Prepare an Autumn Picnic Tea

The weather is often nice in September and October in Northern Virginia. Why not have a picnic? I had first envisioned this as an outdoor tea party — and you could do that if you have your picnic tea on your deck, yard or patio. Hot tea would only be steps away, and you could prepare whatever you like to go with your cuppa.

But what about setting out and having a picnic tea somewhere else? If you trade the hot tea for cool, iced tea or Arnold Palmers, that’s perfectly feasible.

Where to Go

  • Gravelly Point in Arlington.
  • The gardens adjacent to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester.
  • Gunston Hall in Mason Neck.
  • Bon Air Rose Garden in Arlington.
  • Along Skyline Drive in Front Royal.
  • Montpelier near Charlottesville.
  • Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria.
  • Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly.
  • The Alexandria waterfront.
  • Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane.
  • Bartholdi Park in Washington, DC
  • My secret spot! I’ll never tell…

What to Bring

You’ll probably want a picnic hamper (or a sturdy re-usable grocery bag may do), some cups, napkins, plates and utensils, a blanket to sit on, and insect repellent. A couple of pillows or cushions to sit on (or nap on) might also be nice.

What to Make

Here is a suggested fall menu for two people. Increase amounts for more people or more hungry people! Or reduce the amounts if you think it’s more than you’ll need. And don’t hesitate to take yourself on a picnic tea! Tea for one can be delightful and relaxing.


To drink, prepare a container of iced tea with lemon or Arnold Palmers, at least a quart for two people. Also, pack a quart of Fiji water or spring water.


  • Chicken salad sandwiches on Parker House rolls or White House rolls (2 to 4 rolls).
  • Herbed cream cheese sandwiches on wheat bread, cut into triangles (1 to 2 sandwiches).
  • Cucumber sandwiches with mint butter on white bread, cut into fingers (1 to 2 sandwiches).
  • A leak-proof container of bread and butter pickles.
  • A container of grape tomatoes or baby carrots.
  • If you really want to add a prepared salad, Giant makes a good sesame noodle salad that is a little spicy. It might be a nice departure from the more expected potato salad or pasta salad, although it might have too much bite for kids. A half pound container would be plenty for two people.


  • Bartlett pears or gala apples.


  • Pumpkin bread – make your own or buy a delicious loaf at Whole Foods. Bring along about half a loaf for your picnic for two people, and spreadable butter and a plastic knife, if desired.
  • About 6 Pepperidge Farm jam cookies, Fig Newtons or other favorite cookie.


Chicken salad. Mix shredded rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken breast with halved green or red seedless grapes, Hellman’s light mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste, and a couple of dashes of dried tarragon. Chill. Spoon onto rolls with a green leaf lettuce portion, or use arugula if you prefer. Wrap.

Herbed cream cheese. Mix a bar of softened cream cheese with a tablespoon of lemon juice, a dash of Tabasco sauce, and a 1/2 cup of a mixture of chopped fresh parsley and chives (or your favorite herbs). Alternatively, use Philadelphia light vegetable cream cheese. Spread on wheat bread, cut off crusts, and cut into triangles. Wrap snugly.

Cucumber sandwiches. Peel an English cucumber and slice it thinly. Spread softened butter lightly onto 2 slices of white bread. Lay on the cucumber slices and add chopped mint, if desired. Seal and cut into fingers. Wrap snugly.

About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a mom, teacher, and blogger. Her blogs include Autumn in Virginia, Cool Yule Blog and You Can't Make This Stuff Up, among others. She is also the creator of "Living Well With Autism," an online resource for caregivers of children, teens, and adults with autism and related special needs.
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