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Fall Picnic Ideas: Lifestylist Shares Her Best Tips + a Fun Pumpkin Dip Recipe

Picnics aren't just for spring and summer! Here's how to host friends and family in your own backyard

Whether it’s for a seasonal get-together with girlfriends, a birthday or a just-because gathering, you’ll bring joy to loved ones—and yourself—by hosting a pretty autumn picnic! In fact, right now #fallpicnics are trending all over social media—racking up more than 16,000 posts on Instagram and 5 billion views on Tiktok—and they’re thankfully simple to toss together in the comfort of your own yard. Here, we spoke to a party expert for her savvy, affordable fall picnic ideas.

“There’s no better season than fall,” says Jenny Keller, founder of “Everywhere you look you’ll find vibrant colors and beauty!” To get the look of Keller’s festive picnic (above), start by draping a fall-hued plaid blanket diagonally across a bare picnic table. Then top with a wide variety of gourds, buckets filled with mini pumpkins and wooden servers layered with grapes and snacks. To finish, sprinkle faux fall leaves from the craft store (or handfuls of clean real leaves) on the table to add rich color and fill in bare spots.

Greet friends and family with cozy spiced apple cider

Fall Picnic Ideas: Warm Spiced Apple Cider in Mason jars

To make a heartwarming spiked cider, fill a 64-oz. Mason jar with sliced apples sprinkled with lemon juice, add 2 cinnamon sticks, 1⁄2 tsp. of ground cinnamon and 1⁄4 tsp. of nutmeg, then fill with vodka until jar is full. Seal and pop in the fridge for 24 hours. Then, before your picnic, simmer 1 gallon of apple cider and 2 cinnamon sticks on the stove for 10 minutes. Pour 1 oz. of spiced vodka into each mug, then fill with the hot cider. Looking for more fall signature sip ideas? Check out these 10 super-easy pumpkin spice cocktails on our sister site.

Keep everyone warm with cozy blanket throws

Cozy Fall Picnic Ideas: Basket of Blankets

A basket filled with warm blankets brightens the party and shows guests you care. You can find inexpensive throw blankets at IKEA, or simply stock up at the thrift store. Fold each blanket and place in a large wicker basket. Tip: Turn the blankets into snuggly party favors by simply attaching a sweet handwritten note on each with a safety pin.

Beautify a picnic table with pretty seasonal plate IDs

Fall picnic ideas: Pretty pumpkin place settings with autumn leaf nametag

For an elevated picnic vibe, grace place settings with a leafy pumpkin surprise that doubles as a name card. To create each, tie a length of raffia or twine around the stem of a mini white pumpkin. Place pumpkin atop plate. Place a napkin next to pumpkin and place utensils on other side, as shown. Next, use a white marker or paint pen to jot a guest’s name on a real (or faux) fall leaf, then place the leaf atop the pumpkin or tuck near napkin roll. Sprinkle on an extra leaf or two for added flair. Tip: Keep plates clean by placing a cupcake wrapper under each pumpkin ID.

Serve up instant smiles with this delicious pumpkin dip

Fall picnic ideas: Homemade pumpkin dip served in hollowed out pumpkin placed alongside tray of biscuits for dipping
Kelly Clare Photography

Guests will clamor for Keller’s sweet chips and pumpkin dip! To make the chips: Cut pie dough with a leaf-shaped cookie cutter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar; bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. To make the dip: Beat 12 oz. of cream cheese with 2 cups of powdered sugar, then fold in 1 cup of canned pumpkin, 1 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice and 1 tsp. of ground ginger. Fold in 2 cups of whipped topping, scoop into a bowl and chill for 30 minutes. Pop the bowl in a hollowed-out pumpkin and serve with the pie chips.

Transform a gourd into a pretty tabletop vase

Fall picnic ideas: a pumpkin hollowed out and filled with colorful fall flowers sitting on a wooden surface outside

If you’ve picked a pumpkin that’s less-than-perfect or has started to get a little mushy, use it as a surprisingly eye-catching base for a bouquet. To do: Just cut off the top of the pumpkin, then scoop out the flesh and line with a cut-to-fit trash bag. Next, fill the pumpkin with soaked floral foam and insert the stems of ­autumn flowers, foliage or berries to form a soft, rounded mound. Display on picnic table.

Lend a little flair to on-the-go snacks

Fall picnic ideas: To-go picnic bites packaged in plastic containers with a flannel ribbon and wooden utensil tucked in the top
Kelly Clare Photography

Keller’s friend brought a delicious seasonal salad for everyone to enjoy! “Hailey came with an orzo salad that was dressed up for fall,” Keller says. “She included pomegranates, cranberries and pine nuts—yum!” To make her cranberry orzo salad, combine one package of cooked orzo, 1 cup of pomegranate seeds, 1 cup dried cranberries, 1 cup feta cheese, 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, parsley for garnish. To make her orzo dressing, combine 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 garlic clove, freshly grated, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/3 cup olive oil. Toss orzo salad with the vinaigrette. Separate orzo into small plastic to-go containers from the dollar store. “Add a little extra fall detail by tying a wooden fork around individually packed salads with a strip of flannel!”

Boost the fun with extra fall picnic ideas like these

Invite your guests to turn the bountiful pumpkins, squashes and gourds on your table into take-home favors! Before your party, stock up on no-mess decorations like fall Washi tape, scrapbooking stickers, rub-on tattoos, twine, stick-on gems, paint pens, stamps and ink pads. Organize the supplies in small terra-cotta pots or Mason jars and set them on a small table covered with kraft paper for a fun decorating station.

Another cute idea: Embrace the spirited feel of a picnic with “field day” games that are simple yet sure get everyone smiling and laughing. Have a relay race where each person tries to run a lap around the yard while balancing a small pumpkin or chestnut or golf ball on a spoon (whoever makes it farthest the fastest without dropping it wins). Hand out sweet prizes like little bags of candy or fall-scented hand soap.

Amp up ambiance with a festive focal point

Fall picnic ideas: Set up a fall themed outdoor vignette at your picnic with a tea or sweets "station"
Instagram: @littleredhousevintage

For added autumnal charm, set up a vibrant vignette near your main picnic table. This not only offers an extra pop of pretty to your entire gathering but it also provides another place to showcase decor and serve beverages—like this lovely picnic tea station created by Candice of @littleredhousevintage on Instagram. To get the look, cover an outdoor side table or small patio table with a plaid cloth. Top cloth with pumpkins, a rustic jug filled with fresh or faux flowers, a lantern and a tray of snacks or help-yourself drinks.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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