These smaller, hidden gems will give your picnic a fresh new feel and are perfect for physical distancing too.
A summer picnic in Toronto has to be one of the best outdoor activities in the city. Not only do we have tons of food options to make our picnics delicious and unique, but we can also take a trip around the world easily with them (who could say no to a French-themed, Greek-themed or Korean-themed picnic?).
Toronto also has some incredible green spaces—perfect for throwing down a blanket and enjoying the company and some local foods. We have all the typical spots to hit up—High Park, Trinity Bellwoods, Christie Pits, Evergreen Brickworks, Bluffers Park—but if you’re on the hunt for something a little different, lesser-known nooks that provide great views and ample space minus the crowds, we have you covered!
These are six great underrated picnic spots around the city that will get you exploring outside your neighbourhood or feeling like you’ve discovered a secret oasis.
Humber Bay Park West
When it comes to the West End of Toronto, picnic options abound. There’s obviously High Park and Sunnyside Beach as the top attractions… but those also equal a lot of people, especially on a glorious summer’s day.
Just a bit further west is a stretch of coastline, little beaches and pretty amazing views. Humber Bay Park stretches about 2 km along the lake. What I love the most about it is that the tiny inlets along the water make for quiet, secluded beaches.
And the points that jut out into the water giving sneak peeks of the Toronto skyline are the perfect spot to set up your picnic (the skyline makes the perfect backdrop for an Instagram shot). Work up an appetite, or walk it off, by strolling along the shoreline and boardwalk and make your way back to Sunnyside Beach via the Humberside Bridge.
King’s Mill Park
Another great spot in Toronto’s West End is King’s Mill Park. Many flock to Etienne Brule Park, so that will always be bustling. But King’s Mill Park is a great option to kick back, throw down your blanket and chill.
First off, you get some gorgeous views right next to Toronto’s iconic Old Mill, the Humber River, views of the Bloor Street Bridge and the smaller, historic Old Mill Bridge, and you’re next to the Humber River Recreation Trail.
If it’s not a busy day, picnicking near the Old Mill Bridge will have you feeling like you’re in the English countryside (and you may get views of a few people fly fishing). If it is busier (weekends and holidays always bring out families looking to bike and hike), either walk north along the river to find a shady spot on the edge tucked into some trees, or walk south past the bridges a bit.
Best of all it’s easy to access—just hop on the subway and get off at the Old Mill Station and follow the steps down below the bridge to this park.
In the heart of the stylish and chic Rosedale neighbourhood, you’ll find a few parks and gardens. Craigleigh Gardens is a tree-covered oasis that connects to the Don Valley trails including the Beltline Trail that will eventually take you to Evergreen Brickworks if you’re up for a bit more exploring. But what makes this green space perfect for a picnic has to be its charm.
Wrought-iron gates lead you into the gardens under a canopy of trees. Picnicking under these shady trees will transport you to a lovely European garden. To help make it feel even more like a trip across the pond, pick up some French pastries from Petite Thuet (they have incredible freshly baked bread, croissants and even rustic to-go meals) or swing by Nadege and give in to your sweet tooth with their city-famous macarons, delectable mini cakes and creamy lattes.
Get there via the Rosedale subway stop—a short walk from the station gets you to Petit Thuet, Nadege on the west side of Yonge Street, and then a stroll over to the gardens just west of Yonge.
Alexander Muir Memorial Gardens
Located in Uptown, these gardens often go overlooked by those who don’t live in the neighbourhood. But they are definitely worth a visit to the area and worth checking out—especially if you’re looking to explore Toronto’s Ravine system and want to wander through some other paths and parks. Picnic wise, there are a few great open spaces to relax and enjoy some great food and drinks with grassy patches surrounding the trails and pathways. And since this garden is dedicated to one of Canada’s top composers, Alexander Muir, why not bring along some classical tunes to play?
Toronto Music Garden
Ok, so this option may just be one of the busier spots on this list—but hear us out. This park right in the middle of downtown is designed to feel serene. While it may have more people in it than an option to the west or north, it’s not nearly as busy as other downtown parks and green spaces.
The Bach-inspired design has curving pathways and steps, iron structures that make for great photo ops, and since it is right on the water’s edge you get a beautiful view of the waterfront. The park was designed with Bach's Suite No. 1 in G Major in mind, so there are six distinct areas or themes in the park. A picnic on the grassy mini amphitheatre style steps will be where the action is, with views of anchored sailboats.
Picnicking at the base of Bluffer’s Park is obvious, but did you know that Scarborough Bluffs Park is actually 15 km of coastline and park that you can explore? So many stick to the main area with the spectacular views, but for a quiet picnic you have many more options.
Pick any stretch of the beach that is quiet, or look at the many grassy green spaces along the way. It gives you a chance to see a bit more of the park system and it ends up feeling like you’ve totally escaped the city.