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Exploring Urban Picnic Paradises: Health-Nourishing Fun in the Sun (TAIPEI Quarterly 2024 Spring Vol.35)

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Post date:2024-03-11

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TAIPEI #35 (2024 Spring)

Exploring Urban Picnic Paradises: Health-Nourishing Fun in the Sun


Author Rick Charette
Photographer Brown Chen, Tzuying Sun, Department of Information and Tourism, Taipei City Government

fs_1▲Taipei boasts numerous parks perfect for picnicking, where one can savor delicious food and unwind. (Photo・Brown Chen)

The happy sun of springtime has arrived, embracing Taiwan with an energizing deep hug. In Taipei the birds are busy in great numbers singing zestfully, butterflies are fluttering about proudly showing off their colors, and flowers are bursting forth and dancing together with in the warm breeze, entertaining passersby and admirers. It's the perfect time for a picnic!

In our feature article this issue we took you up into the mountains on Taipei's northern side for "spring days & green healing" in the immensely beautiful Yangmingshan. In the pages to come, we follow the same theme but stay within this bustling city's urban core, introducing nice parks where you can escape the hubbub, sit down to a healthy picnic on a grassy expanse in an oasis of green tranquility, and rest both body and spirit.

Taipei has undergone a fundamental aesthetic transformation over the past decades. At the forefront has been Taipei City Government determined to lift the metropolis high up in global livable city rankings — with stellar success, as a quick Google search will demonstrate. Taipei has engaged in a kaleidoscopic array of "livable city" as well as "green and sustainable city" initiatives, with a key component being the creation of green spaces.

fs_2▲▼A picnic can be more than just food, but a quality time with your family. (Photo・Brown Chen)
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Green Getaways in the City's Heart

The result has been a metamorphosis from a place of little green space to a green-loving city with a forest of parks. A prime example is the long necklace of contiguous riverside parks that stretches almost all the way around the urban core, following the Keelung, Tamsui, Xindian, and Jingmei rivers. A looping riverside bikeway wends its way through all, with inexpensive public YouBike rentals readily available. And right at the core's heart is Taipei's "Central Park," the poetically landscaped Daan Park, a broad expanse opened in 1994, featuring vibrant greenery that offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling surrounding city.

Your own patch of soft grass with views of healthy trees and sky-climbing mountains does wonders for healing one's psyche and body. Taipei's urban parks provide this idyllic triumvirate in abundance. 

In the past decade, the picnic trend has bloomed among the local populace of Taipei. Contributing to the fun has been the organization of large-scale events such as TLC Picnic Day (TLC台北野餐日) and Vogue Taiwan Picnic Day (Vogue風格野餐日) at multiple parks, musical performances, creative markets, and other stage activities to encourage everyone to spend more time in the greens. These join a packed schedule of other activities such as festivals and expos. Below are four of our most recommended picnic spots in this now very picnic-friendly city. 

Daan Park (大安森林公園)

This sprawling park, the city's largest, is in the center-south of the urban core. Metro Taipei delivers you right to the door, at Daan Park Station, on the park's north edge; this is the city's sole metro station with a sunken garden. There are convenient YouBike rental stations here and at several other locations around the park. 

The key draws for picnickers here are trees, trees, trees and birds, birds, birds — magnificent specimens in wondrous variety. The greatest picknicker volume is in the afternoons on weekends/holidays; families, especially, like to set up in the northeast area, where the largest expanse of open grass is located with a kids' play area beside. 

fs_4▲Sitting with your friends on the soft lawn of Daan Park is the greatest weekend pleasure. (Photo・Department of Information and Tourism, Taipei City Government)

As its Chinese name "Daan Forest Park" suggests, indeed a true forest has bloomed here since its opening in 1994, and there are still large grassy areas aplenty. Stand along the park's border at any point and you'll find it impossible to see through to the other side. A dense garden of trees, shrubs/bushes, and flowers, Daan Park has been affectionately dubbed the "lungs of Taipei." 

During a springtime picnic you'll be regaled by azaleas and hydrangeas in bloom, and among the grand specimens proudly representing scores of tree species are shade-providing banyan, yellow flame, camphor, and Formosan sweet gum trees. The park is used as a venue for numerous annual festival celebrations, and this year the Taipei City Government is holding the Taipei Azalea Festival (台北杜鵑花季) all through the month of March as well as the Taipei Floral Picnic (花伴野餐) on March 16th. 

For picknickers looking for post-feasting exercise, the park's northern half has far more human hubbub than the southern, sporting a wide array of recreational facilities. There are basketball courts, an inline-skating rink, a kids' playground with swings, slides, and a sand pit, and an outdoor amphitheater where music and other types of performances are offered on weekends/holidays. 

fs_5▲Daan Park is rich in biodiversity, with its eco pond being a habitat for many species of birds. (Photo・Brown Chen)

You'll also much enjoy the in-park eco pond, which has two artificial islands bursting with tree growth, perfect for avian roosting and nesting, denizens including Taiwan barbets, black-crowned night herons, grey herons, ibises, moorhens, and egrets. You'll also no doubt come upon flocks of photo enthusiasts lining the pond's shore. 

Xinsheng Park Area of Taipei Expo Park (花博公園新生園區)

Xinsheng Park is in the core's north sector, just south of the Keelung River (基隆河). MRT Yuanshan Station is two blocks to the west, with Zhongshan Elementary School Station three blocks south. There are a number of YouBike stations around the park's perimeter. Nearby picnicker draws include the adjoining Taipei Expo Park's Yuanshan Park (圓山園區) and Fine Arts Park (美術園區) areas. 

The biggest visual draw for picknickers at this park is flowers — specifically, its grand swath of roses of myriad pastel colors, looking like a great painter's palette. Another, unusual, enticement is the chance to watch landing planes directly overhead; the city's airport is immediately to the east.

fs_6▲Taipei Rose Garden is a top attraction inside Xinsheng Park and it can add a touch of elegance to your picnic day.(Photo・Brown Chen)

Among Xinsheng Park's varied attractions are the Taipei Rose Garden (台北玫瑰園), Taipei Collectible Botanical Garden (台北典藏植物園), and Garden Maze (迷宮花園). The rose garden offers a global rose tour, with more than 5,000 plants from over 800 varieties. Northern Taiwan's most diverse such floral oasis, it serves as the venue for the annual springtime Taipei Rose Festival (台北玫瑰展) in March. The festival's weekend fairs are extremely popular, with vendors selling such treasures as rose essential oils and jams, cut flowers, and potted plants. 

fs_7▲Inside Xinsheng Park, there is a large maze garden constructed with green hedge shrubs, where you can also see aircrafts flying overhead up-close. (Photo・Brown Chen)

Picknickers generally concentrate in the grassy areas around the octagonal Garden Maze, which has the rose garden immediately on its west and kids' playground east. The park's exercise-related recreational facilities include a baseball field, basketball courts, and indoor swimming pool.  As with Daan Park, weekend/holiday afternoons are the most popular picnic-outing times.  

Dajia Riverside Park & Meiti Riverside Park 
(大佳河濱公園 & 美堤河濱公園) 


The Dajia and Meiti parks lie along the Keelung River, with Dajia located on the south bank just north of Xinsheng Park and Meiti on the north bank, three blocks away from MRT Dazhi Station. Each park has a Taipei Riverside Bike Rental Center near its main entrance. 

Being along a river on the urban core's north side, both parks provide picnickers with expansive far-off views. From each park the green stretch of riverside parks cross-river is in view, and each provides good mountain vistas. Dajia Riverside Park overlooks The Grand Hotel, and from Meiti Riverside Park the famed Taipei 101 tower and other soaring architectural works of Xinyi District are also in grand view. In addition, the east-west orientation of the parks affords especially entertaining sunrises and sunsets, making these popular picnic times, though of course weekend/holiday afternoons are busiest.  

fs_9▲▼Taipei Riverside Bikeway stretches along Keelung River, connecting the riverside parks and the sweeping scenery. (Photo・Tzuying Sun;Brown Chen)
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Beyond their respective sections of the riverside bikeway network, each park is also choc-a-bloc with other amenities that provide good exercise opportunities after a hearty picnic repast. At Dajia are facilities for basketball, tennis, badminton, and croquet, and there are also playgrounds for youngsters with such irresistible attractions as slides, climbing equipment, and sand-play areas. Meiti provides facilities for volleyball, basketball, tennis, skateboarding, and even model go-kart racing. 

fs_11▲Residents bring kids to the park to picnic and enjoy the fresh air by the river. (Phot・Brown Chen)

The most popular picnicking area at Dajia is around the monumental Fountain of Hope (希望噴泉), close to the river, which shoots a central column up about 75 meters. The park offers 15-minute fountain shows every one or two hours (depending on the season) from 10:00am to around nightfall. These shows feature emulated blooms resembling the petals of a flower and a kaleidoscopic 80-color underwater lighting array. At Meiti the most popular picnicking area is along the west side of a graceful inlet-like bay area busy with bird life, especially migratory birds in autumn, which is close to the kids' playground.

fs_11.5▲After your picnic day, enjoy watching the sunset from the banks of Dajia Riverside Park. (Photo・Brown Chen)

As with the other large parks mentioned earlier, Dajia and Meiti are both popular venues for large-scale festival celebrations. Dajia is the main venue for the annual Taipei International Dragon Boat Championships, while Meiti used to stage TLC Picnic Day for three consecutive years.

Picnic Fun Maximized

While exploring Taipei's urban parks you'll quickly find that, especially on weekends/holidays, leisurely picnicking with family and groups of friends is a very popular activity. And though you'll have your own patch of grass and your solitude will be respected, you'll also notice that Taipei folk enjoy having others close around and easily engage with adjoining outing groups. This is especially true when you bring your kids — or your furry kids with you. 

fs_12▲Picnicking can also become a precious time with your furry friends. (Photo・Brown Chen)

You'll also see that, as bonus fun beyond the good eating and drinking, local folks commonly bring along playing cards and board games. Other play items especially effective in breaking through the boundaries and bringing people together are kites and frisbees. Neighboring kids are sure to be checking you out if you "step out of your zone" to play with these. The most irresistible version: frisbee frolicking with your pooch — as you can even outsource all the run.

fs_13▲A simple board game will add to the fun of your picnic with friends and family. (Photo・Brown Chen)

One other conspicuous practice in these parks you'll note is the pitching of small tents, something that has caught on in Taiwan in the past few years, a bit of "urban-nature day-camping." They're great for catnaps, short escapes from strong sunlight, changing tots, etc.   

fs_14▲Fresh fruits packed with reusable containers are great for the planet and for a good shot! (Photo・Brown Chen)

Meanwhile, in order to promote pristine picnicking, the Taipei City Government has also actively promoted the concept of "Leave No Trace," which is the ultimate outdoor ethic that respects the natural environment by minimizing human impact and implementing green sustainability initiatives. We'd like to invite you to enjoy the charm of Taipei's greens while leaving their natural beauty undisturbed for generations to come. 
 
RESPONSIBLE PICNICKING TIPS
  • Three Meal Preparation Essentials: non-perishable, lightweight, and easy to eat. 
  • Oldies but Goodies: Do try some of Taiwan's unique delicacies, such as fantuan (stuffed sticky-rice rolls, 飯糰), guabao (Taiwanese pork-belly buns, 刈包), tea eggs and baked sweet potato. Not only do these dishes meet the three criteria, but they also taste fantastic.
  • Reusable utensils, cutlery, and containers: Food-storage containers instead of plastic bags allow for easier packing and carrying, and are more sanitary. As well, a lightweight wooden tray is superior to towels/blankets for placing food on grass, preventing tipping/wastage, and it sure adds nice aesthetic texture to your Insta-shots.

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