How to emulate the cottage experience in the city

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Even though we’d like to spend the whole summer at the cottage, work and other life obligations inevitably get in the way. But even if your weekends are all booked up with weddings and you don’t have much vacation time, it’s possible to enjoy similar activities in the city. Here are some ways you can still feel like you’ve had the cottage experience without leaving town.

Eat from a food truck

Getting some grub from a favourite roadside chip truck is usually part of the fun of heading up to the cottage. Luckily, food trucks are all the rage just about everywhere nowadays, whether you’re in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal or elsewhere, so there are plenty of opportunities to find a new favourite for some tasty street eats.

Hang out in the park

Photo by Dolce Vita/

You can still relax and connect with nature if stuck in an urban area by spending some time at your local leafty public park. Vancouver’s Stanley Park or High Park in Toronto are a couple of the big ones to explore, but any welcoming green patch could be the perfect place to spread a blanket and settle in for a picnic or hunker down with a good book to read.

Check out a craft fair

Pretend you’re in cottage country by browsing and buying local handmade goods at an indie craft fair. These makers’ markets are a great way to find one-of-a-kind handicrafts, and they’re happening everywhere, from Calgary and Edmonton to Halifax.

Get some ice cream

What better way is there to celebrate summer than with a cold, sweet treat? Grab some artisanal ice cream at Bang Bang in Toronto, with innovative flavours like avocado, bourbon & bacon or PB&J, or more old-school offerings like a hot fudge sundae or banana split at Winnipeg’s Bridge Drive-In. Just be prepared to wait in line!

Go for a dip

Photo by Ferenz/

Water activities are integral to the cottage experience, and you can still enjoy them while in the city. Instead of a freshwater lake, try an outdoor public pool for a swim. If you prefer paddling to the breaststroke, you can canoe or kayak past the cityscapes of Vancouver, Toronto or Ottawa.

Take a hike

Photo by Rickyd/

Going on a nature walk is one of the best ways to unwind, and there are plenty of trails to discover within the city limits. Try the ones in Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park or Mount Royal in Montreal for memorable views. Toronto and of course Vancouver also offer an abundance of hikes.

Hit the beach

Photo by Josef Hanus /

Soak up some sun and feel the sand between your toes on a beach in Toronto, Ottawa or Vancouver, or visit one of Canada’s few artificially created urban beaches, where it’s all about getting a tan (swimming isn’t permitted): Sugar Beach or HTO Park in Toronto or Montreal’s Clock Tower Beach.

Fire up the ’cue

Photo by BlueOrange Studio/

There’s nothing better than a barbecue to get that cottage spirit going. Since you’re in the city, there are tons of options for how to get your fill of corn on the cob and smoky ribs; you can put them on the grill yourself at home, head to a city park equipped with a portable barbecue, or if you’re feeling especially lazy, just have a restaurant that specializes in barbecue do all the cooking for you so that all you have to do is eat.

Find a fire pit

Photo by Beata Becla/

A trip to the cottage is never complete without a nighttime campfire. Head to a bar with an outdoor fire pit for a similar effect—there are a few in Toronto). If you’re in Toronto, you can also get a permit for a fire pit in a public park. Bring on the s’mores!