07/13/2015 07:35 EDT | Updated 07/13/2016 05:59 EDT

Experiential dining brings an interactive touch to eating

Summer means dining al fresco, whether it be backyard barbecues or restaurant patios. This year, instead of just settling for dinner, why not enjoy a more interactive experience?

"You can take part in an event that offers more than just food on the plate, whether it's taking part in group competitions, flash mob dining, or combining your meal with a spa experience," said On the Coast food columnist Anya Levykh.

1. The Grotto Spa

Levykh was recently in Parksville where she visited The Grotto Spa at Tigh-na-Mara resort and its upstairs restaurant, Treetop Lounge and Tapas.

"You can eat there as part of their Dip and Dine experience, which allows you to use the cold- and warm-water pools at The Grotto all day if you like, and then dine upstairs, in your bathrobe, which is mandatory," she said.

The restaurant offers a set menu with 16 courses, ranging from light healthy salads to braised pork belly and lingcod.

The dining experience is $55 and can be added on to any spa service, including the pools.

2. Diner en Blanc

Diner en Blanc is back August 25 for its fourth year in row, this time with more than 4,500 seats available.

The event is unique in that participants are required to bring their own meal, cutlery and even furniture with them.  An all-white dress code is mandatory, and all tables, chairs, tablecloths, napkins and baskets must be white as well.

"No plastic or Styrofoam containers allowed, so forget the takeout sushi. This is more about elegant dining en plein air," Levykh said.

The location is kept secret until the actual day of the event. Registered participants are then sent instructions on where to meet a guide who will lead them to the designated location.  

In previous years, the event has taken place near Science World by False Creek and at the David Lam Park in Yaletown.

The fee is $45 per person.

3. Unbuckled

New this year, Unbuckled is billed as the ultimate backyard barbecue and encourages people to come dressed in their hillbilly best.

Teams of 8 to 15 can compete in easygoing games of footloose foosball, king of the rodeo and hillbilly hustle. 

You'll also find live bluegrass and roots rock music, and most importantly, much food on site.

Look for beer-can chicken, smokies, corn dogs, burgers steaks, ribs, corn on the cob and watermelon.

The event takes place in Stanley Park at the Brockton Baseball Diamond September 12, and tickets are $25 each.

To hear the full interview with Anya Levykh, listen to the audio labelled: Experiential dining.