If I could have a sixth love language, it would be picnics.
Picnics are a sacred summer tradition for me—from finding the perfect picnic spot to curating the foods and drinks that will match the guests and setting of the picnic. I learned this love language from my mother, who always threw lavish picnics in shady rose gardens and along the shores of the Jersey coast. She would lovingly pick out the freshest baguette, the juiciest heirloom tomato, and the ripest mango for an evening meal, and pack it all up in our wicker basket with trays and china to toast.
Over time, I’ve fallen in love with a new iteration of my mother’s famous picnics—the sunrise picnic, which has become a cherished summer activity of mine. And while it might seem boastful, after years of experience, I’d like to think I’ve nearly perfected it—from location to the cuisine.
If you’re looking to incorporate a new ritual into your summer routine, read on for my curated list of do’s and don’ts for how to throw a sunrise picnic you won’t soon forget.
Do: Check the Sunrise Time & Plan Accordingly
While it might seem obvious, looking up the sunrise time ahead of schedule is crucial to throwing a sunrise picnic. Prior to the sunrise, you’ll want to budget time for getting ready, driving to your location plus set up. Since the sunrise time on your phone tells you when the sun has risen (rather than is rising) you’ll want to make sure you’re settled in your spot thirty minutes in advance to watch the colors change in the sky.
Note: Bring a headlamp/flashlight as it will be dark when you arrive!
Don’t: Forget Jackets & Blankets
Even though you may be in summer mode, those pre-dawn hours can be surprisingly chilly and damp. To avoid leaving early due to the cold morning air, pack plenty of jackets and blankets to bundle up before the sun fully rises. If possible, pack waterproof blankets to prevent the morning dew from soaking through your blanket.
Do: Factor in the cardinal directions when selecting a location
While the sun sets in the west, it rises in the east, which means you likely won’t want to reuse your sunset spot for a sunrise picnic. If you’re picnicking on a lake or mountain, make sure you choose a spot so the sun rises over the lake or on the side of the mountain you’re facing. Lastly, always choose a spot with clear visibility of the horizon so you can enjoy the full sunrise spectacle.
Note: Some parks and mountains have dawn to dusk entry only. Research entry times ahead of your picnic to make sure your park will be open.
Don’t: Forget the Coffee & Tea
While it may feel like a hassle to bring a hot water flask, the warm drink and caffeine will be much appreciated on a chilly early morning. Make sure to bring enough for refills, to keep all hands and hearts warm before the sun fully rises.
Do: Pack Breakfast-Themed Treats
My favorite thing about sunrise picnics is the opportunity to transform breakfast foods into picnicky goods. While there are an endless variety of breakfast-themed picnic spreads, some of my favorites include:
- A Bagel Board – Pack a bagful of bagels and pair it with a bagel-topping charcuterie filled with spreads, vegetables, and jams. Your guests will love customizing their own bagel sandwiches and, best of all, they can be eaten with hands—making it an ideal picnic treat
- A Breakfast Charcuterie – Elegant and always aesthetic, breakfast charcuteries require just a little bit of prep for a huge reward. Cut up fruits, veggies, spreads, breads, and muffins and bring a cutting board to lay out your charcuterie. All the finger food makes it easy to grab and go, and it’ll be a huge hit with guests attending
- Breakfast Bowls – Prep some chia pudding, jam, coconut yogurt, smoothie, fruit, granola, and nuts ahead of time and put each into a container. Bring bowls and serving spoons and allow your guests to customize their breakfast bowls however they’d like. I especially love breakfast picnic bowls when it’s deep into fruit season, and I can pack tropical fruits like dragon fruit and mangos to make an Insta-worthy bowl
- Banana Bread & Fruit – While any quick bread can do, I truly believe there’s nothing more satisfying than banana bread and a sunrise. This is the easiest breakfast picnic that requires basically no prep. Just make a banana bread the night before, grab some clementines and melons, and enjoy!
Don’t: Rush Your Time There
Once you’ve done all the prep work and set up your picnic, it’s time to pause and enjoy the moment. Allow the fresh morning air to wake up your body, and enjoy warm beverages and treats with your friends and loved ones.
There’s nothing quite like a sunrise picnic—from the pink and purple hues to the early morning breeze. Gather a group of friends and find the perfect picnic spot to start off your new favorite summer tradition.
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Photo: Dana Drosdick