Perhaps it’s the relaxed state of mind that comes with the season, but life just seems a bit sweeter in the summer. Hopefully for most of us, our schedules become less demanding, we can enjoy the longer days with more hours of sunlight and we can spend more time with those we love, doing things we love.

As we gear up to celebrate America for the Fourth of July, we thought it’d be fun to celebrate summer with an all- American picnic. What’s better than grabbing your checkered blanket and heading outside to eat? After all, grilling out and eating outside rank pretty high on the list of our favorite things about summer.

Picnics don’t have to take a lot of planning or preparation, which only lends to their appeal. You can simply grab a blanket and feed your kids lunch outside one afternoon. We guarantee they’ll love the novelty of eating in a different location. If you have a chance to break away from your desk for your lunch hour, take your food outdoors for a quick bite in the sunshine. Or you can go for a low-key, low-cost date night and pack some cheese, crackers and a bottle of wine for a picnic.

As we’ve mentioned, you can have a picnic in your backyard, but with the weather we’ve been having lately, why not get out and enjoy one of our local parks? After all, parks are a perfect picnic spot! If you haven’t explored at RiverScape Metropark, you may want to make this a picnic destination. This park on the banks of the Great Miami has beautiful gardens, reflecting pools and walking trails — lots to do before or after you eat!

If you’ve got little ones, you’ve probably heard of Orchardly Park in Oakwood. With a playground for small children, a spray pool, tennis and basketball court and a small ball field, this park would be the perfect spot for a picnic after a morning playdate.

And we simply can’t talk about a picnic spot without mentioning Smith Gardens. With various plants and colorful flowers to attract birds and butterflies, this scenic spot is perfect for spreading out your blanket and digging in. They even offer blanket concerts and story hour once a month during the summer.

So, go ahead, get outdoors for lunch or dinner!

Need a little picnic menu inspiration? Here are a few ideas:

For the  kiddos: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chilled grapes (throw in the freezer and they’ll still be cold when you’re ready to eat), pretzel sticks and an M&M cookie from Ashley’s Pastries for a treat.

Classic crowd pleaser: Turkey, cheddar and apple slices on Ashley’s six-grain bread, a fresh fruit medley of blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, potato chips, and Ashley’s chocolate chip cookies.

Date night duo: swing by Ashley’s for a fresh French baguette, pick up three of your favorite cheeses and your favorite bottle of wine.

Just desserts: it’s summer, so splurge! Pick up an assortment of Ashley’s dessert pastries (eclairs, creme puffs, lemon bars anyone?) , cookies and cakes (go ahead, give the chocolate fudge cake a try!) and savor the flavors while soaking up these summer days.