There are few more idyllic, memorable, budget-friendly activities than enjoying an outdoor picnic. Whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic spot to nosh wine and cheese, a family looking for a day outing, or a big group planning an event or reunion, there are loads of spots that will enhance the overall features with scenery, amenities and unique features built right into the setting. And there are many who agree that food just taste better outside.
1. Irvine Regional Park, CA
Located in Orange, CA, Irvine Regional Park is a mecca for family fun that includes a picnic. In addition to numerous picnic tables and outdoor grills, there is a host of activities to partake in after you’ve finished your potato salad. There are bike trails (bike rentals available), equestrian trails, pony rides, paddleboats and fishing. There is even a train that the family can hop on for a ride across the park, as well as a zoo.
2. Huayna Picchu, Peru
Looking for a picnic perch with a view? You can’t get much better than spreading your blanket out atop Huayna Picchu in Peru, breaking your bread and taking into the vistas out and below. At an elevation of 9,000 ft., stopping atop this mountain after a reportedly grueling hike- not only gives you a chance to rest and refuel your body after the hike, but a chance to refresh your soul as well, with a stunning panorama of the 15th century ruins of Machu Piccu, including the Urubamba River Valley and the iconic city of Inca.
3. Gatineau Park, QC
Gatineau Park, located just outside of Ottawa, ON has 5 different picnic areas within their network of parks. The park is very popular with mountain bikers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Charcoal BBQs are available at various locations throughout the parks, as well as lots of picnic tables. The Etienne Brule Lookout is a popular picnic spot and offers fantastic views of the Ottawa River and connects to hiking and biking trails.
4. Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ
You’ve heard of dinner and a show? How about lunch and a view? And as views go, you can’t replicate the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon National Park at the South Rim has over 300 miles of trails to wander, take in this wonder of the world. Desert View Drive, which winds along the south rim of the Canyon leads to the Desert View Watchtower. Along this road are several lookout points and picnic areas. If you’re looking to extend your stay and camp, reservations are highly recommended. There are three campgrounds at the South Rim, including tent sites that can accommodate up to 50 people and three vehicles- so if your picnic plans are for a large group or reunion- this is a good spot for you.
5. Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park, Bristol UK
This fun park expands over 50 acres along the River Avon and has loads of family activities, including a petting zoo, mazes, a toddler village, and indoor and outdoor play areas. The park offers a “Riverside Experience” with miles of trails to follow along the river, providing idyllic picnic spots along the way.
6. Shannon Falls Provincial Park, B.C.
In Squamish B.C., Shannon Falls cascade down over Howe Sound, and are the third tallest falls in British Columbia. A meandering trail through the forest will get you down to the base of the falls- which is where you’ll want to head for photo ops and great views. If you feel like a longer hike, this trail hooks into the Stawamus Trail, which spreads its way out to three different summits. Shannon Falls Provincial Park is well-equipped for picnickers with a concession stand and picnic area located next to the parking lot. This area is for day-use only, making it ideal for a daytime hike and picnic to take in the views.
7. Villa Borghese Park, Rome
Villa Borghese is Rome’s answer to New York’s Central Park, with vast amounts of green space, walking trails and ponds. This park spreads out over 226 acres, and is populated with statues, museums, fountains, theatres and a zoo. There is a wide patchwork of lush, idyllic gardens in which to stop and smell the roses- literally. There are lots of grassy patches under trees to spread out your blanket and feast on your Italian picnic basket. Afterwards you can wander to one of the many man-made lakes and feed the ducks.
Canada is blessed from coast to coast with incredibly beautiful and unique university campuses. While some feature historic buildings and castles, others are blessed with lush landscapes and an abundance of flora. Canadian universities have done their part to keep up these beautiful landscapes and as more modern buildings are created, they are done so in environmentally friendly ways. From the bustling metropolis of Montreal to the quiet paths of Thunder Bay; here are our top 10 choices for the most beautiful university campuses in Canada.
10. McGill University -Montreal, QB
McGill doesn’t just have one beautiful campus but two, both of them gorgeous in their own ways. The downtown campus features the lush greenery from the slopes of Mount Royal, combined with over 70 state of the art buildings. Macdonald Campus on the other hand is located on the very tip of the island of Montreal and features 100 year old buildings, numerous bike and walking paths, an awesome arboretum with skiing trails and just steps away from the mighty St. Lawrence River. Expect buildings here that have commanding stone walls, copper roofs, impressive stained glass windows, concrete plazas that have been turned into gardens. A shuttle runs between the two campuses and no matter where you study, or visit, it will be downright beautiful.
9. University of Toronto -Toronto, ON
The University of Toronto offers three different campuses but it is no contest when it comes to which one is the most beautiful of them all. St. George’s campus is located right downtown and manages to blend incredible historical architecture with green space. Visitors should make their way to Victoria College and check out the Old Vic building, the oldest of the college and perhaps the most beautiful. Head over to University College, the founding college of the University of Toronto and check out Laidlaw quadrangle, which looks more like a medieval courtyard than a university campus. The Mississauga campus on the other hand is located on 225 hundreds acres of protected green space on the Credit River and provides a beautiful background for students and visitors alike.
8. Queen’s University -Kingston, ON
Think limestone buildings, stunning architecture and waterfront; as that is exactly what Queen’s campus offers students and visitors. Fall is one of the best times to visit this campus as the leaves turn into brilliant shades of red and orange, making for a striking scene against the historic buildings. Students here spend a lot of time at Douglas Library and it’s not hard to see why, as not only is the building stunning but it features a pretty awesome fourth floor which houses a “Harry Potter” room. Although this campus isn’t as large as others on this list, the students and faculty make up for that as school spirit is high. Part of what make this campus so beautiful is the sense of community that is felt; expect to see a lot of blue, red and gold worn around campus as students show off their school spirit.
7. Western University -London, ON
Western offers the best of both worlds, historical architecture mixed with modern buildings and amenities. The campus is situated along the banks of the Thames River in London and offers trails both throughout the campus and along the Thames River. London isn’t the most exciting city on this list which means that students have created their own fun and expect to see them whipping down University Hill on skis and snowboards in the winter. The gothic style buildings have been restored to remain charming while the insides have been renovated, giving students the best of both worlds. This university also signed a pledge a few years ago to transform the campus into a model of environmental responsibility. Plans are in the works to add more buildings to this campus and expect great things in the years to come.
6. Bishop’s University -Sherbrooke, QB
This small liberal arts university in the tiny town of Sherbrooke offers a lot in term of beauty. Founded in 1843 the goal of this university is to educate the whole person, not just focusing on one subject. The campus is spread over 500 acres, at the junction of the St. Francis and Massawippi rivers and features some of Quebec’s most historic buildings. Many weddings are held at this university campus as St. Mark’s cathedral provides and absolutely stunning setting to say “I do”. This historical chapel features intricate woodwork inside and beautiful stained glass windows. McGreer Hall is the oldest building on campus and stands out as a stunning red castle like building, which looks even more amazing when white snow surrounds it. School spirit and community only adds to the beauty of this school and students who attend Bishops make lasting friends and family.
5. Mount Royal University -Calgary, AB
Mount Royal has a beautiful campus, there is no denying that, especially during the warm seasons when the ponds are shimmering and the gardens are blooming. One of the most notable features of this campus is the outdoor amphitheatre where the students and the community can gather for events, such as plays and concerts. Mount Royal is working hard to do their part in being environmentally friendly and in 2006 opened its first certified LEED building, and has since dedicated to making every new building on campus LEED certified. Make sure to head to the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts, a beautiful modern looking building in which you can take in a fabulous performance or take some time to reflect in one of the many green spaces throughout the campus.
4. McMaster University -Hamilton, ON
Located in the residential neighborhood of Westdale in Hamilton, Ontario; McMaster is beautiful both inside and out. There are amazing trails to be found throughout the campus and in the surrounding areas, as well as conservation areas and a plethora of waterfalls to explore. The main campus itself is both bicycle and pedestrian friendly with wide paved paths throughout, making it easy to get from one place to another. Make sure to have lunch at the Refectory, one of the original buildings on McMaster, as the top floor features a restaurant that looks over a beautiful treed ravine. One of the highlights on this campus is Cootes Paradise, a wildlife sanctuary owned by the Royal Botanical Gardens which features an abundance of flora and fauna. With a mix of original architecture, new buildings and lush landscape, this university is downright stunning.
3. Lakehead University -Thunder Bay, ON
Lakehead University has two campuses, one based in Orillia and the other in Thunder Bay and it is here in Thunder Bay where you will find one of the most picturesque campuses in the country. Spread out over 116 hectares, under the steep cliffs of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, this campus features 39 buildings and an abundance of green space. What you won’t find here is the rows upon rows of historical buildings like many of the campuses on this list. Instead you will find stunning nature, all around you. Buildings were designed with floor to ceiling windows so both faculty and students could feel like they were outside. With gardens overflowing with beautiful flowers and Lake Tamblyn running through the campus it is easy to see why in the warm months, classes are often taught outdoors.
2. University of British Columbia -Vancouver, BC
It is arguably one of the most beautiful university campuses across the country with incredible surroundings and breathtaking views. The Vancouver campus is located at the western tip of the Point Grey Peninsula, surrounded by forest, ocean and mountains. Getting to downtown Vancouver takes just twenty minutes and there are numerous beaches just a short distance away. To add to this awesome campus are the ultra cool buildings situated here. Visitors should definitely head to the UBC farm and check out the yurt, one of the only yurts on a university campus in the world. The library is light and airy, featuring literary quotes on the outside of the building while the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health is sleek and modern with glass windows and a unique shape. Whether you are viewing this campus by air, walking through it or attending as a student, it is simply breathtaking.
1. Royal Roads University -Victoria, BC
Up until 1995 this University was actually a Military College and features an impressive main building, the Hatley Castle. The castle was completed in 1908 and was once meant to house the Royal Family, but instead they remained in the UK as the world was at war. Lucky for students and visitors alike, this campus is now a public university spread over 260 hectares of parkland with incredible surroundings. Walking through this campus gives visitors gorgeous views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the impressive Olympic Mountain Range. Walking, hiking and biking trails wind throughout the campus and you will come across an incredible Japanese Garden, among other hidden treasures. The entire campus is a part of the Hatley Park National Historic Site and between the incredible buildings and extensive gardens; it is clear why this truly is the most beautiful campus in the country.
A growing trend is upon us in terms of accommodations that are designed to have the least possible impact on the natural environment in which they are situated; these accommodations are known as eco-lodges. One province in Canada is taking the world by storm in terms of the different and unique eco-lodges they are offering. Quebec with its breathtaking mountains, endless lakes, lush green valleys in the summer and plenty of snow in the winter is becoming well known for its commitment to preserving the natural environment. From tree houses for grownups to luxury resorts that focus on reforestation to “glamping” in an unusual yurt; discover ten of these amazing eco-lodges in Quebec.
1. Chez Roger l’Ermite
More than just log cabins, Chez Roger offers a unique experience for visitors in the town of Saint-Come. These beautifully hand built cabins are nestled in the woods amongst species of trees, birds and surrounded by nature. Each one was carefully constructed by owner Martin Paradis and his father using several species of trees and recycled materials with respect to the environment. Two of the four eco-lodges have running fridges and electricity that are powered with solar energy from the solar panels on the roof. All are furnished with handcrafted furniture and recycled materials. Compostable toilets and outdoor showers complete the cabins.
The surrounding area is full of trails to explore, a river to cool off in and a nearby waterfall that offers stunning views in both the winter and summer. Snowshoes are available for guests to use and the owner is more than happy to both show you around and tell you the history of how this wonderful place came to be. Privacy and relaxation is important here at Chez Roger and visitors are encouraged to unplug and unwind as they explore the breathtaking surrounding nature.
2. Canopee Lit
Who doesn’t want to sleep in cabins that are literally perched in the trees? Unless you are afraid of heights; this is one eco-lodge you can’t miss in the beautiful province of Quebec. This is “glamping” at its best with the choice to stay in one of the cabins in the trees or in one of the clear bubble tents. There is some hydro, some water but nothing over the top about this eco-lodge. Toilets are dry compostable within the cabins and solar panels power showers and lights in the bathrooms. Some of the cabins feature glass dome ceilings and all have beautiful furnishings throughout.
Breakfast is provided at Canopee Lit, served outside your door in an old school metal lunchbox; a nice touch the owners have thought of. Lunch and dinner can either be made in your cabin or there is a waterfront restaurant on-site that serves up appetizing meals. With 24 acres of property to explore and all year round service; whether you visit in the winter, summer, spring or fall there is plenty to do. Spend the night in a tree house or in a bubble overlooking the river; either way it’s an unforgettable experience.
3. Cime Adventures Resort
Whether you want to stay in a yurt, a tee-pee, camp in the woods, stay in a cottage or stay at the eco-lodge this property has it all. This resort offers the most choice for accommodations on this list and works hard to stay one with nature. The eco-lodges on this property are built on stilts tucked between trees in the Gaspésie forest; offering tranquility along with modern day conveniences. Private terraces, fully equipped washroom, coffee maker, fridge and beautiful furnishings will make living in nature feel like a breeze.
Cime Adventures mission is to bring people together with nature in exploring the beautiful clear Bonaventure River. This resort offers numerous canoe, kayak and snorkeling tours on the river that guests should take advantage of while staying on the resort. Dining is offered in a variety of ways; whether you choose to cook your own meals, dine at the on-site restaurant or take advantage of the healthy gourmet lunchbox available. With an emphasis on preserving nature, using locally sourced food and letting people explore a river that was virtually unknown only 25 years ago; Cime Adventures Resort offers everything one could want in an eco-lodge adventure.
An escape from everyday life awaits you at Kabania, located in the stunning Lanaudiere region of Quebec. The choice of cabins awaits you, whether you are looking for a more spacious option with a wood stove or simply somewhere to lay your head at night; either way you will be sleeping amongst the trees in a cabin on stilts. A communal cabin is provided for guests to use the washrooms (as there are none in the cabins), cook and relax in the hammocks in the living room. In the summertime the outdoor communal spaces include barbecues to use, fire areas and more.
The area offers a plethora of activities to visitors whichever season you are staying. In the summer cool off in the pond or tube down the river. In the wintertime there is an ice rink nearby along with hundreds of miles for skiing or snowshoeing. With plenty of opportunities for relaxation in one of the many hammocks among the property it won’t be long before you feel both your mind and body at ease; especially knowing your impact on the environment here is minimal with solar panels, recycling and reusing programs in place.
5. Le Baluchon
This eco-resort is simply stunning and the most luxurious on our list, nestled in a breathtaking scene amongst hills, valleys and incredible sunsets. Located on a land that originally provided lumber for a sawmill Le Baluchon has been focusing on sustainable development and reforestation for the past twenty years. More recently they have invested in water treatment systems, a great recycling program and energy conservation. Throughout the resort visitors will find reused materials from the old sawmill including their eco-café; which was created entirely from objects and mechanical pieces of the old sawmill.
Accommodations range from chalets to lodges and each have their own beautiful designs, all spread out throughout this large property. From classic to rustic to modern; visitors can choose the theme they want in their room. A Nordic spa awaits guests here along with the chance to visit a sugar shack, dogsled, snowshoe, fat bike, Nordic ski, ice skate and take a sleigh ride around the property. Dining here is always a treat as the head chef works with locally sourced ingredients to create spectacular meals in whichever dining hall you choose. This breathtaking property along with friendly staff, exceptional cuisine and more activities than you will have time for is one of our favorite eco-lodges in the province of Quebec.
6. Entre Cîmes et Racines
If you have ever wanted to stay in a hobbit house you will want to head to Entre Cîmes et Racines; a beautiful property that houses 12 cabins; two of them highly resembling hobbit houses. These luxury but back to the basics cabins will surprise and delight every visitor and are so popular that they’re often booked up to a year in advance. Most are truly basic with no running water or electricity. Hand pumps are provided for water as are odorless outhouses; either inside or out. The wood stoves heat the cottages and along with barbecues provide ample opportunity for cooking.
The cottages are spread out giving guests the ultimate privacy while providing a main lodge with modern conveniences; working washrooms and electricity. Numerous trails and streams run through the property and bikes and kayaks are available in the summer months. In the winter this is a haven for snowshoers and cross country skiers. The two hobbit type houses are the The Hobbit and Stone Fire and are the most expensive to stay in of the lot but are definitely worth it. Come escape the ordinary in the Eastern Township of Quebec and discover this truly unique eco-lodge.
7. Matagami ECOlodge
Located on the edge of Lake Matagami sits a unique eco-lodge dedicated to teaching guests that you don’t have to sacrifice style in order to live an environmentally responsible lifestyle. The eco-lodge consists of three tree cabins and two yurts to choose from; sleeping up to six guests with a variety of bunk beds and double beds depending on which one you stay in. Go Green is the motto here with everything running on solar panels and wind power. With access to a natural sandy private beach in the summer and miles of trails for snowshoeing or skiing in the winter; there is no bad time to visit this eco-lodge.
These cabins come complete with your own personal washroom including shower, woodstove and handcrafted furniture from reclaimed wood. A big emphasis is placed on the surrounding environment and guides will be available to explain how they source their food locally and conserve and care for the wildlife in the environment. With a plethora of activities on or off Lake Matagami you will find plenty of things to keep you busy; while relaxing in the midst of the forest at night.
8. Chic Choc Mountain Lodge, Quebec, Canada
Perched at an altitude of 615 meters high atop a mountain, looking out over peaks and valleys as far as the eye can see is Chic Choc Mountain Lodge. This eco-lodge is owned by the Government of Quebec and was a project developed to encourage people to discover remote natural environments in every season, with the lowest amount of impact on the surrounding settings. The lodge was flown in by helicopter piece by piece to avoid disturbing any of the natural environments. The eighteen suites are all furnished in natural wood and the works of local craftsman; all are designed to make the visitor relax with an absence of televisions and phones.
Guests are treated to family style dining by a superb chef; sharing plates with other guests and guides alike. The huge living room in the lodge boasts a beautiful fireplace that begs to be experienced with a glass of wine in hand. Everything here that can be is biodegradable; including the fuel, with staff and guests working hard to reduce, reuse and recycle on a daily basis. The lodge provides guests with all the gear they need to explore the hundreds of miles of nature that surround them. From warm clothing to kayaks to snowshoes to skis; they have you covered. Come experience this slice of heaven located in the mountainous terrain in the Gaspe Peninsula.
9. Eco River Lodge- Moulin Wakefield Mill
This LEED-certified Eco River Lodge boasts impressive modern design and blends beautifully into the surrounding area. This exclusive boutique resort houses 13 guestrooms all with southern exposure, along with views of the sparkling mill pond. The Eco River Lodge sits on the Moulin Wakefield Mill Property; a once flour mill turned into a destination country hotel and spa. Much of the original stone masonry was retained as were many of the mills mechanical components that now serve as landscaping ornaments. The on-site restaurant takes you up close and personal with the stunning MacLaren Falls; in a glassed in solarium.
The Eco River Lodge is as green as it gets. It is built into the side of a hill to maximize environmental sustainability. The green roof was designed to house honey bees and geothermal heating and cooling systems were put in place. The solar design of the building allows for optimum use of natural light. A tranquil spa awaits you at this property with a goal of improving lives with the healing powers of nature; and includes a pool and hot tub to soak any muscle aches away. Along with an electric car charging terminal, energy and water conservation combined with a beautiful property in nature; this is one unique eco lodge you won’t want to miss out on.
10. Chalets Lanaudiere- Yurt Camping
The mission of Chalets Lanaudiere is simple; to allow visitors to relax in a harmonious outdoor environment while having awareness for the beautiful surroundings. They accomplish this by offering both cottage and yurt rentals to visitors; on this enormous property with its own private lake; just a short drive from the town of Rawdon. Yurt camping is their version of an eco-lodge and these beautiful new yurts are placed carefully within nature, each with its own fire pit, spacious accommodations and gas fireplace. The yurts all have their own separate theme and décor inside were carefully hand chosen to match.
The activities at this destination are endless. Wintertime brings numerous skating rinks complete with hockey sticks, broomball, a lit tubing slide, over 20km of marked trails for cross country skiing and plenty of areas to explore on snowshoes. Summer brings hiking, geocaching, swimming, kayaking, treetop trekking and more. There are no motorized boats available on the lake keeping in tune with their mission to have the smallest impact on the environment as possible. Glamorous, spacious yurt camping awaits you at Chalets Lanaudiere; no matter what the season.
While there’s a particular sentiment to the statement “there’s no place like home for the holidays,” many of us would rather be anywhere else. That’s why Christmas time can be the very best time for a quick vacation.
So regardless of whether your holiday enhances that yuletide feeling with snow, and lights, and tree-lined streets; or whisks you off to a tropical beachfront hideaway—we’ve got a few splendid recommendations for the best places to vacation come Christmas time…
1. Manhattan, New York
New York City is synonymous with the holidays—with bustling winter shopping, the lighting of the famous tree at Rockefeller Center, the city-wide Christmas displays in every department store window, horse-drawn carriage rides through Central Park and leisurely strolls with hot cocoa in hand through classic brownstone-lined neighborhoods—Christmas is definitely in the air in Manhattan.
2. Quebec City, Canada
The Québécois serve up a traditional French Canadian Christmas—or rather Noël—with twinkling century stone homes perched along narrow cobblestone streets; tons of good cheer; great food that could include delicacies such as meat pies, giant scallops au gratin, and grilled pheasant breast; and of course loads and loads of snow ripe for sledding, skiing, and skating.
3. Trømso, Norway
Norway is one country that doesn’t let its natural, fairytale Christmas atmosphere—complete with snowy mountains, reindeer, and dog sledding—go to waste. No, in such close proximity to the actual North Pole (or Arctic Circle) the people of Trømso will help you revel in the spirit of the holiday.
4. Kaikoura, New Zealand
If you’re eager for something a little different—completely opposite in fact, a vacation in Kaikoura ought to do the trick! While North American’s bundle up for snow; New Zealanders get ready for summer. That’s right Christmas here is celebrated outdoors with backyard barbecues, cool dips in Kaikoura Bay, sperm whales watching excursions, swimming with dolphins, and kayaking adventures.
5. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Christmas is not only embraced in Old San Juan; the city gets in the spirit of the season starting 2 weeks ahead of time. You’ll find this balmy locale teeming with traditional holiday treats (such as pastels, which are meat and spice-filled pastries), celebrations where guests are gifted offerings of coquito (an egg-nogg type cocktail made with rum and coconut milk), and salsa bands playing your favorite holiday carols. And instead of sledding on snow banks, you can ride another type of board at Rincon (Puerto Rico’s surfer’s paradise).
6. Paraty, Brazil
For a true off-the-beaten-track escape at Christmas time, the colonial towns of Brazil are places where you can bask in the sun and forget about the stress of the holidays. In Paraty, located 140-miles south of Rio, you’ll find a real holiday gift—packed with friendly locals, unspoiled beaches, exotic wildlife, lush jungles, and azure waters that’ll you forget about any holiday other than your own.
7. Bali, Indonesia
Instead of rounds of bells this Christmas, how about a deep gamelan gong to usher in the holiday? In Bali you will be surrounded by ancient temples, wafts of incense, wreaths of rice plants and flowers, holiday meals of Indonesian green-tea noodles with seafood in bonito broth, and sunsets that will remind you that divine acts are at work every day.
8. Reykjavík, Iceland
With Yule Lads, Iceland’s version of Santa Claus, perched in every shop window; multiple outdoor adventures on hand like sledding, skating, and skiing; and a brief 4-hours of daylight ending with a heavenly sky show by Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) and a hearty shot of Brennivín (or schnapps) to warm your laurels, Reykjavik, Iceland is the perfect Christmas away from home.
9. Nashville, USA
If you’re after an unabashed “ya’ll to the holidays” look no further than Nashville, Tennessee with is twangy, honky-tonk renditions of “Oh Christmas Tree” and downright kitschy outdoor light displays—after all, the saying down south is “go big or go home!” And you can do just that by slicing into a big ol’ juicy beef tenderloin on Christmas day!
10. Provence, France
A Christmas holiday in Provençal is something out of a winter fairy tale. Imagine small, quaint villages and country farm homes with smoke trails from each chimney, the echoes of caroling and bells from impressive medieval churches, cobblestone streets teeming with shoppers hunting for the perfect foie gras. Settle in for the quintessential Christmas escape in an old, refurbished farmhouse with a cozy hearth to warm your toes as you dig into a Christmas Eve dinner of traditional grilled sea bass, vegetable gratin, black truffles, and mincemeat pies.