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Where and how to have an amazing winter picnic.

Elizabeth Bromstein January 23, 2019
Mom, dad and son sharing a cup of cocoa and cookies outdoors in the winter.

The Alaskans do it. The Yukoners’ do it. The Russians do it. Why should they have all the fun, right?

We tend to associate picnics with summer, but there are many reasons to why picnicking in winter is a great idea. The winter scenery in Ontario is gorgeous, there are plenty of fun winter games and activities to keep you busy and there will be no wasps to ruin your day.

A winter picnic takes a little more prep and planning than a summer picnic so here are some tips on how to plan, what to eat, and where to go for the ultimate experience.

Do your research.

Avoid disaster by doing your research first. Check out the destination and whether it has specific amenities you require, like bathrooms, picnic tables or a fire pit (some people need those things, others won’t) and whether you have to reserve them. Check the weather conditions and make sure there are no storms coming. How far is the picnic area from the parking area? Is it icy? Is it safe? Find out whatever you need to in order to have a great day.

Mother and two children drinking hot tea near trees in a forest covered in snow.

Stay warm.

Your picnic is going to be a total bust if everyone is freezing. Wear layers, and pack another set of layers! Make sure you have dry clothes, and heaps of items to pile on the kids when they start complaining that they’re cold, including extra mittens, socks, scarves and hats. Hand warmers are key to keeping cold hands toasty. Don’t forget those!

A woman with a sled resting on the snow with mountains in the background.

Stay safe.

Make sure you have a spare tire and an emergency kit, that your devices are charged, and that you have charging cords. Bring lots of water. CAA has a list of recommended items for your emergency kit, including a flashlight, booster cables, and a warm blanket.

Mother and adult son having a hot drink outside in winter.

Pack well.

Continuing on a theme, bring whatever will keep you warm, including a portable heater if your destination doesn’t allow fires, and maybe a small tent for warming up out of the wind. Also, bring a tarp to sit on if there are no tables, and some blankets in which to wrap yourselves. Make sure you have hand wipes, and lots of tissues for runny noses.

A woman handing a picnic basket to a friend outside in winter.

Have fun!

There are so many ways to have outdoor fun in winter. If you’re Canadian, you already know that. Bring cross country skis or snowshoes, have a snowball fight, toboggan, build a snowman or snow fort, play games like Pin the Nose on the Snowman or Tic Tac Toe in the snow, bird watch and look for wildlife. Or whatever. You might have better ideas than we do. Make it your own!

A couple sledding on a winter day.

What to eat.

There are some tried and true winter picnic options that have stood the test of time. Stew is one item that is never wrong for a winter picnic. Make some beef or vegetable stew the day before, reheat it the next day and put it in a thermos. Pack some crusty bread, and you’ve got the perfect meal.

If you want a starter, warm roasted vegetables on skewers are perfect. We also suggest warm apple cider or hot chocolate. Keep all your items packed in an insulated carrier. You can also pack sandwiches, of course, if it’s a last minute day trip idea, but hot drinks are definitely a must! Pack cinnamon sticks or marshmallows to add to cider or hot chocolate powder as garnish. Yum!

Family of four and grandparents resting outdoors on a wintery day.

Your winter picnic menu. 

  • Beef Stew. This is a simple recipe that can be put on to simmer the day before, and that tastes even better the next day. Eat it with crusty bread and a hunk of old cheddar cheese.
  • Roasted Vegetables. These are pretty simple. And you can use any vegetables you want. You don’t have to stick to what they use in the recipe.
  • Caramel Apple Crumb Bars. Dessert bars are a quintessential picnic and camping menu item.
  • Hot Apple Cider with cinnamon sticks or Hot Chocolate with marshmallows.
High angle view of a sandwich and soup on a snow covered field.

Where to have a winter picnic in Ontario.

As long as the area is available, you can picnic in winter pretty much any where you would picnic in summer. Try local parks, provincial parks and beaches.

Here are six places to consider.