There’s something about eating in the great outdoors that just makes food taste better; as long as you are not freezing your butt off, that is. Given that our window of opportunity for al fresco dining in Canada is narrowed by our comparatively long season called winter, once the sun is out, you have to seize your opportunity while it lasts. So, grab your picnic basket and run…to any of these great parks across the Great White North before it becomes white again.
(Photo by mark.watmough on Flickr.)
Parc La Fontaine – Montreal
Maybe it’s a result of the especially harsh winters, or a French love for relaxation and indulgence; either way, once the temperature surpasses 15 C, Montreal’s parks are packed with people looking to soak up the sunshine. Parc La Fontaine is ideal if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, if only for a few hours. Plus, there are restaurants on the outskirts of the park, like La Banquise (famous for its poutine) and Ma Poule Mouillée (Portuguese chicken) for all of your picnicking needs.
Confederation Park – Calgary
Created to celebrate Canada’s centennial in 1967, Confederation Park was made for romantic picnics with its towering trees and lush lawns--perfect for laying down a blanket, especially for romantic picnics that may or may not include a brief stop at CB’s drive-in for burgers, fries, and naturally, milkshakes. If that isn’t the cutest idea for a first date, or a walk down memory lane for couples who have done it many, many times before, I don’t know what is.
Stanley Park – Vancouver
With over 1000 acres of parkland to enjoy, Stanley Park has no shortage of picnic spots. Stop by the totem poles to appreciate the intricacy of their carving, or take a tour around the park via a horse-drawn carriage ride. Come to think of it, it would be a great place for a larger gathering, should you want to get a bunch of people together for a barbecue or other shindigs of your choosing. The more the merrier!
High Park – Toronto
High Park has been around since 1876 and is the largest park that falls entirely within the Toronto city limits, which is nice because sometimes you need to take a break from the busyness of The 6ix. Most popular when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the park is great over the summer months for you to pack your own eats, or pick something up at any of the local cafes or restaurants on Bloor Street. Grenadier Café is located right inside of the park if you want to make things as easy as possible for yourself and your dining companions.
Princes Island Park – Calgary
Princes Island Park is a little oasis in the heart of downtown Calgary. More importantly, it is also home to The River Café, a Calgary institution known for supporting and representing local producers in all of the dishes it offers. So, forget packing your own picnic lunch, head to their outdoor patio and let them wine and dine you to your heart’s content. The best part? You won’t have to worry about getting grass all over yourself!
Mont Royal/Parc Jean Mance – Montreal
I just want to clarify something for any skeptics out there; drinking in Montreal parks is perfectly legal if and only if your booze is accompanied by un repas complet, or a complete meal. Now, what that is exactly is open to interpretation, but you can play it safe simply by packing way more food than you think is necessary. Head to avenue du Parc and decide whether you want to set up shop on the east side (Parc Jean Mance) or the west side (Mont Royal, or as locals call it, the “mountain”). Don’t plan on heading home until the sun disappears into the horizon.
Point Pleasant Park – Halifax
Outdoor picnics are one thing, but outdoor picnics overlooking the ocean are in a whole different kind of enchantment. For that reason, when in Halifax, you have to check out Point Pleasant Park and be sure to bring food to match the scenery. You could even set up a lobster boil perhaps? It is the East Coast after all.
Riverside Park and Quarry Lake Park – Canmore
I’m a western girl, born and raised, so inevitably, the mountains are in my blood. You could feed me a leather shoe and I would still be totally at peace as long as I get to stare up at the Rockies. Riverside Park in Canmore is located right off of Main Street and is the perfect location to sit along the Bow for a snack. If you want something a bit more removed, check out Quarry Lake Park on the way to the Nordic Centre. Heck, you can even hop in the lake to cool off if the temperatures warrant it. Or, perhaps a late night skinny dip?
Assiniboine Park – Winnipeg
Winnipeg gets a bad rap when it comes to its aesthetics, but Assiniboine Park is one of the most beautiful spots in the city, for a picnic or otherwise. Located right along the Assiniboine River, north of the Assiniboine Forest, there is plenty of space to explore before settling on a spot to sit down and eat. Be sure to check out the conservatory and botanical gardens, as well as the zoo, when you are there.