How to Have a Winter Picnic in Northeastern Ontario: Itineraries and Eats!
If you’re not into hibernating all winter long, a winter picnic is an excellent way to explore an area and enjoy some delicious treats too. Northeastern Ontario’s three gateway cities—North Bay, Sudbury, and Timmins—are well-equipped with lots of opportunities for playing in the snow. And, they have a variety of fun eateries to tempt your taste buds too—it's a great way to really get a flavour (so to speak) of the area.
Remember that the key to winter picnic success is to keep your food from freezing, so tuck a small insulated bag into a backpack, bring a thermos or two for beverages or soup, and ask your resto or café about appropriate packaging and takeout containers so you can bring some reusable containers along if necessary. Or, tailgate it before your adventure!
Here's a primer on how to have the best winter picnic in each of our region's major cities.
winter wonderland in North Bay
Snowshoeing is a great way to explore some trails and try something new. At North Bay Nordic Ski Club there are two snowshoe loop trails, 1.5 km and 4.5 km long. You can rent snowshoes for the day. Similarly, at Wasi Cross Country Ski Club, about 20 minutes south of North Bay, there are 8 km of snowshoe trails that wind through the boreal forest. Watch for moonlight snowshoe night events too! You can rent snowshoes to be used at this site or elsewhere via the East Ferris Library. Other good locations include 12 km of trails at the West Nipissing Nordic Ski Club, and the 1-km snowshoeing/walking trail at the Sturgeon River House Museum which takes you through a cranberry bog with views of Lake Nipissing (rentals available). For a day-long or multi-day wilderness getaway, consider Nature’s Harmony Ecolodge with comfortable accommodations and activities that include snowshoeing, kicksledding, and a nature trail with a scavenger hunt. The Laurentian Escarpment is another wonderful natural area with views of the city and a variety of terrain. Snowshoe rentals are available from the nearby Laurentian Ski Hill. If snowshoeing isn’t your jam, how about a guided ice fishing outing from Bam’s Tours?
As for food: yum! Order a beautifully presented charcuterie box from Bay Boards Charcuterie. Opera Bakery Café offers take-out options for savoury soups, sandwiches, and wraps, while local favourite gd2go has healthy and creative vegan bowls, smoothies, energy bites, and chili. The Urban Café, open weekdays only, is known for its fresh homemade soups, like coconut curry and lentil or creamy dill pickle and bacon. Twiggs Coffee Roaster has locations in Sudbury, North Bay, Parry Sound, Minnehaha, and Sturgeon Falls. It has hot top-quality coffee and tea for your travel mug, as well as an assortment of soups, wraps, and baked goods.
For the perfect winter picnic souvenir, why not pick up a locally designed North Bay toque?
picnic perfection in Sudbury
Sudbury’s Kivi Park, just south of the city, has a real winter wonderland network of trails—55 km worth! You can easily rent a lightweight fat bike there to take your hike on wheels, or opt for snowshoes instead. Take a stroll or check out the 1.3-km skating trail that meanders through the birch trees. BioSki Cross-Country Ski & Snowshoe Club has 6.5 km of snowshoe trails affording great views of the area. Rainbow Routes is an excellent resource for non-motorized trails in the area, many of which can be used for snowshoeing or winter walking. You can also borrow snowshoes from 10 Sudbury library locations. Walden Cross Country has a network of trails designed for snowshoes and fat bikes (only snowshoe rentals are available right now). Looking for an urban option? Check out Kate Pace Way, a 12-km multi-use trail.
When it comes to winter picnic fare, you’ve got lots of delish options. Order some nibblies from Fresh & Easy like energy bites, or a “protein pack” with fresh veggies, cheese, and meat. Pick up some picnic fixings from Regency Bakery & Deli which has an amazing assortment of cheese and meats, plus its own housemade porchetta and sausage. Cara’s Convenience & Deli has great big sandwiches, with keto options too, as well as baking like muffins, cookies, turnovers, and butter tarts. Check out La Fromagerie (locally known as The Fromo) to order a deluxe charcuterie box.
treats and trails in Timmins
Porcupine Ski Runners, centrally located in Timmins, is one of the largest Nordic ski areas in Canada, and it also offers some moderate to challenging snowshoe trails with a good chance to catch a glimpse of local wildlife. Snowshoe rentals are available. To meander along the Mattagami River, take the 6-km Bridge to Bridge Trail, and be sure to wave to the nearby elk in paddocks! Nickie’s Trail at Little Star Lake has three loops of varying lengths (1 km, 1.6 km, 9 km) features interpretative markers, picnic tables, and a viewing platform at Sunset Bay. It’s a lovely tribute created in memory of a resident who loved the area. Archie’s Rock is a cool spot to visit, consisting of huge boulders that retreating glaciers piled in the boreal forest during the last Ice Age.
Golden Crust Bakery is a good destination for a large variety of fresh buns, squares, breads, and cookies as well as to-go chili and soups. Similarly, Hollinger House Bakery has a wonderful selection of fresh baking, meats, and cheeses, plus “Famous Phil’s Sandwiches.” To order a mini charcuterie box or cup, head to Sweet & Salty Charcuterie. The Timmins location of Toujours Mike has some tasty handheld options you can order for takeout, like bruschetta rolls paired with a little chocolate treat, or a sub with a can of soda. For plant-based options, check out Northern Lights Fauxmagerie for vegan cheese, desserts, and snacks. The award-winning Radical Garden’s menu changes weekly, but you may find anything from a Cuban sandwich panini to a wrap with squash and goat cheese to chocolate avalanche pastries.
To cap off an epic winter picnic, Radical Gardens has some truly epic merch, including a Jolly Roger-meets-foodie T-shirt and even a flag!
Winter picnic checklist
As the saying goes, “If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.” Embrace the beauty of the snowy season with a winter picnic!
- A takeaway picnic from your favourite local spot
- An insulated bag to keep your picnic items warm
- Reusable/sustainable cutlery
- A thermos of something hot
- A picnic table, folding table, and camping chairs (if you’re setting up near your vehicle), or an insulated blanket. Or, if you plan to sit directly in the snow, all you need is a great pair of snow pants.
- Appropriate winter wear to keep you warm
- Hand warmers
- A small radio or a winter playlist on your phone
- Kool-Aid packets for making snow cones for dessert!
Remember to leave your picnic area as you found it. Take everything with you including your trash if there are no trash receptacles nearby.