Dining al fresco might just be one of the best things about warm weather. That doesn’t always have to happen on a patio, though. There are countless spots in Niagara to roll out a picnic blanket, lay out a spread of food and bask in both the heat of the season and the joy of being surrounded by nature and beauty.
Niagara, with all its views and bucolic beauty, is made for picnicking. Whether it’s sitting under what’s believed to be the oldest sugar maple in Canada or being in the midst of the action on the shores of Lake Ontario, the region boasts some of the best backdrops for an outdoor nosh. Here are just a few.
Views to the past and to the Niagara River are what make this picnic spot a stunner. With sprawling lawns hugged by immaculate gardens, a gateway to the Bruce trail and one of the most gorgeous views of the mighty Niagara, Brock’s Monument is a must for packing a lunch and whiling away an afternoon. There’s a picnic shelter and playground, too, making this spot family-friendly. Don’t forget to check out the monument to Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock and Tecumseh, two heroes of the War of 1812.
If you’ve never hugged a tree before, you might want to after standing in the presence of the Comfort Maple. It’s believed to be the oldest sugar maple in Canada at more than 500 years old. The Comfort Maple, protected by the Ontario Heritage Act, has limbs that feel like they stretch for miles, making this a comfy space to spread out a blanket and have a quiet bite outdoors.
It’s the muse for a Rush song for good reason. Lakeside Park is St. Catharines’ crown jewel of green spaces, located on the Lake Ontario shoreline. Lakeside Park is home to beaches, picnic shelters, large lawns for tossing a frisbee or running around after your picnic. Most notably, there’s a century-old carousel offering rides for just five cents. The carousel is one of 350 antique merry-go-rounds still operating in North America today. It’s a stone’s throw from Port’s pubs and other landmarks, including remnants of the first Welland Canal and Henley Island, home of the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, which runs every August.
Selfies in the gazebo are a must at this popular park located where the Niagara River spills into Lake Ontario. Have a picnic to the soundtrack of waves lapping the shore, and the clip-clopping of horse hooves from passing carriages, all while overlooking Old Fort Niagara, a former French fort that operates today as a U.S. Coast Guard station. Queen’s Royal Park is also steps away from Queen’s Parade, the main street through Old Town, lined with stores for window shopping, The Exchange Brewery to tuck into for a tall cold one, and Il Gelato di Carlotta, a must-stop for Italian-style gelato.
This a hidden gem in the city’s north end is little more than a park bench and serene lookout over Lake Ontario. But it’s the perfect spot for a peaceful and private picnic for two. Watch the sunlight dance over the water as ships line up to enter the Welland Canal and enjoy the escape from busy-ness here. If you feel like walking off your outdoor meal, this tiny park is steps from the Waterfront Trail, a 3,600-kilometre path stretching from the St. Lawrence River around the Great Lakes to Sault Ste. Marie.
There are countless places to pull over for a picnic along this winding artery connecting Niagara-on-the-Lake to Niagara Falls along the Niagara River. Some are small, peaceful enclaves. Others are wide open spaces where families gather for afternoon reunions, using supplied picnic tables and barbecues to cook up hot dog feasts or enjoy a packed lunch. Notable stops include the Niagara Glen Nature Centre and Thompson’s Point near the Whirlpool Golf Course.
You aren’t imagining it if you find this downtown St. Catharines park feels a little like Central Park. Montebello Park was designed in 1887 by Frederick Law Olmstead, one of the architects of New York City’s famous, expansive green space. Though Monetbello is smaller than the Big Apple’s natural tract, it still boasts some fabulous features, including a manicured rose garden, the Walter Ostanek Pavilion, named for St. Catharines’ favourite son and Canada’s Polka King, an architecturally notable bandshell, playground, picnic tables and large open spaces in which to spread out.
This 220-year-old Georgian home is one of the oldest buildings in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the picturesque backdrop to memorable picnics. The former home of boat builder for King George III was recently renovated and typically serves as a tea room that beckons history buffs and scone fans. In summer, MacFarland House offers picnic lunches made with ingredients grown onsite. Packed lunches can be enjoyed at the nearby MacFarland picnic pavilion or taken to go elsewhere.
Set along the Niagara Parkway, Kingsbridge Park is a lush and relaxing place to take a load off amidst nature. Another full-package picnic location, Kingsbridge Park offers large green spaces to spread out, run around, kick a ball with friends and family, and, of course, enjoy a picnic. There are pavilions with tables, a playground, and trails to stroll among large, mature trees, too. But best of all there are waterfront views to both the Niagara and Welland Rivers to drink in while you eat.
Dining outdoors is often at its best when it involves a picnic basket and blanket. And it’s even better in Niagara, where candidates for a new favourite spot abound, both on and off the beaten path.