Picnicking – You Have Less Room Than You Think

Eating at your seat can be tough. Every year when I attend my first Hollywood Bowl concert of the season I think, “My god, did these benches get smaller?”  It’s definitely do-able, but you want to follow our Hollywood Bowl picnic tips. #1: Avoid bringing a big ol’ picnic basket or cooler. By Bowl rules, you are allowed to bring a container as big as 15X22X15 inches. If you bring one that big, say bye-bye to your already limited legroom. Our method is to have one person carry a 2-bottle wine carrier and the other person carry a small cooler containing a few small bottles of water, sandwiches and cookies (we’re simple people). If you plan to eat at your actual seat, be sure that anything that is difficult and/or noisy to open is open before the show starts. Partly because you don’t want to bother those around you, but mostly because you won’t be able to see and you don’t have a lot of room to maneuver. So make sure the tape is off the sushi container, the wine bottles are uncorked and the Cheetos bag is open before the lights are dimmed. For example, if cheese and crackers are involved, we pre-slice the cheese and have the crackers out of their noisy sleeve and in a plastic baggy or small tupperware.

Don’t forget some napkins, plates (paper or otherwise), cutlery and cups. I’ve had strangers ask me for cups more times than I can count. I would say don’t forget the corkscrew, but you’re sure to be surrounded by about a thousand people willing to lend you one. Lastly, be sure to coordinate if you are going with a group. You don’t want everyone wasting space bringing the same necessities. Have one person on napkin duty, one person on cups, etc. If you bring moist towlettes, prepare to be hailed as a hero.

Even though our wine carrier + small cooler method works quite well and allows us enough space at our seats so as to not feel like we are riding coach on a cross country flight instead of enjoying Chris Isaak at an outdoor amphitheater, we have even experimented with bringing stuff in plastic grocery bags so as to maximize our space. It worked out well despite not looking very classy. By the way, when I say “at our seats” I am talking bench seats. All this space talk is irrelevant if you are fortunate enough to have Box seats. Bring whatever you want. Heck, bring your own buffet! You have all the space in the world.

If attempting to dip your chips in salsa balanced in your lap with a stranger’s hip pressed against you while spilling your Prosecco doesn’t sound attractive, you can always arrive early and picnic somewhere besides your seats. Your options are plenty, though often quite crowded. There are picnic tables to your left as you approach the Hollywood Bowl on Highland. There are also picnic table areas inside the Bowl on almost every level. People also tend to sprawl out on the (limited) grass or stairs or benches or pretty much anywhere they can find a few inches. Of course, if you are considering dining al groundo, you’ll want some sort of picnic blanket.

What am I forgetting? Any other need-to-know Hollywood Bowl picnic tips?