The buzz has begun: Dîner en Blanc is set for August 25 in Vancouver. The elegant alfresco event—in which thousands of participants put on their finest all-white outfit and converge on a secret location—is the summer’s most prestigious picnic. But with an invitation required to attend, past participants given priority, and an absurdly long wait list, chances are if you don’t know somebody who’s somebody, you’re going to be wearing colours that day.
While some disdain Dîner en Blanc, for others the attraction is simple: it’s a beautiful communal dining experience in a lovely location. If that’s what you’re after—no white attire required—there are alternatives.
Here are eight such events taking place over the summer in Vancouver or within a two-hour drive. Some are fancy and relatively pricey; others are down-to-earth and budget-friendly. All will reward you with locally sourced food, a sense of community, and a gorgeous setting.
Agassiz Farms Cycle Tour (Saturday [July 25])
Previously known as the Slow Food Cycle Tour and occurring in both Agassiz and Chilliwack, this daylong event now concentrates only on the former. The 25-kilometre, self-guided route winds along flat, public roadways with stops at berry farms, cheese producers, an apiary, and more. Samples are available, as well as picnic fare for sale along the way, and a free shuttle will deliver larger purchases to the finish line. Registration costs $10 per person; bring your own bike, or Pedal Sport of Chilliwack has a limited number to rent. See the Fraser Valley Cycle Tours website.
Harmony Arts Festival Beachside Patio and Waterfront Lounge (July 31 to August 9)
With free outdoor movies and concerts galore, there’s plenty going on over the 10 days of this West Vancouver arts festival. Two casual eating areas provide killer views of the action and the Stanley Park vista with first-come, first-served seating. On Argyle Avenue, the Park Royal Beachside Patio is run by the Dirty Apron Cooking School & Delicatessen, offering dishes such as moules frites and Niçoise salad. In Millennium Park at the foot of 15th Street, the Re/Max Waterfront Lounge will operate Caffe Al Mercato and serve pastas like penne with chicken and pesto cream sauce. Both are licensed and family-friendly, with à la carte dishes from $7 to $16. See the Harmony Arts website.
Whistler Mountain Winemakers Dinners (August 1 and September 5)
Located inside the Roundhouse Lodge high on Whis-tler Mountain, Steeps Grill and Wine Bar is hosting two winemakers dinners this summer. The August 1 event will highlight California’s Ravenswood winery, while September 5 will focus on a variety of wines from the Okanagan. (Tickets to each event are $99.45 per person, including the gondola ride up.) For a more family-friendly meal with a postcard view, the Roundhouse patio offers buffet barbecues on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights throughout the summer. Prices vary; see the Whistler Blackcomb website.
Araxi Longtable Dinners (August 3 in Vancouver and September 5 in Pemberton)
With 250 people breaking bread at a long table draped in white linen, these elegant events have a similar feel to Dîner en Blanc. The Vancouver dinner takes place at Vanier Park’s Bard on the Beach site, while the Pemberton one happens in the bucolic setting of North Arm Farm. Both include a multicourse, farm-to-table meal cooked by Toptable chefs, including James Walt from Whistler’s Araxi restaurant ($159 per person, including wine pairings but not tax and gratuity). See the Aeaxi website.
Slow Food Cycle Sunday Pemberton (August 16)
This daylong event is a go-at-your-own-pace 50-kilometre ride along Pemberton Meadows Road that focuses on connecting participants with the farmers and producers in the area. Chefs will be cooking up ingredient-driven dishes for sale at various stops. Registration costs $5 per person or $20 per family; see the Tourism Pemberton BC website.
Unbuckled (September 12)
Billed on its website as “Vancouver’s ultimate backyard bbq”, this new 19+ event takes place on a Sunday afternoon around the Brockton baseball diamond in Stanley Park. The team behind Harvest Haus is organizing a down-home picnic with beer-can chicken, ribs, and more, and the venue is licensed. The day involves team sports like tug of war and burlap-sack races along with country and bluegrass music. Like Dîner en Blanc, there’s a dress code: participants are encouraged to wear their “best hillbilly outfits” and “the sexiest cuts in plaid finery”. Tickets start at $25; see the Unbuckled website.
Feast of Fields (September 13)
FarmFolk CityFolk has moved its annual Metro Vancouver fundraiser from Delta back to UBC Farm this year. With a wineglass in hand, guests wander among the tents sampling the efforts of local restaurants, farmers, fishers, vintners, and brewers. Tickets for a grazing afternoon cost $95; an additional $10 buys round-trip bus transport between UBC Farm and Commercial Drive or the Olympic Village Canada Line station. Similar events take place on August 16 in Kelowna and September 20 near Shawnigan Lake in Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley. See the Feast Of Fields website.
Joy of Feeding (September 19)
Following a hiatus in 2014, this family-oriented festival that highlights home cooking across cultures is returning to UBC Farm; this time it will be in the evening, with wine and beer available. Spearheaded by Meeru Dhalwala of Vij’s restaurant, it’s a fundraiser for the farm that brings together 16 cooks from 16 different ethnic backgrounds. Each will be sharing a dish such as Tibetan beef momos, Brazilian vegetable and chicken salad, and Rwandan lamb and cassava-leaf stew. Stay tuned for more info at the Joy Of Feeding website.