Nothing says summer quite like a tasty meal eaten outdoors. When your own back deck gets repetitive, a picnic in a nearby park is a perfect choice! Parents can relax, kids can run around in the fresh air and enjoy amenities like wading pools, playgrounds, spray parks and wide-open spaces for playing games. Here are 5 of our favourite parks for picnicking in Calgary, along with some nearby take-out choices for those hot summer days when you don’t even feel like making the meal!
Stanley Park is a large park that is home to a sports field, tennis courts, playgrounds, pathways, picnic areas and BBQ spots and the Stanley Park Lawn Bowling Club, plus an outdoor swimming pool with a wading pool (there is an access fee for the pool complex). Its location right on the Elbow River makes it a beautiful warm-day destination; you could even try your hand at fishing! Bring water shoes for the kids so they can wade.
If you’re driving, I recommend trying the parking lots in the area of the Lawn Bowling Club and the Stanley Park Pool.
Our favourite nearby take-out: This is a primarily residential area, but you’ll find restaurants a few short blocks east on Macleod Trail. Salt & Pepper Mexican Restaurant is open for dinner 7 days, but also for lunch Tuesday through Saturday. Mexican food is summer food!
Riley Park’s large grassy spaces, mature shade trees, playground, beautiful rock gardens and large (free) outdoor wading pool draw families from nearby neighbourhoods and across the city. There’s also a cricket pitch; perhaps you’ll get the chance to watch a match (is that what a cricket game is called??).
Our favourite nearby take-out: Stock up on picnic fare without spending a fortune, at the Safeway located a block and a half south of the park’s southeast corner.
Where’s it written that a picnic needs to feel rural? That’s right – it’s not! Enjoy an urban experience at Olympic Plaza in the heart of downtown Calgary. Besides great views of the surrounding buildings, including the sandstone Old City Hall, the plaza offers a shallow wading pool (this is the site of the skating rink in winter) and lots of steps and grassy areas you can sit on. You’ll often find festivals and special events taking place here, so you might also get a little free entertainment with your lunch!
Our favourite nearby take-out: You may find food trucks parked near the plaza on warm days, but you can always count on sandwiches, doughnuts and an Iced Capp/frozen lemonade from the Tim Hortons across from the northeast corner of the plaza.
Despite being severely damaged during the 2013 Calgary flood, Bowness Park has been restored and is a beautiful place to visit.
Bowness Park is popular for its many paths, playground, picnic shelters, picnic areas and BBQ stands and its lovely location on the Bow River. Kids (and parents) will enjoy the large wading pool. For a fun experience, rent a boat from the Bowness Park Boat House and go for a spin – in a pedal boat, canoe or kayak – on the lagoon! Please note that you cannot use your own boat on the lagoon.
Our favourite nearby take-out: Angel’s Drive-In is on 85th Avenue NW, very near the park; they serve diner favourites perfect for a casual meal… don’t miss the ice cream & milkshakes!
On the south bank of the Glenmore Reservoir, this park is very popular with families for its fenced playground and spray park, public tennis courts and great reservoir and city views. The park is on the bike trails that connect Fish Creek Park with the reservoir and the Elbow River pathways. If you want to stretch your legs, walk west along the paved path towards the Weaseled and look for walking paths in the trees.
Our favourite nearby take-out: Freshii in Glenmore Landing for fast, fresh and really wholesome, tasty food. They have a kids’ menu too!