Best Vancouver Picnics
August 6, 2009
Picnic idea #1:
Shaughnessy Park, the Crescent at Hudson Street
Word from the Vancouver parks board is that you can take one barbecue, one small table, blankets, lawn chairs, and up to 50 friends to any of their 200-plus parks, including a certain oval green space in Shaughnessy. Arguably the city’s most enviable address, this hectare and a half of treed tranquillity stands at the very centre of the Crescent. Hot dogs? Perhaps not. Instead, pick up a gourmet déjeuner sur l’herbe at Meinhardt Fine Foods. We’re thinking crisp baguettes, local cheeses, fresh fruit, grilled salmon, and rotisserie chicken. Simpler still: takeout sandwiches or salads, plus yummy desserts, from Picnic next door.
Picnic idea #2:
Cates Park, North Van
Oddly sited in industrial surroundings, Jolly Meats & Fine Foods, jaunty with scarlet awnings and cheerful window boxes, is your pit stop for house-made Scandinavian pâtés, cheese, pickles, rye bread, and soft drinks. Just note the quirky hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday. Plan B: fish and chips or fresh salmon for the barbie from The Crab Shop. Then onward to Cates Park. Loads of Frisbee-worthy green space, tree-shaded spots for snoozing, a concession stand, and tables—what more could you need? How about a beach with photogenic driftwood, rocks to sit on, water views, and rentable kayaks.
Picnic idea #3:
Margaret Pigott Park
Below the gazillion-dollar properties on Point Grey Road, gaze out on the wine-dark sea from the rocky shore. Just head north on Trafalgar Street till you hit the water, and descend the steps. Rocks and logs to sit on, the occasional golden retriever, a noodling guitarist—no Kits-style flesh-flashing here. Ambling west at low tide eventually brings you to Jericho Beach. Fill your basket en route at the Parthenon Supermarket. Start with hummus, tzatziki, and insanely garlicky skordalia for scooping—don’t forget the pita. Add hunks of feta, black olives, and fresh-made Greek salad, and finish with honey-sticky desserts like baklava. Rinse your hands in the ocean. Epic.
Picnic Idea #4:
Despite a creeping plague of monster homes, Southlands still hangs on to its rural charm. Nimble horses, trim stables, velvet lawns—it’s got the lot, except, barring hay and blackberries, picnic provisions. Best bet is to raid the deli counter at Stong’s on Dunbar beforehand. Brie, bread, and charcuterie is one option, along with assorted salads. Fill any gaps with quiche or samosas, and a pie from the Savary Island Pie Company. Once you arrive at the very south end of Blenheim Street, stroll west past Deering Island and golf greens. Go in the other direction and you eventually come to a riding trail that offers glimpses of the Fraser River. Either way, clip-clopping equines, birdsong, and tugboats provide entertainment.
Picnic Idea #5:
The SkyTrain mini park
Invisible from ground level, a micro green space hides away at the top of the steps that exit the Stadium SkyTrain station at International Plaza—a handy, if busy, spot for alfresco eating before a Tinseltown movie. No benches, only a rock or two but savvy picnickers keep a thin cotton shawl stashed away for impromptu feasting. Seconds away, at T&T Supermarket, $4.99 buys you three items plus rice from the ever-changing buffet, enough to sate two average appetites. We like chili chicken and tofu with mushrooms. Tip: get there before 7 p.m.; otherwise, the hot items might be sold-out. Plan B: browse the serve-yourself sushi counter and salad bar filled with spicy prawns and other Asian goodies.
Picnic Idea #6:
Stearman Beach, West Van
Let us clue you in to the quintessential West Van picnic spot. Take Stearman Avenue from Marine Drive (just beyond the bridge), turn right, and keep an eagle eye out for a small parking lot on your left. Surprise! A narrow pathway debouches on a broad expanse of waterfront, some sandy, some pebbly, all very private. This is a mussel beach, thick with purply-black clumps at low tide. Seagulls caw, freighters pass by, and the wraparound view stretches from Ambleside to Point Grey. Large homes now share this but you’ll also spy a couple of older “cottages.” Stop by Whole Foods first, or grab a panini or deli fare at Verdicchio.
Picnic Idea #7:
Ron Basford Park
Oyama charcuterie, drippy cheeses from Duso’s, green-olive bread from Terra Breads, blushing Okanagan peaches from the day stands, B.C.–made condiments (and don’t forget Lee’s Donuts)—no need to tell you what to gather from the market, but where to take it other than the crowded courtyard? Listen up or, rather, wander east to the island’s furthest tip. Getting there is half the fun as you stroll along the boardwalk, skirt the cement works, and envy anyone who calls those houseboats home. At the island’s quieter east end is Ron Basford Park. Wind your way up the grassy mound and lay claim to a bench, or sprawl on the amphitheatre lawn to drink in the vista and whatever tipple you’ve brought along.
More Splendour in the Grass:
“Alfresco” is, after all, Italian. Maybe that’s a hint to trawl the Drive for picnic fixings. The sandwich bar at La Grotta del Formaggio (1791 Commercial Dr., 604-255-3911) is legendary, but for inexpensive prosciutto, salamis, bocconcini, pane, ripe tomatoes, and fruit hit the Santa Barbara Market (1322 Commercial Dr., 604-253-1941), a simple one-stop shop en route to the small beach by Trout Lake in John Hendry Park. Also there: loads of green space, a wildlife area, a covered picnic place, and, if you stop by on a Saturday, the glorious abundance of the East Vancouver Farmers Market right next door.
Note the handy proximity of Connaught Park to the Kits Farmers Market (open Sundays only), and, if you shop the little market at UBC Farm, there are numerous picnic spots around Point Grey, the best of which might be the Rose Garden beside UBC’s Chan Centre. We’re thinking cucumber sandwiches and spot of tea…