing you won’t blast the banging tunes, a bluetooth speaker can be a great way to create ambience and provide some entertainment by playing background music from any phone or tablet.
Brining a packet of wooden lollypop sticks for children offers a way for them to protect their hands while holding sticky snacks like pieces of fruit, without the danger posed by sharper adult alternatives like tooth picks.
If you’re not ready to invest in a specialist picnic blanket, then bringing a shower curtain to place underneath a regular blanket will create the waterproof underlay keeping you dry. Even on a sunny day, this can be a good tip in case it rained in previous days and the grass is holding water.
An oven tin designed to bake buns/muffins is a handy serving tool for sauces, condiments or snacks like nuts and seeds and being so low to the ground makes it less likely to tip over or be knocked down.
If you have other baking materials at home, then putting upside-down paper cupcake cases over cups and tins of juice is an easy way to keep them insect-free (you could simply pop a straw through them and drink without ever taking the cover off!)
When packing your picnic bundle at home, using your blanket to wrap around any wine or juice bottles made from glass will keep them safe on the journey in the car or on foot.
Freezing some plastic bottles of water the night before your picnic provides not only an ice pack for your food bag to keep items fresh, but as it melts it stays cold, meaning there’s a constant supply of cool fresh water for thirsty mouths!