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Picnic table at Carleton University. All photos by Alanna Smith unless otherwise noted.

Best Of: Picnic spots in the Capital

By Apartment613 on June 19, 2016

Post by Alanna Smith.

Ottawa is bustling with picturesque picnic spots! From historical picnics next to museums and The Hill to stretches of blue canal and blossoming flowers. These seven picnic spots are a must try this summer! Whether you’re on a romantic date or gathering with a bunch of your best friends, we have found the spot for you.

Before I get in to the top choices, let me lay out the necessities. If you’re anything like me, I last two minutes in the sun before I turn a crisp, tomato-red. Sunscreen is essential in the heat of Ottawa and definitely in picnic spots that do not have a lot of shade. You’ll also need a blanket for most, and depending on the size of your group, maybe two. This definitely saves you from unwanted itches and little ants crawling on your food (a total picnic downer!). 

Plastic silverware and plates are great for picnics. Not only do you avoid any broken dishes but you can wash and re-use. Especially ideal, if you’re trying all seven!

And last, but definitely not least, you need great company and equally amazing food! My go-to is a potluck picnic. This takes the pressure off of one person and you’ll most likely end up with a great variety of food. My favourite picnic lunch is fresh French bread and cheese, perhaps a sparkling grape juice if I’m feeling fancy.

So here it is, my top seven Ottawa picnic spots:

1. The Simply Perfect / Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal 1

Rideau Canal / Dow’s Lake, Colonel By Drive to Dow’s Lake.

Stretching from Dow’s Lake to Ottawa’s downtown core, expands almost nine kilometers of optimal picnic spots! Although a walking and biking path for many, lining the paths are green grassy fields perfect for an afternoon picnic. Depending on which part of the canal you choose, shade is hit or miss. Some sections have trees and others are wide open inviting the sun to warm you up quickly.

But no matter where you plant your blanket, snacks and friends, you’re welcomed with a view of Ottawa’s very own Rideau Canal. You can watch beautiful boats whiz by, canoers and kayakers alike, even paddleboats closer to Dow’s Lake.

This is a great picnic spot for any sized group and is surrounded by flowers during the early summer months. If you’re going with your significant other, be sure to bring a padlock and lock your love on the Corkstown Bridge!

2. The Romantic / Nepean Point

Nepean Point, recommended for couples / small groups, located behind the National Gallery of Canada.

Nepean Point, located behind the National Gallery of Canada.

When I first moved into the Byward Market three years ago, I had no clue what I was surrounded by. So each day, I jogged in a different direction in order to get familiar with my surroundings.  It was my first ever jog that took me behind the National Gallery of Canada to Nepean Point. I was mesmerized.

On one side there was Quebec, separated from Ottawa by the Ottawa River. I could see the busy bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau, lit up by streetcars. I saw in the distance the Museum of Civilization and boats coming to dock just beside Alexandra Bridge. Then, on the other side, I saw the quieter, yet equally striking Ottawa landscape. Parliament Hill and rugged stone behind the Ottawa River running trail.

This is my top pick for a romantic picnic. I recommend coming at dusk, the sun setting over both cities. This would be a more low-key picnic with some small snacks and drinks where you can sit on the cement platform surrounding the Champlain statue. There is some grass below the statue but the view is best from the top. This is a top pic for both Ottawa and Gatineau residents!

3. The Classic / Major’s Hill Park

Major’s Hill Park, located behind the Chateau Laurier on Mackenzie Ave.

Major’s Hill Park, located behind the Chateau Laurier on Mackenzie Ave.

When I asked some of my friends what their favourite picnic spots were, it was unanimous that Major’s Hill Park was a classic choice. This is by far one of the largest stretches of greenery perfect for checkered blankets and all-day picnics. There’s enough space that you can have large groups and it’s well equipped with both shaded and non-shaded areas.

Great Ottawa landmarks surround you. On one side you see Parliament Hill overlooking the Ottawa River. To the North you see the top of the National Gallery of Canada and to the South, the back of the Fairmont Château Laurier. Not to mention, if you come during the early summer months, you can see beautiful stretches of yellow, red, orange and white tulips. 

Once you’ve worn out the sun, a quick walk takes you to the Byward Market. A perfect day spent relaxing in the heart of Ottawa can be followed by a night out in one of Ottawa’s biggest attractions! Beware of current Canada Day preparations; Major’s Hill Park will be open for picnics following the July 1st celebrations!

4. The Political / Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill, photo by Ross Dunn in the Apt613 Flickr pool.

I had a friend visit me from Texas last summer and when we took a blanket to Parliament and sat down, scarfing down deli sandwiches and diet cokes, she looked at me in awe and said “I can’t believe they just let you lay here.” She was shocked at the idea that we can sit just feet away from one of Canada’s most important buildings. You have to admit, it’s pretty cool!

Not only does picnicing on Parliament Hill give you a stellar view, but you can sprawl out on any of the open grounds surrounded by history, beauty and usually an open blue sky.  Beware of current Canada Day preparations; Parliament Hill will be open for picnics following the July 1st celebrations!

5. The Picnic with a Show / Hog’s Back Park

Hog's Back Park, located on Hog's Back Road and Riverside Drive.

Hog’s Back Park, located on Hog’s Back Road and Riverside Drive.

The best part about Hog’s Back Park is that there are shaded areas and picnic tables. Perfect for family picnics in a relaxing environment. It also has a concession stand with snacks! Great for a post-picnic treat, ice cream being my go-to! I recommend picnics no larger than five so that everyone can fit comfortably at the tables.

Hog’s Back Park is just seconds away from the Prince of Wales Falls. The falls are rated 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor and 4 stars on Yelp – a must see for tourists and locals alike. Following your picnic, take a stroll in the park surrounded with natural beauty. 

6. The Picnic on a Budget / Carleton University

Carleton University – Rideau River, located at 9376 University Dr.

Carleton University – Rideau River, located at 9376 University Dr.

What’s better than having a Tim Hortons right next to your picnic spot? You forgot a drink? No problem. You’re still hungry? Not an issue! You forgot about the potluck picnic and need something last minute? Timbits it is!!

But, jokes aside, this is one of my favourite picnic locations! At Carleton University along University Drive and adjacent to the River Building is the Rideau River. Picnic tables line the water with trees for shade and you sit on the rocks and listen to the water rush by. Whether you’re working a paper or need a break, this spot is perfect for Summer and Spring and a definite picnic place for students and small groups.

Tables line the river all the way until the Nesbitt Biology Building, which holds the yearly butterfly exhibit. The tables closer to Nesbitt are great for a quiet picnic away from swarms of stressed students. The closer you get to the River Building, the more you feel the hustle and bustle of a university while enjoying a breeze from the water.

7. The Historical / Hartwells Locks

Hartwells Locks, located on the Rideau Canal between the Experimental Farm and Carleton U.

Hartwells Locks, located on the Rideau Canal between the Experimental Farm and Carleton U.

If you’re in the mood for a bit of history and a relaxing afternoon, the Hartwells Locks are the best picnic spot for you! The Hartwells Locks are the first set of locks on the Rideau Canal southbound of Downtown Ottawa.  The picnic tables are scattered around the Lockmaster’s house and give you the perfect view to see boats move up and down the canal. 

These locks are part of the World Heritage Rideau Canal System built in the early 1800’s. The Rideau Canal stretches from Ottawa to Kingston and was originally built for the military. The Rideau Canal is the only canal that is still functional from the North American canal-building era of the early 19th century.

While these locks practically mirror the Ottawa Locks, they are located in a more peaceful location away from the hustle of downtown Ottawa. This is a great picnic spot for university students at Carleton to have a break between classes or a great lunch spot before renting a canoe or kayak at Dow’s Lake.

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Other noteworthy parks are the Ottawa Locks, Mooney’s Bay Park and Vincent Massey Park. If you think we missed a great spot, let us know!

Happy picnicing!!