Ever find yourself in that Sisyphean argument with someone from Montreal about whether one city is better than the other? It’s pointless, really – people like different cities for different reasons. But when a Montrealer trots out the old saw about how their town is built around a giant park, Torontonians should feel offence: we’re a big city, sure, but we also have dozens upon dozens of the finest parks in all of urban creation. Here are our five favourite parks for a picnic…
Hipster Picnic: Trinity-Bellwoods Park
Let’s face the fact that until “hipster” is supplanted by whatever youth culture trend comes next, Queen West will be ground zero for hip types. Maybe they look ridiculous, but forget fashion; they’re human and they deserve a picnic like anyone else. Trinity-Bellwoods is close to vegan eateries and other places to pick up artisanal foods and wax for WWI-style moustaches. Just make sure to pour your beer into a soda can, since the Toronto Police Service is doing its best to make us look like puritanical fuddy-duddies to our afternoon-drunk cousins in Montreal.
Classic Picnic: Ward’s Island
The polar opposite of the hipster park is the park you need to plan the night before to go to. Don’t half-ass this one: make your own sandwiches and potato salad, whip up some ice tea or lemonade, and bake cookies, or whatever’s your favourite thing to enjoy on a picnic. You’ll be taking the ferry, so bring cash. It’s worth it: for a few bucks you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to New England-in-Ontario for the day. The ferry’s busy in the summer, so plan to get there early to beat the crowds.
Family Picnic: Withrow Park
There’s no shame in growing up, and once you’ve got kids you may not be able to afford the West End any longer. Chances are you’re noticing that living close to the Danforth means you’re growing out more than you’re growing up. Might as well take the kids for an afternoon eating take-out chow in Withrow Park, or come Saturday mornings to sample fresh fruit from the weekly farmer’s market. The best part of the park is the shady north end, which just happens to be a block from the Danforth.
Escape Picnic: Bluffer’s Park (Scarborough)
This one requires a car, but it’s worth it. Those who disparage 905ers are often people who forget that there’s a whole wide world out there from which the CN Tower isn’t even visible. (I know, right?) Transport yourself to the white cliffs of Dover for the afternoon by heading to Bluffer’s Park. The Scarborough Bluffs are, in our opinion, the most beautiful natural area in all of the GTA, and you owe it to yourself to enjoy them. But make sure to pick up food in town before heading out.
The Action Picnic: High Park
High park, at 400 acres, really does offer something for damned near everyone. You want to go to the zoo? Go hiking? How about a swim? Your kids like playing in the castle jungle-gym? Whatever your outdoor pleasure (including those that happen, uh, outside picnic hours), you can pretty much expect High Park to satisfy it. Pack a lunch you can carry in a knapsack, though, since you’re going to be moving around.