Disclosure: This is a paid partnership with Dometic. We'd like to give a huge thank you to Dometic for fueling our most amazing fall adventure yet! Dometic makes mobile adventuring easier with their award winning coolers, drink ware, and portable power solutions. They gave us the ultimate glamorous fall picnic setup with their tumblers and portable refrigerated cooler.
How to Plan A Picnic Date in a Big City:
We love getting out in nature, but we also live in the sprawling metropolis that is Chicago, so sometimes that means getting creative! We went to our favorite lakefront park, on the Far North Side. The fall colors were absolutely fantastic, and watching the water while people walked, jogged and biked nearby was so relaxing!
When packing warm drinks and an awesome charcuterie board spread, loading up with pillows, blankets and flowers, we were ready for the coziest night by the water.
We hope this goes without saying, but no matter where you're going, always follow these Leave No Trace Guidelines, be respectful and clean up after yourself. 🙂
City Picnic Location Ideas:
- Lakefront or beach - If this is an option in your area, there is something just inherently relaxing and romantic about watching and listening to the water. Chicago has over 26 miles of public beach space, and we're always finding a reason to head to the lakefront area with its sprawling lakeside parks.
- Nature preserve or State Park - Find somewhere nearby that you can make into a day trip. We have lots of options near Chicago.
- Local park - Find a quaint park near you with some green space. There are too many great parks in Chicago to name them all, which is a luxury problem for city living if you ask us! This list is a great place to start when picking out locations, and we can personally vouch for all of them!
- Back balcony or back yard - We're fortunate to have small back deck that we sometimes utilize when we're not in the middle of gardening projects! Honestly, any space can be made into a cozy picnic!
- A drive-in movie - What better way to cozy up? A drive in movie is the ultimate location for cuddling up, having a snack and a warm drink together!
Something to consider: In any public place, there are rules for eating, drinking (especially alcohol in glass bottles), and grilling. Always double check your location's rules before heading out.
Romantic Date Night Activity Ideas:
Here's a few of our favorite activities for a low key yet romantic outdoor date.
- Make a charcuterie board- Choosing food that is easy to customize, like a charcuterie board, cheese board, or any other snack situation instantly elevates the mood and scene. These options are hands on and collaborative which is romantic in itself. This also ensures you can snack at your own pace, and not be too weighed down by the food, while also eating something substantial.
- Bring a festive drink - We recommend something wine based to pair well with your cheese board. Our sugar free mulled wine was toasty warm, and the flavors were perfect for fall. Having a homemade element to the picnic is perfect, it's literally made by your hands with love, so we highly recommend making something to sip on at home before heading out.
- Bring a board game or puzzle - Here's a list of some games that are great for two players.
- Paint together - Grab some watercolor paints, or even canvases and get creative together!
- Listen to a podcast or music - Bring a small speaker to play music or a podcast on and vibe out.
- Do a photoshoot - Capturing memories in such a lovely setting is so romantic. We grabbed a couple of our cameras so we could take photos of each other. An instant film camera immediately becomes a fun activity, and then you have something physical to hold onto for the future.
Tips For Cool Weather Picnics:
- Layer up with cozy sweaters and jackets!
- Sip on a warm drink (like mulled wine) and keep it warm in a quality tumbler. Dometic's thermal tumblers keep drinks hot for 6 hours, plus they are sleek, sustainable & can fit easily in the drink compartment of your backpack.
- Pack plenty of cozy blankets and pillows.
Picnic Date Food & Drinks:
Let's get into our exact spread, shall we? We opted for sugar free mulled wine and a charcuterie board, so we'll show you how we prepared them.
How To Make Sugar Free Mulled Wine:
Gather your supplies.
- Red wine - Choose something light and fruity, but not too sweet.
- Mulling spices - Use your favorite whole warming spices. We used cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, allspice and cardamom.
- Sugar substitute - We prefer to use a brown sugar substitute, as it adds a nice molasses like flavor without adding any sugar or calories. If you're not watching your sugar intake, feel free to use regular brown sugar, or any sweetener of your choice. Sweeten to taste.
- Brandy - You can opt to leave it out if you prefer. You could also use some spiced rum, whiskey or bourbon instead.
- Fruit - Slice up some orange rounds, apple slices and add in a few cranberries.
Grab a large stock pot, or dutch oven. Over medium-low heat, pour in the red wine.
Add in the brandy, fruit, and then the sweetener to taste. (Start slow with the sweetener, then add more as needed).
Now, add in your warming spices. You want to keep an eye on the wine the whole time, so it doesn't boil. It should be warm enough so that it is just below bubbling, then you will want to turn the heat to a simmer. Boiling the mixture would make the alcohol cook off.
Allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes, but up to a few hours.
After you're satisfied with the flavor of the mulled wine, you will want to strain away the fruit and whole spices, then discard.
Ladle the mulled wine into a pitcher to make pouring into your tumblers easier.
Pour the mulled wine into tumblers to keep warm.
Pro tip: make sure to bring extra spices, orange slices, apple slices and cranberries to garnish your mulled wine in the cups! We put ours in tupper ware and store inside of our CFX3 25 to keep the fruit cool.
Once setup at your picnic, pour the mulled wine from the tumblers into your thermal cups and garnish!
More Ideas for Fall Picnic Cocktails:
Keep these drinks warm or cool in your Dometic tumblers. Drinks can be kept hot for 6 hours in the tumblers, while cold drinks can keep cold for 12 hours.
For drinks that require being topped off with anything carbonated like sparkling wine, diet ginger beer, club soda, etc., pre-mix the cocktails (without the final touches), store in the tumblers, and pack the final ingredients and garnishes in your cooler.
Don't store anything premixed with carbonated ingredients in the tumblers, and instead, add those to top when it's time to serve. Anything premixed with bubbly ingredients will either burst or go flat after sitting for awhile!
How To Build A Picnic Charcuterie Board:
There are so many great things about building a charcuterie board. You can pack everything ahead of time, then assemble when it's time to eat, so nothing gets soggy. It's easy to customize to make sure everyone has something they enjoy, and has items suited to their diet type. Plus, it's light enough to not weigh you down o na date, but filling enough where you won't go hungry.
It is important to take care that everything is at a safe temperature before digging in. We love that we kept our meats and cheese perfectly cool in our CFX3 25. Pack ice packs or ice in a regular cooler to ensure your food stays cold enough.
To build the charcuterie board, you will need the following:
- An assortment of at least 2 cured meats.
- At least 2 cheeses.
- Seasonal fruits and veggies.
- Olives and/or pickles
- Honey for drizzling
- Something sweet like dark chocolate if desired.
Bring some kitchen tools and serving ware with you. You'll need a few things to help your picnic run smoothly.
- A table runner and a wooden board. This will elevate the scene! The wooden board is the perfect home for your grazing platter. It also weighs down your setup so nothing will blow away.
- Small cutting board & knife. For cutting up meats and cheeses on the spot.
- Real plates, bowls and jars for serving. This makes the scene even prettier, but it's practical too. Heavier bowls will help weigh everything down so it doesn't blow away. These plates and bowls are also zero waste. You will need a few bowls or jars for small things like pickles, olives, etc.
- Real silverware. Don't forget forks, knives and spoons to use to eat with, scoop and grab. Again, more stable, pretty and sustainable than single use plastics.
- Cheese knives. Don't forget a few specialty knives to cut into and spread the cheeses with.
A few other things to remember:
- Don't forget a trash bag and bags for recycling - Have bags to make sure you dispose of waste and leftovers properly. Be courteous, and don't leave anything behind.
- Food storage containers - Make sure you have something to bring leftovers home in.
- Hand sanitizer and wet wipes - To keep your hands clean and dry.
- Paper towels - In case of any spills.
- Water - Don't forget to pack water!
- A picnic blanket - like this Matador blanket we will be giving away as apart of our giveaway. This will keep your other blankets and pillows dry if the ground is wet.
Other Snack Ideas For Your Picnic:
- Cinnamon trail mix
- Desserts like pumpkin bars
- A lovely salad like this fall harvest salad
How To Add Special Romantic Touches To Your Fall Picnic:
- Blankets & pillows- Bringing throw blankets and pillows to sit on and cuddle up with really makes everything really sweet and romantic. Plus, they will keep you warm.
- Fresh flowers- Totally optional, but highly recommended to make your picnic simply gorgeous.
- Ambient lighting - We opt for battery powered twinkle lights and candles to make everything sparkle. Battery powered seems to be the theme for today! It's safer than using real candles, and that way you won't run into any trouble.
- Picnic basket - It's just classic and cute. It's a great way to carry your flowers, lighting, and anything that doesn't need to be kept warm or cool, like crackers, nuts, chocolate, etc.
- Cloth napkins - Linen or cloth napkins just make everything feel more elegant.
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Until Next Time,
Briana & Chamere
Sugar Free Mulled Wine
- 750 milliliters red wine
- 4 ounces brandy (could substitute brandy, whiskey, or spiced rum)
- 1 medium navel orange, sliced into rounds
- 1 medium apple, sliced
- ½ cup brown sugar replacement (96 grams)
- handful of cranberries (optional)
- 8 whole cloves
- 3 whole cinnamon sticks
- 3 whole cardamom pods
- 2 whole allspice
- 2 whole star anise
- Garnish with: cranberries, apple slices, orange rounds, cinnamon sticks and spices
- Add all ingredients to a large stock pot over medium-low heat. Gently warm, stirring to dissolve sweetener. Don’t allow the mixture to boil. Gently simmer for at least 10 minutes, or up to a few hours to heat the wine and infuse it with flavor.
- When desired taste is reached, strain away whole spices and fruit pieces. Ladle into tumblers to take it to go so it stays nice and warm! Serve in thermal cups, top with desired garnishes.
- This will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days, or covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.
- Use whatever your favorite mulling spices are to taste. Taste frequently if simmering for a long time, as the drink will become more spiced overtime. Once spice level you like is achieved, remove spices and discard.
- Brandy or other alcohol is optional and can be left out.
- Sweeten to taste, adding more sweetener gradually to suit your preferences.
These nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy and are only estimates. We cannot guarantee the accuracy.
I love everything these two do! What a perfect date guide! 🥰🥰🥰
I'm so glad you enjoyed it!!! Thank you for the sweet comment!
Mariah and Josh says
This is such a great post! I don't know why I never thought of using our back balcony for a date night picnic! Definitely doing this soon, especially with the craziness of nursing school and limited freetime! Such a great idea! You both are doing such an amazing job on the blog! I also can't wait to try out the fig drink! 😍
Sometimes we gotta get REAL creative here, so we figured that any change of scenery would be a good enough place for a date, especially if we add those cozy touches! Hope you guys get to have an amazing date night soon, you so deserve it!! ❤️ Hope you LOVE the fig cocktail, it's just so pretty and fun to drink because it's pretty, haha! Thanks for your sweet words, we're blushing!!
It can be so hard to get motivated to go do special low-budget, healthy things in the city, especially that are also romantic. I love these ideas and the recipes are easy to follow! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Shelby, we totally hear you! We're so glad you found this guide helpful, we brought out our best tips! 🙂
Tori Mason says
The photos you took of each other are SO dreamy!!! I never think to bring pre mixed cocktails to a picnic and these recipes sound so yummy I think I just might! Thank you for all the cute ideas ❤️
Ahh thank you so much Tori! We had such lovely weather that day for the shoot. 🙂 Also, pre-mixed drinks are just such a fun way to kick it up a notch. 🙂
Picnics are such an underrated date! Can be so fun! Love all of your ideas! And that mulled wine! Farkle is one of my favorite small games to play for nights like this—I’ve even got a mini dice set, all you need is a frisbee to throw the dice in so you don’t lose them!
They really are, and can be so romantic! Thanks for your sweet words. 🙂 Farkle is now on my Amazon wishlist.. and frisbee! What a great idea!
I knew about bringing a blanket for a picnic, I never thought about pillows!
Thanks Erica!! It just makes everything so cozy!
Kelsey Grigal says
That sugar free mulled wine looks so damn good it almost pissed me off. 😂❤️ I’m ready for this level of cozy in my life. Love the photo shoot!
This comment truly made both of us chuckle. I hope you love the mulled wine if you get the chance to try it, and also, I AGREE! Let's get you cozy! ❤️
Ooooh! I want to try that spiced pear Moscow mule with a cheeseboard 😍😍😍
Yes, that would be perfect!! Yum!!
Karen K. says
Y’all are too cute! This is so romantic!
We had such a fun time doing this!! Thanks for the sweet comment!!
Anna Piotrowski says
So many good ideas! Definitely going to have to make this mulled wine 😍
We love making special little moments! This picnic was so fun, and yes, totally make the mulled wine!!
5 stars based on how amazing the drink recipes look! Definitely going to try making the mulled wine for Thanksgiving 🍷
So sweet of you to say! It would be the PERFECT Thanksgiving drink!
This is such a cute date idea! I def would go to cathedral park under the St. John’s bridge and bring a whole spread. Love the idea to bring a hot drink too! Never thought of that!
Sadie, just googled that location and my jaw literally dropped, so gorgeous! A visit to the PNW is seriously long overdue!! Also, we are very into cozy, hot drinks!
Sounds like a wonderful idea to picnic in style. Great food and picnic ideas. I can't wait to try a Dometic cooler of my own!
Thank you Debbie, we thought so too! So fun to customize with your favorite snacks, drinks and treats. 🙂 Thanks for the sweet comment! 😉
Sharon Bernius says
Honestly haven't tried the recipes for the drinks because I don't drink anymore, but they sound great and I'll pass them on to a few friends. Just wanted you to know how much I look forward to your emails and love trying your recipes. They are very creative and super tasty. You guys rock with loads of talent! Every recipe that I've tried has been so delicious 😋 and the chicken cordon bleu is divine and even healthy. I'm originally from cajun country and I'm pretty sure that y'all must be part cajun because you can cook and create flawlessly 😉 Love your site and thanks so much for sharing your recipes, photos, and stories with us! An old saying that reminds me of you both - "Life is a journey, not a destination!" Make the most of it in all you do and it will always bring you joy. Your biggest fan, Sharon.
We should start working on some mocktail recipes, stay on the lookout for those, and we hope your friends love this mulled wine too! 😉 This is such a sweet comment, we're so happy you enjoy our recipes and we are totally blushing from your kind words.
Your words are truly touching, and we're so happy you're along for the ride with us. So grateful, and it's messages like these that inspire us to keep doing what we do!
All our best,
Bri & Chamere
Sarah Daniels says
Kudos for the nod to the leave no trace guidelines!! I loved hanging out by the lakefront when I was in Chicago. Mountains are great, but like you mentioned - there's definitely something special about listening to the water! Great post, ya'll! I'm inspired to squeeze in a picnic before snow buries us all 🙂
It's always surprising to us how many folks leave things behind, it can be really hard to watch!! The lakefront here is amazing, we are so lucky to live so close! We're craving getting to the mountains too, promise to let you know when we are in Colorado. 😉 Thanks for the sweet comment. ☺️