After one of the longest and coldest winters in recent memory, there's no question that the capital is ready to get outside. What better way to soak up the sun than to find a picturesque picnic site and eat al fresco? Boasting tons of green space, interesting landmarks, and breathtaking scenery, Ottawa's got plenty of places to throw down a blanket and cheers to the warm weather.
If you're searching for a scenic picnic spot, Hog's Back is one of Ottawa's best. Located at Hog's Back and Riverside, there is ample free parking and you can even get there by boat on the Rideau. The waterfall at the south end of the park creates a stunning background, and winding paths bring you right up to the water's edge. There's plenty of green grass perfect for throwing a Frisbee and grabbing a bite to eat. Keep an eye out for summer festivals and family-friendly events.
Hog's Back Park's sister to the north, the two used to be connected until Heron Road separated them in 1969. Since then, this lush green space has earned it's own reputation for scenic bike paths, rolling green meadows and awesome picnic areas. Equipped with barbecue pits, picnic tables, and a bandstand, this is a popular spot for corporate picnics and family reunions. They also have a bandstand, and a very cool low impact pavilion that uses recycled water and solar power to run the washrooms.
A fantastic family picnic spot, Brewer Park is located across from Carleton University, just off Bronson. Outfitted with several playgrounds (including a rotary accessible one), splash pad, pond, three ball diamonds and three sports fields, this is a great place to tire out the wee ones. The park is also home to one of the city's legal graffiti walls, and the annual House of Paint hip hop festival (which takes place this year from September 10 to 14).
More waterfalls? Yes please! These ones are located right downtown, though you'd hardly know it with all the natural beauty. Take a tour of Rideau Hall then take a stroll to 50 Sussex Drive and find twin waterfalls where the Ottawa River meets the Rideau. The park is home to several monuments and memorials, and makes for an interesting and educational visit. There are lots of grassy areas that are perfect for picnicking, and this is one of the best places in the city to watch the Lac Leamy Sound of Light fireworks show.
Not far from the falls lives another New Edinburgh gem. Also known as Stanley Park, this is the location of the annual Lumière Festival (this year's festival takes place August 15), where paper lanterns light up the night along with costumes, a labyrinth, music, and mystical performers. Also home to one of the city's best unofficial off-leash dog parks, you can bring your furry friend with you for lunch! There's a gravel beach where your pooch can cool off, public washrooms, and a great bike path.
Venture even further east and out to Orleans, and you'll find a beautiful island park with two beautiful beaches, nature trails, and a huge shaded picnic area. A perfect spot to bring the whole gang, there's plenty of space to play both in and out of the water. You're likely to see dragon boat practices, kayakers, and swimmers sharing the water, and there's a great rock ledge to fish off of on the east side of the island. There are water fountains, a canteen, change rooms and washrooms, so you can plan to spend the day at this family-friendly locale.
Easily one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, this castle makes a whimsical backdrop to any outdoor meal. Located on McLeod Street between Elgin and O'Connor, it's right in the middle of the city. Perfect for families, you can stop here and eat lunch before a trip to one of the most magical museums in Ottawa. There's a large grassy area on the west side of the museum where you'll find dogs playing, giant prehistoric animal statues and several trees for shade.
West Ottawa's most popular beach, you can cycle, swim, boat, walk, or drive to this sandy slice of heaven. Pack your own lunch or grill on their barbecue pits, but your best bet might be to pick up some delicious grub at the Westboro Beach Café, which has live music on the patio from Thursday to Sunday. This beach also boasts outdoor showers, volleyball pits, standup paddleboard rentals and spectacular sunset views.
Journey out to the city's rural west community of Dunrobin and you'll find Piney's Point, nestled on the shores of the Ottawa River. The site features a historical manor home that's nearly 200 years old along with stone ruins and beautiful landscaping. The grounds offer a lovely area for picnics, boating and cycling, and there's often special events and activities happening at the manor. There's plenty of space to throw down a blanket on the riverbank, or grill up some hamburgers on their barbecue pits.
Looking for a quiet spot just south of the city? At Watson's Mill you'll find beauty, history, and maybe even spot a ghost! Located in the heart of this charming village, the mill is a working industrial heritage site with a political and romantic past. Take a tour of the mill, and then stroll down the steps and across the bridge to find the perfect picnic site. With a view of the mill on the bank of the Rideau River, this is a wonderful spot for a romantic meal with that special someone.
This article was compiled by Andrea Banks, Community Manager for Yelp Ottawa.
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