10 dos and don’ts for picnicking in Toronto parks

With large dining groups still restricted, public parks are the new patios. Here are few tips to achieve picnic perfection

Samuel Engelking

It’s shaping up to be a one-dose summer (maybe two, if we’re lucky) and the parks are more packed than ever. With patios set to return with a capacity of four people per table, a picnic is the thing to do when dining with a larger group in Toronto. As of June 11, outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed in Ontario.

The fervid energy to get outside feels more potent than last year, perhaps because the winter lockdown was especially brutal. Many people who found ways to remain optimistic in the first half of the pandemic are at their wits’ end and we’re all in dire need of stimulating socialization. 

If you haven’t seen anyone but your cat and the barista at your local coffee shop for the past six months, the first few social outings can be challenging. Everyone feels a bit off, like we need social training wheels for a little while. 

Here are some tips and tricks for a summer spent picnicking with friends and family while hundreds of other people are congregating nearby. 

DO — Follow social distancing guidelines

Bring your own blanket to sit on, stay as far away from other groups as possible, don’t spit into each other’s mouths. This is the simple stuff. Also, if you’re feeling a bit of anxiety about reintegrating into society, using social distancing as a reason to not get close to people is a win-win.

DON’T — Litter

This also seems simple enough but the city already has a garbage problem, i.e. there aren’t enough trash bins, and what’s there is overflowing. Invest in some reusable plates and cups, lightweight ones made of bamboo are easy to transport and you’ll have less garbage to worry about. We will be outside all summer again, so it’s a worthwhile investment. Also consider bringing your own garbage bag and disposing of it somewhere else. 

Samuel Engelking

DO — Wear bright colours 

Save yourself the headache of having to pick up the phone every five minutes as your friends try to find you in a sea of people. You can always send a geolocation pin but sending a text to the group chat saying “find the girl in the neon green t-shirt” is much more useful. 

DON’T — Forget your speakers

How else are you going to drown out the sound of the couple having a screaming match to your left and the people blasting EDM versions of Bob Marley songs to your right? 

DO — Let other people do all the work

Order a meal from a nearby restaurant – many have perfectly curated baskets for this very purpose. As eateries wait for patios to open, they’re still largely reliant on takeout. This is advice I should take myself, rather than staying up late prepping all the food and lugging my entire kitchen to the park (as I’ve done several times already). If you, like me, insist on making stuff yourself, try to at least spread the responsibility so it’s not all on one person.

DON’T — Excessive PDA

We get it, there’s nowhere else to go on your Hinge dates but all of Christie Pits doesn’t need to see you all over each other. We’re all craving human touch and you’re making us jealous. 

A photo of people having a picnic in Riverdale Park in Toronto
Samuel Engelking

DO — Choose a park with toilets or thick trees 

Unless you have a superhuman bladder you’re going to need to pee after hours of indulging. Many of the public toilets also closed around 9 pm, leaving you to fend for yourself. Wear a skirt so it’s easier to pop a squat. Or alternatively, strategically choose a park close to your house and run home when nature calls. 

DON’T — Light fireworks 

Feel like this one is a no-brainer but you’d be surprised. Teenagers, lovers of angsty behaviour, have been lighting off hand-held fireworks during the day, in close proximity to other people, as a fun bit? Let’s not. 

DO — Come prepared if you plan on recording TikToks 

This is my favourite new human behaviour to witness. But if you’re going to make a spectacle, please, at least give everyone a good show. Get that choreo down pat beforehand, know your angles and deliver, because the second you start recording everyone will be staring and we want to see you go full out. 

DO— Share the park with all residents

The city’s war on encampments has been relentless, with attempts to forcibly remove people living in them only ramping up as the weather gets warmer. All people deserve access to public space. Share with your neighbours. 


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