The Ultimate Guide to Picnicking in Plymouth

The hot list, from where to go to what to pack.

The weather is warming and more Minnesotans are venturing outdoors. Make a day of it by packing a picnic and relaxing in one of Plymouth’s scenic parks. Read on for the ultimate guide to picnicking in our fair town and make a point of checking off these lovely locales from your summertime bucket list. WHERE TO GO Lake-view Locations Early risers should head to West Medicine Lake Park. This spot makes an ideal breakfast or brunch picnic location. The park faces east, so a sunrise over the lake awaits those who venture out in the morning. Open-air picnic shelters are available, and if you’re planning to a full day, the park also offers fishing, basketball and volleyball courts, and nature trails.Prefer sunsets? Check out East Medicine Lake Park. Picnic tables, a play structure and nature trails are also available.French Regional Park has a wonderful locale overlooking the shores of Medicine Lake, with a large picnic area adjacent to a swimming beach. There are also two picnic shelters, a creative play area and a wonderful trail system. The area along the back channels of Medicine Lake can be ideal for wildlife viewing. If you’re planning a large-group picnic, French Regional Park has three large reservation picnic areas with capacity for up to 200 guests in two areas, 150 in the other. Lake Camelot Park has two picnic areas, one near a play structure. The other offers more secluded surroundings in a natural setting. There is also a boardwalk encircling the lake. Timber Shores is a beautiful spot along Bass Lake. A boardwalk trail provides a nice fishing locale. A nature trail makes for a post-picnic stroll.    Garden Spots The north shelter at Parkers Lake Park is perched on a hillside, with a beautiful view of surrounding gardens.Nature Canyon Park, not too far from Interstate 494, is a beautiful area with an unpaved trail, a scenic gorge and wildflowers in a forest ecology setting.Millennium Garden is on the grounds of Plymouth Creek Center. This tranquil location with fountains and flower gardens is a popular site for weddings, so you’ll have to work around scheduled events or make your way around the bordering trails so as not to disturb any official knot-tying.    City Settings Plymouth Creek Park is most like a central city park, with athletic fields, a play structure, disc golf, a butterfly garden and natural wetlands surrounded by trails.Hilde Performance Center is an open-air stage and home to many outdoor performances. There are a number of tables, fountains and gardens nearby, so pack up your picnic lunch and plan to take in a concert. This park is near the center of town, giving it a more urban feel but offers plenty of mature trees in a natural setting.All neighborhood parks in Plymouth provide benches, tables, shade structures and play equipment. If you don’t have time to travel far, sneak in a quick snack on a blanket under the sun at your local park.Don’t forget Fido. The Plymouth Dog Park is a great spot for your dog to get some off-leash exercise in a natural setting while you park yourselves at a nearby picnic table. A shelter provides shade; a potable water source is available for dogs and their humans.   WHAT TO PACK Von Hanson’s offers a delectable variety of bakery-fresh breads, rolls and breadsticks. Combine a French loaf with a few of Von Hanson’s choice offerings of sliced deli meats and gourmet cheeses for a simple yet special picnic-basket snack. Wisconsin-made cheese curds or Minnesota’s own Bongard’s cheese make a tasty addition to your picnic pack. Or stash a bit of Von Hanson’s summer sausage and snack sticks for nibbling during a hike or on a break from a bike ride. If you call ahead, Von Hanson’s can package sandwiches, meat and cheese trays or fresh fruit for your day at the park. Manager Darren Pfeffer says items arranged on meat, cheese and fruit trays are snack-sized and make for easy grazing at a casual outdoor outing. Famous Dave’s offers picnickers a distinct advantage, with food that’s easily transportable and stays fresh until you’re ready to eat. Famous Dave’s is a vendor of Three Rivers Park District, so this makes it a good choice to cater your larger outdoor event. General manager Brian Johnson says Famous Dave’s has varying levels of service for every size picnic event, from carry-out and delivery to full-service setup and cleanup. Whether you’re hosting a family reunion at a Plymouth park or it’s just two of you for the day, Famous Dave’s take-out menu of ribs, roasted chicken, brisket and pulled pork can satisfy most picnic appetites. “Don’t forget our cornbread muffins,” Johnson adds. “Those are also very popular with picnickers. Plus, we provide plates, napkins and utensils with all orders. We’ve got everything a picnicker needs except the picnic table and tablecloth.”   HOW TO TRANSPORT Whether you choose take-out food or pack your picnic from home, portable food storage has come a long way since the days of wicker baskets and cumbersome coolers. Seasonal food-storage items can often be found at Home Goods or Target. Look for stackable storage containers in a variety of sizes suitable for stowing most any sandwich or snack combination you can think of; plus, they’re reusable and eco-friendly. Pack those containers inside a soft-sided collapsible insulated cooler, tote bag or backpack for lightweight easy transport to and from your destination. If you’re planning to stay for a while, are picnicking with a large group or just get mighty hungry, consider investing in a wheeled cooler to stock with snacks, meals and beverages for the afternoon. Toss in a good book, a Frisbee and your camera. Now you’re set for a day of play.  RESOURCES Three Rivers Park District, 763.559.9000; City of Plymouth, 763.509.5000; Von Hanson’s, 3375 Plymouth Blvd.; 763.557.8040; Famous Dave’s, 11308 Highway 55; 763.525.0500; Home Goods, 4190 Vinewood Ln. N.; 763.550.0382; Target, 4175 Vinewood Ln. N.; 763.553.0302;