25 things to do during patio season that don't involve drinking

Steal these ideas for whenever you’re stumped for something to do, and we’ll see you out there.

Steal these ideas for whenever you’re stumped for something to do, and we’ll see you out there

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Summer in Canada is so fleeting and so glorious, it makes us want to take all our social plans outdoors. No wonder "drinks on a patio" becomes the go-to for so many (it's called patio season for a reason). 

Buuuut… spending hours sipping al fresco can lead to more drinks than you wanted to have, big bills and a not-so-great sun/alcohol situation. That rosé all day summer vibe can be a real downer — literally

So what's a social, summer lover to do? Not all of us are getting our friends to commit to a softball league after all. We turned to a mix CBC Life's go-to experts and friends for their suggestions. Their bright ideas for booze-free summer outings are, as expected, quite the mix too, of simple, surprising, seasonal fun. Steal these ideas for whenever you're stumped for something to do, with no bar in sight, and we'll see you out there. 

Emily Reid, artistic & executive director of Toronto Outdoor Picture Show, says: 

I'm biased but I think there are few activities more magical to enjoy during an urban Canadian summer than outdoor movies in parks, squares, or your own backyard. It's a wonderful experience to sit with hundreds of friends and neighbours on a hot summer night and enjoy a wonderful film in a public space. It's where a lot of us find community, others find dates, and others still, bring the next generation of cinephiles to fall in love with cinema under the stars.

Tanya Kim, television host & personality and dog advocate & OSPCA Ambassador, says:

Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE and look forward to my occasional girls' nights filled with wine and tequila (woot woot!), but there's something to be said for the physical well-being and mental clarity that comes with participating in booze-free activities... Lucky for us, we have our beautiful pup Miss Mabel aka Bagel (@mabelandfrankie) to enjoy our hikes with. But you don't need a dog to get outside and take in all that nature has to offer. We love taking long walks throughout our neighbourhood park as well as others around the city.

Evan Newton, addictions counsellor at Bellwood Health Services says: 

As human beings we just simply have a certain amount of background nervous energy. Being without a drink in a social situation in which you're totally used to having one in your hand will make you quickly aware of that nervous energy, particularly since socializing is often accompanied by some anxiety. Having some sort of replacement strategy helps us put that nervous energy somewhere else … A common [replacement activity] is working out or exercising together. 

Eva Redpath, wellness leader, co-active life coach, and the founding trainer at Barry's Bootcamp Canada, says:

Explore your city's fantastic hiking and running trails! I live by the 80/20 rule; like eating Belgian-style doughnuts and Liege-style waffles at the Wafel Huis at the Leslieville Farmers Market [in Toronto] after a walk on a Saturday morning… tell Jan Eva sent you!

Laura Leibow, stand up comedian, says: 

I recommend comedy shows that don't have table service (any show at Toronto's Comedy Bar) or shows that don't serve booze, such as Laughs On Life's Terms, Recovery Comedy Fundraiser or Jordan Trafford's show at Remarkable Bean.

Dog park creeping is a personal fave. Go to a dog park and watch the dogs play, with or without a dog of your own. Also: summer's the perfect time for any weird activity you haven't tried yet but have wanted to: escape rooms, rock climbing, circus/trapeze classes, hula hoops workshop…

Jamey Ordolis, senior producer at CBC Life:

Switch up your dating strategy. You could meet for drinks, as most people do, or you could ditch the alcohol as a social/romantic lubricant and see how you spark totally sober. A coffee date is the most obvious substitute activity but, since it's summer, why not meet for a swim at a pool or beach, take a walk in an epic park, or try one another's go-to workouts? Endorphins > booze! 

Truc Nguyen, a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist, says:

For me, road trips are some of the best parts of the short summer season, and a fun way to spend quality time with friends without spending a lot of money. This summer, I'm hoping to explore daytrip-worthy spots with friends; from the Instagram-popular Elora Quarry to more secluded, crystal-clear coves in Grey County, there are so many beautiful sites near Toronto to explore. 

RJ Skinner, an actor, writer, Cynical Crafter, pro wrestler and fitness junkie, says:

Nothing compares to a good cup of coffee. There are countless coffee shops that pride themselves on their offerings and have patios just as good as anywhere else. Getting together before 9am, when it's still a little cool out, will make your coffee a great warming wake-up.

Yasmin Seneviratne, producer at CBC Life, says:

You know that quality time you get with your BFF when you meet up for drinks after work? In the summer, you can get that over a pedicure — you know you're both going a few times over the summer at least. Book your appointments together, then pick some parks nearby to stoll — gingerly — through afterward.

Melissa Lem, family doctor, on-air medical expert and clinical instructor, says:

My number one suggestion is to spend time in nature together — whether it be a stroll in a park with coffee, hanging out at the beach or a day hike. Not only does green time reduce stress and improve blood pressure and attention, but kids also play more cooperatively and communicate better in green space, which will make the whole family happier.

George Stroumboulopoulos, a television and radio interviewer, writer, director, actor and media producer, says: 

I'm all about walks on Queen Street while trying to pet as many dogs as possible.

Lady Hayes, a designer, photographer and mama, known for her beautiful floral inspired projects, says: 

Invite your pals over for a tie dye party. This is a great way to spend some time outside, to be creative and get a little messy. Also: yoga in the park! Grab some friends and bring your mats for some chill yoga in the park. 

Portia Corman, executive producer at CBC Life:

This summer everything in my garden is strong and lush and healthy — so impressive that most nights I can't wait to get back to my hermitage and enjoy nature's bounty in my own backyard. If you're also a green thumb (and slightly more social), consider ditching Friday night drinks in favour of a plant exchange. Ask a friend to come over with a few empty pots, get them to choose some specimens they want to add to their garden, and split them up. Instead of drinking a bunch of calories, you'll burn some — and save your BFF some money too. Because let's face it, plants are expensive.

Ann Kaplan, author, CEO and star of the Real Housewives of Toronto, says:

Choose events that have activity: boating, hiking, swimming, playing games, or walking — activities that are social, but not sedentary. 

Joe Amio, creator, curator and menswear aficionado, says:

I recommend beach volleyball and run clubs — both of which are very social sporting events. Both allow you to soak up a ton of sun, and interact with fellow participants. Run clubs can also be an opportunity to see different parts of the city.

Joy McCarthy, holistic nutritionist, founder of Joyous Health and best-selling author, says: 

You can literally take any summer cocktail —whether it's a mojito (my personal favourite) or sangria — and simply omit the alcohol but still have all the flavour. And on top of that, you can even boost it with a natural health supplement like collagen for some awesome beauty benefits such a glowing, healthy skin!

Jacqueline Ashton, a photographer based in Toronto says: 

Go vintage/thrift shopping! House of Vintage, Chosen Vintage, Public Butter, Value Village, and Common Sort [all in Toronto] are some of my favourite spots. I also love going to concerts, I use this Song Kick app which links to my Spotify to help me see what artists I listen to have concerts coming up. 

Dr. Christopher Labos, a cardiologist who writes about medicine and health issues, says: 

If you want to socialize with a group of people, join a team and do something active. Whether it's soccer, baseball, frisbee, whatever you do, do something active and do it with a group of people you enjoy being with. 

Shahir Massoud, chef and TV host, says:

Get creative and think beyond a standard pot-luck! Stretch out and customize pizzas on the grill for example. Or, roast some marinated veggies/meats and pair them with authentic sauces and toppings for a make-your-own fajita or shawarma night. Create culinary challenges for friends and guests to keep people's creative juices flowing and to keep the dining aspect interactive. 

Megan Beairsto, Executive chef at Open Eats, Summerside, P.E.I., says:

There's no better feeling than spending the day near the salty water combined with the nostalgia of ending your sun-soaked day around a beach bonfire. A question that every local gets asked by a passing tourist is "Where's the best beach?" But there's no best beach — it's usually just the local's personal favourite. I also recommend parasailing at the Inn at the Pier. There's no better way to see the gorgeous North Shore than from 1000 feet in the air! There's also paddle boarding, kayaking and sea-doo rentals at the Pier — enough to make a whole day out of!

Zain Meghji, producer and presenter, and head of video content at Daily Hive, says: 

My favourite thing to do on a beautiful, sunny day: Go visit a neighbourhood that I rarely visit, or often just drive by, and explore the shops and businesses — bookstores and eclectic gift shops are my fave. It makes for a great solo adventure or helps to keep the conversation with a friend moving, literally. Recommend 'hoods: Main Street (Vancouver), Commercial Drive (Vancouver), Beaches (Toronto).

Jonathan Gushue, executive chef at Fogo Island Inn, says:

It is more than acceptable to sit at the cottage or on the patio with a kombucha or tonic. As for prepping and fermenting drinks at home, it is well worth it.The key to successful home fermenting of no alcohol beverages is preparation and patience. I have really enjoyed time making these at the cottage with the kids where time isn't as much of an issue. 

Sam White, associate producer at CBC Life, says:

If you need a respite from the heat, or are looking for something to do indoors on a rainy day, I highly suggest wrangling a few friends for private room karaoke. Unlike the typical bar set-up that requires you to get up onstage in front of a bunch of drunken strangers, most private karaoke spots have small rooms you can rent by the hour with enough seating and dancing space. Get there right when it opens — typically mid-afternoon — and you'll dodge the swarms of bachelor parties belting Don't Stop Believin. You'll be surprised at how cathartic it can be to spend an hour or two screaming Céline at the top of your lungs. 

Brittany Toole, CBC Life contributor:

I recently went to the batting cages for maybe the first time ever. I hadn't swung a bat in over 12 years, and I am by no means a team sports kinda gal. To my surprise, it was exhilarating. It's fun to see yourself improve, and really entertaining to see just how bad you are compared to the seven-year-old next to you. 

These interviews have been edited and condensed.


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