Plan the perfect Toronto picnic with these food and park pairings.

There’s a park almost no one knows about. If you ask even the most dyed-in-the-wool Torontonian about Olympic Park, you’ll probably get a blank stare, and maybe a “Toronto’s never hosted the Olympics, so I don’t think we have one.” 

But we do.

It’s at the base of the CN Tower, a few metres from the big woodpecker by renowned Ontario art duo Fastwürms. It’s the Toronto equivalent of that park near the Eiffel Tower where everyone takes their pictures and lays out on the grass soaking up the Paris-ness of it all.

Except if you visit Olympic Park, you’re likely to have it all to yourself. It’s raised a little, concealing it from both car and foot traffic. You have to either know it’s there, or be adventurous enough to climb the dozen or so stairs up from the west side of Lower Simcoe across from the Delta Hotel.

It’s a buzzy hangout for locals, the sort of place you stop by to say hi to your neighbours. They’ll say hi to you, too; it’s that kind of place. Enjoy the moment with a latte and cannolo from Taverna Mercatto.

Toronto is full of similarly serendipitous food and park pairings. Here are some of the best of them.

Riverdale Park

Just south of Eastside’s Greektown, you’ll find Riverdale Park which provides one of the most epic views of the downtown skyline. Before you head to its iconic hill, stroll The Danforth  in search of picnic fare.

You could pick up some vegetables and hummus at The Big Carrot, some cheese at Alex Farm, arguably the city’s best cheese shop, where the people behind the counter will be able to advise you on cheeses the way a good mixologist can suggest cocktail novelties (there’s another one at St. Lawrence Market), and maybe something sweet at Demetres before heading down to the grass.

Trinity Bellwoods Park

Queen Street West’s Trinity Bellwoods  is a picnic paradise. With so many options bordering the park (literally on all four sides), choosing is the hardest part. Hooky’s never disappoints if you love English-style fish and chips, and iHalo Krunch is a solid choice for always-Instagrammable ice cream concoctions.

High Park

High Park  offers endless canopies of mature trees, as well as multiple playgrounds, a leash-free dog park and a small zoo. Get picnic-ready with some baked goods from Hannah’s, or maybe some of the city’s best smoked meats at Barque a couple of blocks east on Roncesvalles (order a day ahead for the best selection). There’s also the famous Grenadier Cafe in the park itself, with cafeteria-style food (and some fine diner-style pie).

Grange Park

Possibly one of the best designed parks in Canada, Grange Park sits adjacent to the Art Gallery of Ontario, with one of Henry Moore’s most famous pieces displayed in its centre. The park is also home to a playground, public lavatories, with all of Chinatown within a couple of hundred metres for your picnicking pleasure. Try Spadina Avenue’s Banh Mi Nguyen Huong or Cà Phê Rang for fresh and delicioud Vietnamese subs.

Clarence Square 

Another hidden-in-plain-view park, downtown’s quiet and well-shaded Clarence Square just happens to provide one of the city’s best picnicking opportunities. Cross Spadina Avenue and stroll west to and pick up some of the best bistro fare you’ll get this side of Saint-Germain-des-Prés at Le Select Bistro, one of the city’s oldest and most revered French restaurants, a fitting match for one of the city core’s oldest parks.


On your way to picking up your food, you may want to stop by Cocktail Emporium for some fun, inexpensive glassware, Tap Phong for some disposable bamboo plates and cutlery (they’re in the aisle farthest to your left as you enter), and get a basket at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Or you could cheat and stop by one of these places that puts the whole thing together for you.