How to Build an Outdoor Picnic Shelter for Your Vacation Home

How to Build an Outdoor Picnic Shelter for Your Vacation Home
August 27, 2021

How to Build an Outdoor Picnic Shelter for Your Vacation Home

Being able to enjoy the outdoors is one of the best things about having a vacation home or cabin. If you’re ready to take your vacations to the next level, it’s time to start thinking about building a custom picnic shelter.

An outdoor picnic area can range from a simple covered table to an upscale structure with fun features like a fire pit and a pizza oven. If you’re looking for some inspiration, you’re in the right place! Take a look at these top tips for creating the perfect picnic shelter.

Choose the Location of Your Outdoor Picnic Area

First, you’ll need to think about where you would like to place your outdoor picnic area. This will depend on the size and shape of your property, your personal preferences, and how you plan to use your picnic shelter. For example, if you’re planning to build a full outdoor kitchen, you may want to attach it to your home or place it conveniently nearby. However, if you have a large outdoor space, you may find it’s much more interesting to locate your picnic shelter on the outer edges of the property.

Do you have a beautiful garden or a forested area? You may want to consider placing your picnic shelter nearby as this will give it more visual interest. Just make sure you pay attention to the grade of the land. If you choose an area that is relatively flat, you won’t have to put as much effort into leveling the space. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the area’s drainage and determine if you’ll need to make some adjustments before you lay your foundation.

How to Build an Outdoor Picnic Shelter for a Vacation HomeHow to Build an Outdoor Picnic Shelter for a Vacation Home

Decide on the Size of Your Picnic Shelter

When it comes to designing your outdoor picnic area, the possibilities are endless. Since there are so many options, it’s a great idea to look through a few designs for inspiration before you begin. You may decide that a simple picnic table with a sun shade is perfect for you, or you may want to create something more elaborate. 

As you consider the best size for your picnic shelter, think about how many people typically stay in your vacation home or cabin. You’ll want to make sure your outdoor picnic area is large enough to accommodate your family and friends as well as a few extra guests. Also consider whether you want to make it more of a social area by including outdoor games, a bar, or a fire pit. 

Before you make your final decision, take a close look at the available space. Make sure you measure carefully and leave at least a foot around all sides so you can perform maintenance when necessary. When evaluating your space, don’t forget to look up. If there are low-hanging branches or utility lines in the way, this will create a problem when you’re installing your new shelter. Once you’re clear on where you’ll locate your picnic shelter and how large it should be, you’re ready to move on to the next steps.

Select Your Cover

The cover you choose will determine the ultimate style of your picnic shelter. For example, building a picnic shelter inside a fully enclosed solarium will create a very different look and feel than one that’s made with a gazebo that’s open on all four sides. You’ll also need to decide whether you want a freestanding picnic shelter or one that’s attached to your vacation home.

While you can build your own shaded cover, there are many pre-built shelters that will work perfectly for creating an outdoor picnic area. Not only do these look very chic, but they’ll also allow you to spend less time creating your new space and more time enjoying it. 

Not sure which structure is right for your picnic area? Here’s a look at some of the most common options.


A gazebo is one of the most popular choices for outdoor picnic areas. Not only are they relatively inexpensive, but they also offer a lot of versatility. A wall-mounted gazebo allows you to create a picnic shelter that’s an extension of your vacation home, while a freestanding gazebo gives you the option to locate your picnic shelter anywhere on your property.

Gazebos come in a wide range of sizes and a variety of styles ranging from rustic to decorative. Since they have a closed roof, they’ll offer the most shade and significant protection from the elements. Many gazebos also have curtains and/or mosquito netting. This gives you the option to tie them back when you want to enjoy open-air dining and put them down when you want to keep bugs or rain away.

You may also consider installing a separate grill gazebo. These freestanding structures cover your grill, offering shade and protection from the elements. This helps extend the life of your grill and keeps you comfortable while cooking outdoors. Many grill gazebos also have shelves on the outside. This allows guests to socialize with you while you grill and offers additional counter space to work with.  


If you want to create a picnic shelter with more visual interest, you may consider using a pergola. These shelters are made of four sturdy beams with stylish lattice or crossbeams across the top. Pergolas provide partial shade, making them ideal for areas where it doesn’t get too hot. Some owners also add more shade by installing fabric across the beams or growing vines across the top.

It’s important to note that pergolas offer less protection from the elements since they’re partially open on the top and fully open on all four sides. As long as you’re happy using your picnic shelter only when the weather is nice, they’re a great choice.

These freestanding structures are a popular option for vacation homes with large backyards. They’re stylish and will do an excellent job of defining your outdoor picnic area. A pergola is a beautiful addition to any vacation home. It's a great way to attract attention while also improving your property value. 


For a picnic shelter you can use no matter what the weather, consider a solarium. These fully enclosed structures offer ultimate protection from wind, rain, and even snow. Solariums are available in either wall-mounted or freestanding styles, giving you additional flexibility.

Since luxury picnics are all the rage now, you can easily turn your solarium into a sophisticated dining area or stick to an understated design. No matter what you choose, your guests are sure to love spending time in your enclosed outdoor picnic area. Solarium picnic rooms are particularly popular in areas where the weather is often inclement. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a comfortable “outdoor” picnic while watching the snow fall.

How to Build a Shelter for your Vacation HomeHow to Build a Shelter for your Vacation Home

Choose Your Picnic Shelter Upgrades

Now it’s time for the fun part! Once you’ve chosen your shelter, you can start adding upgrades. You’ll definitely need a seating area. This can range from standard picnic tables to upscale seating. If you entertain frequently, you may consider adding a bar area with a few barstools or a couple of high-top tables where guests can set their plates or drinks while they socialize.

Next, you’ll want to think about how you plan to use your picnic shelter and what upgrades are appropriate. Chances are, you’ll want to add a grill. Depending on how much you plan to cook and the distance between your kitchen and your picnic shelter, you may also want to add a couple of stovetop burners and some countertop space. A small refrigerator, working sink, and a pizza oven are also popular additions.

Many homeowners add a fire pit or fireplace with comfortable seating to their outdoor picnic area. This allows guests to relax after their meal, turning your space into an all-night entertainment area. You may also want to put a storage shed nearby so you can have easy access to your cushions, throw pillows, blankets, and some decorative items. Keep some outdoor games in here as well, so you and your guests have plenty of ways to entertain yourselves all evening long!

Enjoy Your New Outdoor Picnic Area!

As you can see, there’s no shortage of options when creating an outdoor picnic shelter. Before you get started, take some time to think about how you would like to use your space. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Want to add a hot tub or a karaoke machine to your picnic shelter? Go for it!

Not sure whether you want a pergola or a gazebo? Consider adding a pergola with a grill gazebo nearby. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to designing your outdoor picnic area, so have fun with it!

Comments Form