Warm weather, green trees and late sundown nights are here! In East Village, that means it’s time to fire up the grills on St. Patrick’s Island and gather friends and family together around the park’s picnic tables to share meals and sunshine.
This is the first full summer that St. Patrick’s Island will be open to the public since its rejuvenation last year. For the moment, those grills are something of a hidden gem, but soon enough, they’ll be hot commodities. Make sure you take advantage of them some sunny day soon.
I got in a couple of grill days late last summer and early this spring and I’ve come up with a few tips to make your outdoor cooking in our neighbourhood a success.
What to bring for your St. Patrick’s Island grilling and picnic
If, like me, you don’t have a grill at home, you may need to pick up a few things: charcoal, safety matches or a BBQ lighter, lighter fluid and a grill brush will ensure you have a hot, clean spot for cooking. Bring tongs or a BBQ spatula to save your hands from the fiery coals.
If you’re really committed, you might bring homemade burgers, marinated shrimp skewers and enough fixings and sides to make Canada Day jealous. For a simpler meal, go all tubular. For our spring grilling, my friends and I all brought our own favourite hot dog-type dinners. Spolumbos in Inglewood will hook you up nicely if you’re a sausage fan. Sunterra in Victoria Park carries lots of options too, including my new addiction, salmon hot dogs.
From that point, everything else is up to you. I like to bring a blanket and a table cloth. Napkins and cutlery are usually a good idea (the bathroom is close by for sticky messes that require a sink). A Frisbee is always a hit (though the playground next to Picnic Grove is almost as big a hit with grownups as with kids). We always bring Bluetooth speakers.
Where to go and how to get there
Picnic Grove is on the eastern half of the island, just past The Rise. The east parking lot is closed while the Calgary Zoo builds a berm and the Zoo Bridge is replaced, so if you’re arriving by car, you’ll want to park in East Village (remember: street parking is free after 6 p.m. and all day Sundays).
My favourite way to access St. Patrick’s Island is by bike. This has proven handy, even though the grills are a short walk from my condo, because sometimes you need to pedal back for that one thing. You can lock up your bike near the washrooms, or just do as we do and park them near your picnic table. Check the signage on the bathrooms, as they may close before you’re ready to go. The park itself closes at 11 p.m.
Some picnic tables get more sun than others. In spring, the northernmost tables stay in the sunshine a little later into the evening.
What about after the BBQ?
For those outdoor dinners that go late into the summer night, it’s good to have a next stop on the itinerary. Charbar at the Simmons is a natural choice, whether for drinks or dessert. By bike, Cannibale in Bridgeland is a quick ride for excellent cocktails. And there’s always several options for second dinner in Chinatown.