One of my favorite summertime activities is throwing together a picnic. Through trial and error, I've realized that finding the perfect location is key. The locale needs be quiet, pretty and for me, free from buzzing insects. With Newburyport's downtown being such a premiere attraction for locals and tourists alike, some of the most picturesque spots just outside of downtown go unnoticed. Atkinson Common is one of those spots. It's quiet with lush gardens, interesting structures and and plenty of shaded areas perfect for spending an afternoon. Recently, a couple girlfriends (and their babies) and I headed there for a lunch time picnic. We posted up in the grass under a family of trees where we could cool off, chat and grub.
Though Atkinson Common is hardly a secret spot, it is rarely busy and easily missed when driving down High Street. You are likely to see a few dog walkers and strollers but on a whole it is relatively quiet and private. The common boasts a fountain, gazebo and a stone tower fit for Rapunzel. It is a popular spot for low key weddings and is frequented by photographers for photo sessions year round. Spring & summer are ideal times to visit for a picnic but autumn is particularly beautiful with all the color changes. Winter months can be tough but if you play it right and visit during a light dusting of snow, you'll feel like you're in the middle of a winter wonderland.
I like to keep my picnic menus simple with small picky treats and one salad like option for everyone to share. To start we nibbled on lemon & garlic marinated olives and drank sparking lemonade. I made a big batch of my favorite pesto potato salad as a main course and we finished it off with mini chocolate crepes and peaches.
Pesto Potato Salad
- 1 lb. Fingerling Potatoes
- 1 dozen hard boiled eggs (discard the yolk)
- 1 lb. cooked green beans cut in half
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 7 oz. jar of pesto sauce
Place potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to cover by 3 inches. Add salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until tender, 10 minutes. Drain and cut in half.
For the hard boiled eggs, place eggs in a pot to cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Place in a cold water bath, drain and peel. Discard yolk. Cut into small pieces.
Place green beans into a medium sized pot and cover with water – bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, 5 minutes. Drain and add to a cold water bath. Once cool to the touch, drain and cut in half.
Once all ingredients have cooled, mix in a large bowl with pesto sauce.
As long as you’re with good friends, eating good food and aren’t being buzzed by pesky bugs - a picnic in the park is a near perfect way to spend an afternoon. There’s just something about hanging in the grass that makes life feel carefree. To visitors, Atkinson Common is a hidden gem worth being discovered so pack up the basket and indulge in one of the best picnic spots on the north shore. Happy picnicking!