We embrace summer weather as much as Mother Nature allows us — pandemic or not, we still enjoy our picnic season. As a child we would have massive family picnics with my aunties, uncles and cousins. We’d bring frisbees, badminton rackets, and no shortage of food. We would spend hours basking in the sun and just being together. Picnics became an annual tradition with my hubby’s family as well. Every July we’d take the Bocce set, a kite, and picnic blankets out to the same spot up at Bruce’s Mill while the kids explored the ponds. Memories made.
Where to go in Toronto? There are plenty of green spaces for families and friends (and even doggies) to explore. However, not all of them allow people to picnic (we just discovered that Edward’s Gardens does not). Also, remember that social gathering outdoors are still limited. Having said that, there are many city run parks that would require you to have a permit if exceeding a certain number of people under normal circumstances. If you’re not sure check official websites. Here are some of our favourites! Just remember to leave nothing behind.
Toronto Islands: A quick ferry ride to the three most popular islands offers a little escape from the city and an epic view of the skyline. You can bring your bikes over and there are public washrooms close to the ferry docks. Popular Centreville amusement park for families remains closed for now. There is a cafe that is open for take out. Weekends are busy. Purchase your ferry ride tickets in advance online. Parking lots are nearby or take the TTC. Go early. Dog friendly on-leash.
Scarborough Bluffs: A secluded but large area along the waterfront with majestic cliffs as your backdrop. A public beach is accessible. There are other smaller beach areas in the area also worth exploring and may not be as busy. Go early. Public washrooms available. Dog friendly on-leash. Parking available on site.
Philosopher’s Walk: tucked behind the Royal Ontario Museum is this little slice of heaven. A walkway meanders through the University of Toronto buildings. Perfect for impromptu picnics as food emporiums like Eataly are within walking distance where you can grab a deliciously fresh salad, or a mouthwatering Prosciutto, Buffalo Mozzerella and Arugula nestled in a soft baguette, a bombolone and a bottle of San Pellegrino and enjoy in the open air. No public washrooms (although shops are nearby). Parts of the area are not dog friendly and where they are allowed they must be on leash.
Toronto Music Garden: Just a little further west of Queen’s Quay area is a boardwalk and beautiful garden area often serving as an open air concert venue. Sometimes we’re lucky to score a free musical interlude here. No public washrooms nearby. Although coffee shops are within walking distance. Dog friendly on-leash.
Alexander Muir Park: This picturesque, quiet and smaller park area is popular for wedding photographers. Lush green space with lots of florals to enjoy. The paved walk will also lead you to Sherwood Park for a great little hike. Located in the Lawrence Park area. No public washrooms. Dog-friendly on leash. Within walking distance to Lawrence Subway station. Parking available on the residential streets.
Riverdale Park: If epic sunsets is your jam then grab your blanket and picnic basket and secure your spot along the hill any given clear night for the most gorgeous nature show. No public bathrooms. Dogs friendly on a leash. (hint: we love Wong’s Ice Cream shop located nearby at Broadview & Gerrard). Look for Ill Fornello Flags to secure Sunset Dining delivery right to the park.
SOME FAVOURITE EASY FOODS TO BRING:
We all can agree that things should be easy when it comes to picnicking. With the pandemic in mind, we also suggest prepping individualized portions in containers before heading out.
Create your own “grazing boxes” that are all the trend (and really makes sense these days). Add in your favourite deli meats, pates, cheeses, fruits/dried fruit, veggies, crackers, and a cookie. We are inspired by the ones we’ve recently ordered through Olive & Fig.
Delicious ready made dips with fresh veggies make for an easy snack. Sabra has individual snack-sized Hummus dips for easy picnic nibbles on the go. We also love the idea of creating your own salad jars and layer in their tasty dips!
We’ve also been enjoying Summer Fresh Pasta and Pad Thai cold salads. They come in individual servings and larger ones. Easily can be enjoyed as a side dish or a full serving on its own. Serve nicely chilled. This year, they celebrate their 30th anniversary with a few limited edition Hummus Dips. The Dill Pickle and The Salt & Vinegar flavours were inspired by another highly addictive snack, chips! And they are just as addictive…and healthier. Make your own iced brew coffee or iced tea at home and cool overnight in the fridge and it’s ready to go the next morning. The latest roasts from Nespresso (Ice Leggero, Ice Forte, and Toasted Coconut) are created to refresh! Monin summery syrups (Tiki, Saffron, Vanilla) are now available to elevate flavours.Take salads bowls for a delicious twist on serving. Make your own by tossing in all the ingredients into a larger mason jar or order them from our favourite Mama Earth Organics or Fresh City Farms.
A crisp, chilled and refreshing S. Pellegrino sparkling water is a perfect accompaniment to any meal. Also, we’ve learned that from June 30 to July 4, they will launch a new initiative in support of local restaurants called the S. Pellegrino Chef Collective. If you decide to do take out, with their participating restaurants, you’ll also be helping out those who are working in the industry. Since the pandemic began, the restaurant and hospitality sector has been hit hard. Until we can dine-in restaurants again, be sure to check out the special take-out menus created by some of the country’s most talented chefs including Rafael Covarrubias of Hexagon. S. Pellegrino also announced that they will be donating up to $100,000 to organizations supporting restaurant workers. Details and list of chefs and restaurants here.
*All photos by Sonya D. unless otherwise stated.