Not all picnics have to take place in the sunshine. There are a lot of reasons to host a picnic at night; perhaps that’s when you want to eat, you may want to enjoy a full moon, or an eclipse, or the heat of the day may be just too intense. When the night time is the right time, you want a picnic that fits the mood of the evening.
Depending on the weather where you are, an evening may be chilly, or not. A picnic by moonlight requires a few special accessories and maybe a tweak in the menu. Let’s take a look at some ideas for your picnic under the stars:
Staging Your Picnic for a Moonlit Night
There really isn’t much more than a full moon and a sky full of stars that you can improve upon for your picnic. However, there are some necessities to keep in mind to keep you and your guests comfortable.
Start with a candlelit walkway to your picnic spot. Use sturdy metal pails filled with sand, then insert chunky candles. Light them before your guests arrive so the way is clear, especially if the spot is relatively unknown.
If you’ve chosen a clear night with a big full moon, much of the lighting will be provided, but not usually enough to eat by. Again, you want a good amount of candles strategically placed so your area is lit well enough to see your food. A lantern may be helpful especially for grilling and serving the food. You can always turn the lights down again once the food is served.
Nights can bring on the dew, so chairs and tables are a better choice than blankets on the grass. However, it all depends on your area. Choose one or the other for eating and relaxing. Be sure to bring extra blankets if the night temperatures drop. You want everyone to be comfortable enough to stay and enjoy the night.
Plan your menu according to your cooking facilities. Be sure to have everything arranged very well so you aren’t digging in the dark for food and utensils. Separate coolers are helpful for this purpose. It’s better to carry three or four small coolers than one big one in this instance.
Maps of the stars are a great thing to have along. Telescopes are fun, too. Many phones now have apps for stargazing. If anyone has one, bring it along. It will turn you into an astronomer before you know it. Other fun things to do with a sky full of stars is to tell stories and sing songs. Be ready with a couple stories and pass out the lyrics to a few songs to keep the party going.
If a campfire is possible, build one. It enhances the mood of the evening, making the sky even darker. But keep it small so the light doesn’t totally obliterate the stars and moon. And plan to start letting it go out at least one to two hours before you’re ready to leave, then douse the logs with water and shovel sand over the top.
Like I said, there’s not much more you can do to accessorize a picnic by moonlight. So, let’s explore the food for a picnic by moonlight.
Eating By Moonlight
Eating basically by moonlight can be tricky, especially if you don’t want to ‘pollute’ the dark with a lot of candles or lantern light. The solution is to keep the food ultra simple.
Finger food is a great idea when you don’t want to struggle with utensils in the semi-dark. Roll-ups and pinwheels for a main dish are an excellent choice. Create a delicious roll up using small tortillas filled with a slice of ham, fresh asparagus, and a slice of smoked provolone cheese, then roll up into a cigar shape and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Make a couple for each guest. They’re delicious and very easy to serve and eat, and no dishes required.
Pinwheels can be made in a similar fashion, but are cut into bite sized pieces. Lay out a large tortilla and spread with a mixture of flaked salmon, chopped cucumbers, chives, and cream cheese. Roll tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour. Then cut into discs and lay in a large tray. Cover and take to your picnic and let everyone dig in.
If you long to fire up your grill, choose foods that are easy to cook and serve. Cut chicken breasts and thighs into strips, then marinade or coat in your favorite toppings. Grill for a few minutes, then flip and grill until cooked through. This boneless chicken in strips makes it easy to eat and there are no bones to worry about having to discard.
Other grilled favorites are burritos or calzones. Wrap them up ahead of time, then get the grill going and cook them until toasty brown on all sides. Bring a grilling tray along so you don’t have to worry about them falling through the grates, or cleaning the grates, especially if it’s a public grill at a park.
You can even serve salads as finger foods! Romaine lettuce leaves are perfect for wrapping up a green salad, tuna salad, or chicken salad. If you decide to bring potato salad or pasta salads, pack them in individual paper bowls to make it easier to serve. Wrap the fork right in and just pass them out.
Desserts are easy at a moonlight picnic. If you have a campfire, bring the makings for S’mores; marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars. If you don’t have a campfire, brownies or cookies are perfect. Serving pie can be troublesome, but you can make individual pocket-pies which are a lot of fun.
Beverages should lean toward the warming side. Choose hot chocolate, apple cider, or mulled wine for a cozy moonlit sip. Mix it up ahead of time and bring in thermoses, either individual ones or in the larger style. Choose ‘hot drink approved’ paper cups and you can burn them in your campfire. Keep this in mind with all your utensils; cleaning up in the dark is not easy, so keep everything at a minimal amount.
No matter what your reason is for having a picnic late at night, whether you are in love with the moonlight, you fancy yourself a stargazer, you find the night sounds relaxing, or you just like to eat late, a picnic under a sky full of stars and a moon shining bright is a great place to be! Make your plans and invite your night-owl friends to join in the fun at your moonlight picnic.