If sand, surf, and sun are on your mind, but you can’t easily get to the nearest beach, you can still enjoy the feeling of being there. Have yourself a beach-style picnic, complete with food, props, and music to make it seem like you’re spending a day with “beach blanket” movie favorites Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Let’s take a look at how to spend a day at the beach when water is nowhere to be found:

Feed the Beach Bums

Feed the Beach Bums

A day at the beach, even the pseudo-beach, can really work up an appetite. Planning a beach style picnic when you’re not going to the beach can actually work to your advantage. Public beaches don’t often allow cooking on the beach. However, many park facilities, or your own backyard, of course, will offer grilling or even a campfire spot. With these options, you can enjoy standard beach-style food like burgers, hot dogs, and, of course, marshmallows and S’mores.

Along with campfire food, you want to include delicious options for foods that satisfy the beach-goer’s appetite. Many folks aim for the simple things when they’re deciding on what to bring in their beach coolers. Finger foods, pre-made salads, sandwiches, and the like are favorites for beach time food. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a little creative with a few culinary surprises for your hungry guests.

For instance, you could marinate some vegetables in advance in a light dressing for an appetizer. Homemade dips, cold cocktail shrimp, and pate could be served with hearty crackers or pita bread. Try thin-sliced turkey with fresh vegetables like cucumber, avocado, and tomatoes, wrapped inside Armenian flatbread similar to soft tortilla wraps for a filling dish that’s easy to eat, and delicious, too.

A fruit salad can provide ample opportunities for creativity, but you want to think outside apples and oranges. Include nectarines, blueberries, and blackberries with a little fresh ginger and a squeeze of lime juice for a simple yet splendidly refreshing treat. Cut up a real watermelon with seeds for a genuine seed-spitting contest (along with wonderful refreshment) and you’ve got a real live beach party.

An Oasis of Drinks

An Oasis of Drinks

Summer beach picnics call for plenty of iced tea with fresh mint. You could also bring freshly squeezed lemonade which evokes memories of long ago… times spent relaxing in chairs lined up to enjoy the expanse of water and the much anticipated sunset. Go ahead and freeze the lemonade in freezer bags, then set in coolers if you are traveling. By the time you get to your destination, they will thaw and be ready to enjoy. The added advantage is the frozen bags of lemonade add chilling to the cooler for your foods.

Of course, depending on the ages and preferences of guests at your beach picnic, you may enjoy sodas or fruit mix drinks as well as spirits like beachy mixed drink favorites for grownups. Remember, you want to create an illusion of sun, surf, and sand, so whatever beverages come to mind are perfect. If you’re thinking of mixed drinks of any kind, freezing the fruit drink beforehand in freezer bags, then mixing with soda or spirits upon arrival gives you infinite options for beverages for young and young-at-heart alike.

Dig Those Crazy Desserts

Keep sweet treats light and breezy, just like a day at the beach. Try a simple parfait made with yogurt, granola, and the fruit of your choice. Or, try a lighter dessert bread or crumb cake instead of the standard fudge brownies, pies, or gelatin molds found at most picnics.

If frozen treats are part of your beach time memories, go ahead and freeze popsicles or ice cream in any form you like. Ice cream should be frozen quite a bit harder than you would normally eat it before transporting. Keep them on the bottom of the cooler, piling your salads or sandwiches on top. For extra protection, wrap them in several thicknesses of newspaper. Depending on the heat, your frozen treats should stay relatively solid for some time.

Another easy trick for a cold dessert at a beach picnic, whether you’re at the beach or doing a faux-beach picnic, is to freeze fruit in the can. A good choice is canned pineapple or peaches. Transport the frozen cans (another advantage is they serve as ‘ice’ in coolers) to the picnic spot. When ready to serve, open the can and push the semi-frozen or “slushie” fruit out of the can and serve in a paper funnel cup, with a spoon and a straw. You can pour in a little fizzy clear Cola or Ginger Ale for a real summertime treat.

Create the Beach

Setting the mood for a beach-style picnic starts with the props. A day at the beach includes beach chairs, umbrellas, big blankets, beach balls, towels, beach bags, beach pails and shovels, hats, coolers, and music. A little background music featuring the Beach Boys or other surfin’ music really sets the mood. If you have boogie-boards or surfboards, all the better! Even if there’s not a wave in sight, surfboards make great serving tables and backdrops.

An added feature that’s great fun is sand, of course. Most any building supply house offers clean sand for sale. Just one bag will provide enough to fill quite a few beach pails. Stick the little shovels in and set them all around. Sifting sand through your fingers (or toes) is a great way to relax and enjoy the ‘beach.’

If you have a few seashells sitting around, throw those around the tables and in the pails for more authenticity. Use more sand in metal buckets to support an assortment of candles. Use candles in shades of blues, greens, and tans to replicate the colors of the sea and sand.

For a real element of water, a small kiddie pool is the perfect addition to your backyard or park beach party. All you need is something to splash, even if it’s just to dip your feet or hands in. Cover the bottom of the pool in sand if you’re feeling especially energetic. Pull up your beach chairs, stick your feet in, and you have an instant beach… almost!

Some people’s idea of the perfect day at the beach is just sitting under the umbrella sipping a cool drink all day long. Other people like to stay active. Providing something to do during your beach-style picnic is relatively simple. If you are hosting the picnic in your backyard, you already know what you have for fun and games. Frisbees, badminton, and volleyball are obvious beach games. A park may offer other distractions like horseshoes and jungle gyms, or even walking trails. Take advantage of what you have, then gather for refreshments under the umbrellas to cool off.

Head to Toe to the Beach We Go

No matter what you include as a backdrop for your special beach party picnic, it’s still the clothes that bring the whole thing together. Yes, a swimsuit, sunglasses, sarong, sandals, and big floppy hat just scream BEACH! So be sure you set the mood first with your style.

Loose flowing garments are just fine if swimwear is not suitable. Choose caftans or other flowing garments of lightweight gauzy fabrics or linen. Dig around in your closets to find loose fitting lightweight shirts or pants of any kind. You’re going to set the “scene” for your guests and have a lot of fun in the doing.

As you can see, the idea for a beach-style picnic is to be informal and breezy with the setting, table, music, food, drinks, and even the clothing. The success of a beach-style picnic depends on your ability to sway like an ocean breeze and let the mood capture your guests. Enjoy the rhythm of the islands… and each other!

Originally posted 2011-07-29 09:26:03.