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Planning the Perfect Winter Picnic

The sun sparkling on snow, a crackling campfire, hot cocoa, and smokies make for a memorable winter outing. While winter may not scream picnic season, it’s a wonderful time of year to dine al fresco if you dress warm and have a fire. There are no bugs or crowds, and you can get gorgeous golden-hour photos in that magical time before sunset. Here’s how to plan the perfect winter picnic in (and around) Calgary!

Choose a picnic site with a fire pit

These beautiful picnic areas with fire pits have walking trails and outhouses nearby:

Edworthy Park has spacious picnic sites (including two with picnic shelters), walking trails, and four playgrounds. The new playground on the south side has some unique features, like a four-person teeter totter! Before you settle in for dinner, walk the Christmas Tree Trail and look for chickadees in the trees. ​5050 Spruce Drive SW

Bowness Park, another riverside park in northwest Calgary, has picnic sites (many with large picnic shelters), two playgrounds, ice skating on the lagoon, and a 1.6-kilometre skating track (usually opens in time for Christmas), cross-country ski trails, and walking trails. My family likes walking across the 85 Street Bridge to Baker Park, too. Note: This popular park fills up fast on weekends. 8900, 48 Avenue NW

Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary’s largest park, has picnic areas at Glennfield, Shannon Terrace, and Votier’s Flats Day-Use Areas. Glennfield has large group sites, while the sites at Shannon Terrace and Votier’s Flats are suitable for smaller gatherings. Enjoy a nature escape in the city as you hike the forested trails along the creek. With ongoing construction in the park, check the Alberta Parks’ website for advisories to confirm day-use areas are open. Bebo Grove and Hull’s Wood are not recommended at this time due to partial trail closures.

North Glenmore Park has sunny picnic sites near the Glenmore Reservoir. With playgrounds, an ice rink, cross-country ski trails, and pathways you could explore for hours. 7305 Crowchild Trail SW

Prairie Winds Park has two picnic areas with fire pits (reservable from December 12, 2021), a toboggan hill, skating rink, playgrounds, and fitness stations. 223 Castleridge Boulevard NE

Sandy Beach Park has pretty picnic sites along the Elbow River. Visit the playground and walk across the suspension bridge while you’re there. 4500, 14A Street SW

In Kananaskis, try Mount Lorette Ponds (wheelchair accessible picnic sites and 700-metre loop around the ponds) or Wedge Pond (1-kilometre loop with lovely views of Mount Kidd).

Here’s what you’ll need to bring:

  • Firewood, kindling, fire starters, lighter and/or matches (it is prohibited to burn deadfall)
  • Camp chairs
  • Roasting sticks
  • Dishes, cutlery, napkins
  • Tablecloth
  • Hand sanitizer and wipes
  • Cooler with food and beverages (alcohol is only permitted at select picnic areas)
  • S’mores kit
  • Garbage bags
  • Extra water for putting out the fire
  • Camp blanket to keep your legs warm (wool is naturally flame-resistant)
  • Extra layers of clothing

A collapsible wagon is recommended for hauling everything to your site.

Know before you go!

Most picnic sites are first come, first served in the winter, so have a backup plan in case your first choice isn’t available.

The City of Calgary Community Fire Pit Program resumes on December 12, 2021. This program offers free fire pit permits at many Calgary parks, such as Prairie Winds Park, Stanley Park, and Riley Park. For more information, visit calgary.ca.

Food scraps can attract wildlife, so pack out all trash, even if it’s biodegradable.

Check for fire bans before you go!

Be fire smart: Never leave a fire unattended, and always put out your fire completely before you leave.

Alcohol is permitted in select picnic areas until 9pm (Fish Creek Park Day-Use Areas close at 8pm). For more information, visit the Calgary Parks or the Alberta Parks website.

Dogs are permitted at picnic sites if they are on-leash. Please clean up after your pet(s)!

With shorter days in the snowy season, you can make the most of winter by playing and dining outside! Kids will love cooking their own dinner over the fire, and you can enjoy coming home to a clean kitchen.

Karen is a mother and a lover of maps, mountains, and mochas. With her geography degree and experience leading hikes and backpacking trips in the Rockies, she is full of ideas on where to go and what to do. The mission of her blog, playoutsideguide.com, is to provide everything families need to know to get outside and have fun. 

 

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