What can be better than spending a sunny afternoon or even a warm evening – now that we’re starting to get a few of them! – relaxing on the grass and enjoying some good food, good friends and good times.

An old-fashioned picnic is just the tonic to decompress and let go of our busy world, if only for a little while.

Sound tempting? To nudge you along, here are some ideas on what and where to make your picnic spectacular.

What

Plan to make your own food to bring? Start with a picnic staple: sandwiches. But why not turn them into an event by letting everyone make their own. How about thin-sliced baked ham, sliced baguettes and all the fixings?

Other traditional fare? Fried chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, cookies, tarts or apple pie, watermelon, and lemonade (or perhaps wine for the grownups!).

While a wicker basket lined with checkered cloth might the standard, you might prefer a cooler with wheels to keep food from spoiling and for easier transporting.

And don’t forget plates, cups, utensils, serviettes, a blanket, tablecloth (if you’ll be using a picnic table), a good book to read, sunscreen, hats and perhaps a few games such as croquet or lawn darts. You may also want to consider fold-up chairs and a portable shade umbrella, although they will add to the load you’ll have to cart around.

Some picnic spots offer barbecuing facilities. If that’s the route you want to go, hotdogs and hamburgers are the easiest option. Plan on bringing your own charcoal, lighter and cooking utensils.

Don’t want to make your own food? Opt for ready-made.

Spread Delivers offers the ultimate in pampering, bringing your picnic right to you, wherever you’ve camped out. The only catch is that they mostly deliver on week days. They specialize in making locally produced dips, spreads & sandwiches.

Or stop in at Life of Pie, Stella Luna, the market or wherever your favourite spot is for some of your standbys to pick up and take along.

Where

The view of Parliament Hill from the Gatineau side is one of the most iconic Ottawa scenes. Head to the lawns of the Canadian Museum of History to get not only a water view, but the fabulous Hill backdrop as well. Much of the area is full sun, but there are some trees offering shade.

Ottawa’s beaches are a natural choice to get away from it all. The city runs four of them, with lifeguards at each, washrooms and rentals.

There are plenty of spots along the Rideau Canal to pause and relax, including Patterson Creek, next to the Canal Ritz, at Lansdowne Park, and, of course, Dow’s Lake. Or, along the Rideau River there’s always Brewer Park, Vincent Massey Park and Hog’s Back Falls.

Andrew Haydon Park in the west end is one spot that allows barbecuing, has plenty of space, activities for kids, shady spots and beautiful vistas, although it does tend to get overrun by Canada geese.

If you want to make your outing a “dinner and a movie” there are spots across the city that offer outdoor movie evenings throughout the summer. For instance, Monday evenings at Lansdowne Park catch a family-friendly flick on the Great Lawn. Find other movie dates here.

There are many other spots to try. Why not be adventurous and do a little exploring?