The official start of summer (21 June in the UK) is fast approaching – bringing with it blue skies, warmer weather and the seemingly impossible task of keeping the kids entertained until the new term starts in September.
We can perhaps make that a little easier, though, with tips on making the most of a car picnic and also the most suitable spots around the UK. Scanning Tripadvisor reviews for locations with the most mentions of ‘picnic’ per 100,000 of the population, we’ve ranked the results.
To focus on locations you can actually enjoy from your car, we’ve excluded indoor or inaccessible areas such as museums, restaurants, theme parks, tours, art galleries and theatres.
Doncaster Is The Best Location For A Car Picnic
Of the 50 cities studied, Doncaster is far and away the best location for a car picnic with a total of 2,247 ‘picnic’ mentions on Tripadvisor – only the capital has more (4,426 mentions). Donny’s outdoor attractions also top the table on ‘picnic’ mentions per 100,000 of the population (1,421 mentions per 100,000).
Its most notable attraction is Yorkshire Wildlife Park (1,980 ‘picnic’ mentions), which is one of only two North of England locations in the top 10 for total mentions, alongside Brimham Rocks in Summerbridge, North Yorkshire.
In second, albeit way behind Doncaster, is Canterbury on 391 ‘picnic’ mentions per 100,000. Westgate Gardens is the most picnic-friendly of its attractions (150 total mentions), while Druidstone Park (38 mentions) and Grove Ferry Picnic Site (15 mentions) are also worth visiting.
York takes third (339 mentions per 100,000). The city’s Museum Gardens have 410 ‘picnic’ mentions on Tripadvisor, accounting for almost a fifth (19%) of the total reviews.
Aberdeen Is The Worst City For A Car Picnic
At the other end of the results, Aberdeen appears as the only city with zero ‘picnic’ mentions per 100,000 of the population – due to the city not appearing at all on our list of 848 attractions. The same can’t be said for Scotland’s other cities, such as Edinburgh that earned a place in the top 10 with 179 mentions per 100,000.
Dundee also performs favourably; more than a fifth (21%) of Camperdown Country Park’s 396 reviews alone mention ‘picnic’, contributing to Dundee’s 88 mentions per 100,000 of the population.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park Has The Most ‘Picnic’ Review Mentions
Of the total number of ‘picnic’ mentions, Yorkshire Wildlife Park is top with 1,980. From 8,811 total reviews, that’s more than a fifth of reviews pointing to its car-picnic compatibility.
The Car Picnic Spots With The Most ‘Picnic’ Mentions
|#||Picnic spot||Total reviews||% of reviews mentioning 'picnic'||'Picnic' mentions|
|1||Yorkshire Wildlife Park||8,811||22||1,980|
|3||St. James's Park||19,164||5||991|
|7||Trentham Monkey Forest||3,282||18||592|
|9||Hever Castle & Gardens||3,790||15||565|
|10||Princes Street Gardens||7,406||7||548|
London’s Hyde Park takes second thanks to 1,171 mentions, although that figure represents only 5% of the total (22,426 reviews), while third-placed St James’s Park in the shadow of Buckingham Palace is also on 5% (991 mentions).
The Best And Worst Foods For A Car Picnic According To An Expert
When it comes to catering for a car picnic, there’s more to consider than the quantity of food you take along – the type of supplies is even more important, according to Louise Roberts, food hygiene expert at Alimenti.
Louise said: “Firstly, it depends how long it will be until the food’s eaten. If less than four hours, there is little risk, but any longer and there’s a risk of potentially harmful bacteria growing. If the ambient temperature is warmer, which is more likely as we move towards the summer, this can also quicken the process of food spoiling.”
However, Louise has tips for ensuring you’re packing the right foods and in the right way: “High-risk food are those which are usually refrigerated and contain protein – such as dairy, fish and meat, as well as vegan alternatives. Snacks like peanuts and crisps, on the other hand, are low risk.
“My advice is to use a cool bag and ice packs for transporting high-risk items, and also pack foods that would usually not need refrigeration or those with a longer shelf life when chilled. Hard cheese, like cheddar and Red Leicester, and sausage rolls are good options. Avoid uncanned tuna and other similar fish such as mackerel, as well as undercooked or rare meats.”
Seven Tips For Planning A Car Picnic
Follow our steps below for having your own car picnic, with tips on keeping flies at bay and the best foods to bring along:
Start with the location
If you don’t want to stray too far from home, for example, look for a suitable spot within an hour’s drive (roughly 60 miles). If you’re on a budget, you can also look for locations with free parking.
Take your own food and drink
This is a great way to save money on your picnic, with plenty of affordable options for sandwiches, salads and fruits. Take foods that don’t need refrigeration or those with a longer shelf life when chilled – cheddar and Red Leicester cheeses and sausage rolls, for example. Avoid uncanned tuna and other similar fish such as mackerel, as well as undercooked or rare meats.
Pack all foods in a cool box
Place all foods in a cool box, especially high-risk items like dairy, fish and meat. Vegan alternatives are also high risk. But that can be minimised by eating your picnic within four hours, as this limits the opportunity for bacteria to grow – especially important in warmer temperatures.
- Reusable utensils and dishes
This is a great way to reduce waste and save money in the long run. You can find reusable utensils and dishes at most supermarkets, or just take what you already have at home.
- Pack blankets and throws
This will help you create a comfortable space to enjoy your picnic, whether you sit in the car or find a spot nearby. One option is dropping the back seats of your car and kitting it out with cushions and blankets this DIY den can also be a great way of making it more exciting for young passengers.
- Use sunscreen and insect repellent
Suncream is essential to protect yourself and others from the sun, particularly during the summer months, so make sure this is packed. It’s also worth keeping the bugs at bay, especially if you’re picnicking from your car. Simple hacks include covering food and using air fresheners with lemon, vanilla or eucalyptus scents (as these deter insects). Citronella candles are also an option, but don’t use these in or near the car.
- Take bin bags
In case there aren’t bins at your picnic spot, take a few of your own bin liners. It reduces the rubbish left around and also makes it easier to cart all your waste back home or to the nearest bin.
We analysed a total of 462,840 Tripadvisor reviews for nature areas, parks, historic sites and outdoor landmarks for the number of ‘picnic’ mentions. The locations were then grouped by city and, for a level comparison between cities of different population sizes, we calculated the number of ‘picnic’ mentions per 100,000 of each city’s population.
Indoor or restricted venues, such as museums, restaurants, theme parks, tours, art galleries and theatres were excluded from the analysis, to ensure relevance to car picnics.