I recently introduced the term “sack lunch” to my young grandchildren for a park outing. They were so impressed, you’d think I told them I’d invented fire. They spent an evening decorating brown paper bags, then stuffed them with lunch items for our picnic. They proudly clutched those bags as we filed toward the van the next day. I was equally pleased since I would avoid the time and expense of the busy drive-through line.
There’s something about picnics that make you feel like a kid again. Whether at a nearby park or while on a long day drive, picnics are also a great alternative to the usual fare you find on the road (sorry, beef jerky and kolaches).
And they can be rejuvenating. On a road trip last fall, my husband and I enjoyed eating from our well-stocked cooler, finding our picnic items saved us time and allowed us to eat healthy meals while enjoying a relaxing break in nature.
“Eating outside has incremental benefits in addition to the well-known benefits of being outside, which include reduced heart rate, reduced blood pressure, and lowered stress,” says Kathy Sears Hall, director of The Center for Fitness in Kerrville. She adds that eating outside “removes many everyday distractions and obligations, allowing us to focus on each other, as well as the food, conversation, and setting.”
Fortunately, I live in one of the best settings for picnics—the Texas Hill Country. So pack plenty of water and get your sacks ready, because here are a few favorites that suit a variety of interests.
Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site
If you want history with your tuna salad, the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site in Stonewall includes walking trails, bison, historic cabins, and the World War I-era Sauer-Beckmann Farm, with park rangers dressed in historical clothing offering demonstrations on period cooking, gardening, and tending animals.
There are numerous picnic options, including covered tables on the bank of the Pedernales River. While there, you can also stop at the nearby Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park for a 30-minute self-guided driving tour featuring the Texas White House, the Johnson family cemetery, and an airplane hangar housing Air Force “One-Half.” (Admission: free)
Louise Hays Park
Feel like a stroll along a beautiful river? Visit Kerrville’s Louise Hays Park to enjoy the accessible trail that takes you along the Guadalupe River. Picnic at the covered picnic tables, where you can cool down under the shade of cypress trees, or stretch out on the grassy field for some sun (don’t forget the sunscreen). Little ones can cool off on the splash pad during the summer and enjoy playground equipment year-round. (Admission: free)
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
For majestic views and hiking, head to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, about 17 miles from Fredericksburg. Uncovered picnic tables and barbecue pits are available, or select a picnic location on the trail. The park closes when it meets capacity, which often happens on weekends, holidays, and some weekdays, so guarantee admittance by reserving a day pass up to 30 days in advance. (Admission: $8 for adults; children under 12 get in free)
If you want an in-town picnic surrounded by beautiful gardens, a canopied playground, covered picnic tables, and a working waterwheel, stop at the Marketplatz in the center of Fredericksburg. Then peruse the many shops along the town’s bustling Main Street. (Admission: free)
Lost Maples State Natural Area
Looking ahead to fall, if you enjoy your picnics with autumn colors, hiking, birding, and fishing, visit Lost Maples State Natural Area. There are covered picnic tables outside park headquarters or take advantage of benches and open areas along the trail. Reservations are necessary during October and November and advised during other peak periods. (Admission: $6 for adults; children under 12 get in free)