From lush green spaces to pre-booked BBQ and fire pit sites, there’s no shortage of picnic spots in Calgary. And who doesn’t love an easy, affordable activity that gets you out of the house, while exploring some of the best nature spots the city has to offer?
With over 7,800 hectares of park space, you better believe there are plenty of choice picnic spots in Calgary. Grab a blanket, your sunscreen, some snacks and a friend, before heading to one of these great picnic places in Calgary.
Table of Contents
Picnic Spots in Calgary
When it comes to picnic spots in Calgary, we’re lucky to have so many options. Whether it’s a city-run park, provincial park or a lush green space, there’s no shortage of picturesque places to spread out your blanket. Here are our top recommendations.
Tompkins Park might not be your first thought for picnic places in Calgary, but this vibrant, inner-city park is fully revamped for the summer and early fall. From July to September, visit Summer on 17th at Tompkins Park for live music, fitness classes, DJs and outdoor movies.
If you can’t be bothered to pack your own picnic, it’s a cinch to grab some food from a nearby restaurant along bustling 17th Ave. As a bonus, alcohol is permitted at Tompkins Park.
In the heart of downtown Calgary lies Olympic Plaza. If you head down during the day, you’ll see lots of businesspeople enjoying lunch or coffee breaks around the plaza.
While there isn’t much seating here, there are lots of grassy areas to set down a picnic blanket. During the summer, the fountain is usually on and provides a little wading pool area to cool down in. You might also catch some live music.
Prince’s Island Park
Located in Eau Claire, Prince’s Island Park is one of the most picturesque picnic places in Calgary. It’s usually quite a busy stop for Calgarians and tourists alike, but it’s quite a large park so it rarely gets overcrowded.
Prince’s Island has lots of picnic areas, playground spaces, gardens and pathways to explore. There’s also a fountain and wading pool area near the Eau Claire entrance.
Amp up your experience by pre-ordering a picnic basket from River Cafe when visiting Prince’s Island. More details on that are near the end of this post.
You can find Riley Park in the Kensington neighbourhood, just North of the Bow River and downtown Calgary. This popular park has tons of grassy areas to sit and eat, plus picnic tables.
It also sports a cricket pitch, making it pretty unique when it comes to parks in Calgary. For wee ones, there’s a wading pool and to refresh the senses, be sure to walk through the rock and flower garden.
Fish Creek Park
Unbeknownst to many, Fish Creek Park is the second-largest urban park in Canada. This an ideal spot for a large gathering as there are lots of group use areas in the southwest part of the park, with shelters, accessible washrooms, power, water, parking, and picnic tables.
These can be booked in advance for $90. There are no fire pits, but you can bring your own portable one, just no wood burning or charcoal briquette appliances are allowed. There are also first-come, first-served areas for picnicking.
Calgary Picnic Sites
When it comes to Calgary picnic sites, the easiest way to book is through a specific city park. Through the city-run parks, picnickers can book their picnic area up to 5 days in advance and get exclusive access to the site.
By booking in advance, you won’t be fighting any other eager picnic goers for a spot. Just note that there are some fees associated with booking in advance. Keep reading to find out how to book and which parks are our favourites.
How it works
When it comes to Calgary picnic sites, you can reserve exclusive access to the site. Each site has different amenities, but most include picnic tables, fire pits, BBQs, shelter, and electricity.
Spots are booked for 6 hours at a time, either from 8:45am-2:45pm or 3:15 pm- 9:15 pm. Bookings require 5 days notice and start at $69. To book, call 403-269-3800 or visit the website. Alcohol is permitted at certain sites.
If you’re looking for something quieter, try booking a neighbourhood table for free through Live and Play Calgary. For both options, don’t forget to bring anything you might need, like firewood, BBQ tools, sunscreen, and bug spray.
Of course, you can also show up without booking, but you risk not securing a spot. If you’re looking for a table, keep an eye out for signs about booking.
This large popular park is located in northwest Calgary, near the Bow River. There are lots of bookable picnic spots with fire pits, picnic tables, shelters and BBQ stands.
The Park also offers boat rentals through the University of Calgary, a train for children, playground, river access and a wading pool. There’s plenty to do and see in the park, but keep in mind that it’s almost always busy. Sites are able to be booked at the park, but you can’t book over a long weekend.
Located along the Bow River, Edworthy Park is a great option for picnicking, with picnic sites and shelters, as well as fire pits and BBQs. Edworthy Park also has a playground, gazebo, off-leash area for dogs and public washrooms. Alcohol is also allowed in certain sites from 11 am – 9 pm.
North Glenmore Park/ South Glenmore Park
North and South Glenmore Park are great places for picnicking in southwest Calgary. Both parks have bookable picnic sites, and the North Glenmore Park picnic locations have BBQ stands and fire pits. Alcohol is permitted in certain areas in North Glenmore Park.
For a more active afternoon, visit South Glenmore Park which has an accessible playground, spray park, bike pump track and tennis courts. You can also check out the Quinterra Legacy Park which has a musical garden, green spaces and a stage.
Another popular spot in Calgary, Sandy Beach is located along the Elbow River – especially for summer rafters and dog lovers. There are lots of picnic areas with fire pits and BBQ stands, as well as playground areas and washrooms.
There’s river access here, but don’t expect to swim here, as there frequently seems to be water warnings. Alcohol is permitted in some sites. You can also visit the off-leash dog area above Sandy Beach for calming views of the downtown.
What sets Stanley Park apart is its large outdoor swimming pool situated along the Elbow River. If you’re heading here to swim, you’ll want to register in advance online. The pool complex has been newly renovated and on a hot day you’ll also see folks swimming in the river. Keep in mind, this is also where there’s river access for fishing and canoeing.
Along with the picnic sites and pool, Stanley Park has a sports field, tennis court, playground area and lawn bowling.
Calgary Picnic Basket
Besides the location, food is the most important part of a picnic. You can always pack your own, but why not check out one of these calgary picnic basket services that does all the organizing and sourcing for you. There are lots of options and price ranges to set you up just right for date or family hangout.
River Café is an iconic restaurant in Prince’s Island Park. Ordering a picnic basket from River Café is one of those splurge-worthy things to do.
Go a la carte and pay for each item, or pick up the premium basket ($139), picnic for 2 ($55) or the kids picnic bag ($16). Add on wine, beer or cocktails to spice up the basket. Be sure to order at least an hour in advance to get your basket.
East Village Picnics
For the summer, the East Village is partnering up with 5 local businesses to bring you a variety of picnic basket options. You can choose from Sidewalk Citizen, Connie and John’s, the King Eddy, Chix Eggshop or 8 Cakes.
If you’re looking for sandwiches, try Sidewalk Citizen’s basket for 2, which includes 2 sandwiches, 2 sodas or water bottles and a cookie for $42.
If you’re in the mood for pizza, try Connie and John’s. The King Eddy offers food and dessert for $20. The Chix Eggshop basket feeds 4 people for $50 and comes with fried chicken, nuggets, potato wedges, salad and dessert. (Note: Prices may change…)
Lastly, you can try and order a delicious high tea basket from 8 Cakes (so good that it’s often sold out). Each basket comes in a limited-edition East Village cooler bag!
Seasons of Bowness Park
If you’re heading to Bowness Park, you can nab a picnic basket from Seasons of Bowness. The little café offers custom made, pre-ordered picnics. This option is the most customizable and can be made for up to 6 people. Call 403-202-5065 or order online.
Picnic Spots Outside Calgary
Whether you’re heading out on a road trip, or just looking to get out of the city, there are plenty of picnic spots outside Calgary. Many campgrounds nearby also offer day-use areas.
Just be sure to check the rules and regulations before you go. And don’t forget, everyone now need a pass to enter Kananaskis and the Bow Valley area.
Big Hill Springs
Big Hill Springs is a popular hiking spot just outside of Cochrane with pretty waterfalls and a creek area. Even if you’re not hiking, it’s a lovely spot to spend a summer or early fall afternoon.
Be prepared for old-school picnicking, however, as there are very few amenities. Open fires are not allowed, but propane BBQs are permitted. Be sure you’ve know how to get here in advance as there is little to no cell service. This map gives you a good indication.
Whitefish Day Use
A beautiful stop in Kananaskis, Whitefish Day Use Area is another capital spot for a picnic. At only about an hour outside of Calgary, inside Bow Valley Provincial Park, it makes for a lovely day trip.
The day-use area has fire pits, water and pit toilets. There’s also fishing and hiking nearby. More info here.
Also in Kananaskis Country, Station Flats is even closer to the city in Elbow River Provincial Recreation Area. Only about a 40-minute drive outside of Calgary, Station Flats offers picnic tables and pit toilets.
There is also biking, fat biking, horse riding and hiking nearby to try before or after your picnic. No bookings are needed, but don’t forget your Kananaskis pass.
Bragg Creek Provincial Park
About a 45-minute drive from Calgary, Bragg Creek boasts a myriad of walking trails, restaurants and little shops. The best place for picnicking is the day use area, where you can look out over the river while you eat.
The area includes fire pits, pit toilets, a water pump and picnic tables, as well as a spot for fishing.
Quarry Lake Park
Weekends at Canmore’s Quarry Lake are busy, but don’t let that deter you from visiting this sweet spot. (Though weekdays are a better time to visit.) Quarry Lake sports plenty open park area around the lake for picnicking, though there are no cookstoves or fire pits onsite.
There is toilet access and incredible views of the Three Sisters mountain range. Many people bring their SUP and kayaks to cross the lake on.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the downsides to visiting Quarry Lake.
- There’s not an abundance of shade. While there are trees, the area isn’t in the forest.
- Parking is tough to come by. There’s now a charge (approximately $15) for non-locals without a pass.
- Quarry lake is colder than cold. This is not a great spot for swimming. While swimming is possible, it’s more of a hop in, hop out kind of lake. Not to drag the vibe down, but every year there seems to be a drowning at this lake, in many cases due to the extreme cold and bodies going into shock. Wear a life jacket!
Where are your favourite spots to picnic in and outside the city? Please let us know in the comment section.