Dine Al Fresco with 3200 Friends: Diner en Blanc Comes to Vancouver

Photo credit: Maurice Li | Flickr

Photo credit: Maurice Li | Flickr

Vancouver’s biggest fancy picnic just got bigger.

Diner en Blanc is back this Aug. 21 and this year 3,200 tickets are up for grabs.  The unique al fresco dining event sees thousands of people dressed entirely in white converge on a secret location for the mother-of-all picnics.

Past Diners en Blanc in Vancouver have proven exceedingly popular.  In 2012, a “diner” was staged at Jack Poole Plaza at the Vancouver Convention Centre, drawing 1,200 guests.  Last year, 2,600 diners in white took over the grassy park in front of Science World on False Creek.  The location for this year’s event is, of course, a secret: Attendees will only find out on the day of the dinner.

Photo credit: Rick Chung | Flickr

Photo credit: Rick Chung | Flickr

The Diner en Blanc concept, which originated in Paris more than a quarter-century ago and has spread to cities around the world, seeks to evoke the bygone glamour of European courtly life (when, apparently, thousands of people would just spontaneously picnic together).  As per Diner en Blanc rules, guests must bring all of their own accoutrements to the event: white chairs and white folding tables, as well as their own picnic baskets with self-catered dinners packed inside.

Upon arrival, the tables are arranged into long rows, with men seated on one side and women on the other.  (It’s worth noting here that people get very dressed up for the event, donning everything from white tuxes and elegant white gowns to togas and party dresses.) In past years, the evening has started with everyone flourishing white napkins before sitting down to eat.

Photo credit: Maurice Li | Flickr

Photo credit: Maurice Li | Flickr

Diners who prefer not to pack their own meals can also pick up specially catered dinners before the event, prepared by local chefs.  One of the restaurants offering dinner baskets this year is downtown’s gourmet butcher shop Big Lou’s, where $75 gets you a classic French picnic for two people: house-made pate, French baguettes with sliced country ham and artisan cheeses, goat cheese tarts and more.

Plenty of wine and champagne keep the evening flowing nicely.  Live bands provide a musical backdrop to the fancy, al fresco meal.  In past years, sparklers have even been handed out at dusk, turning the scene into a sea of glittering colour.

Photo credit: Maurice Li | Flickr

Photo credit: Maurice Li | Flickr

Tickets for Diner en Blanc are $35 (plus surcharges), but getting one won’t be easy.  Last year, 12,000 people signed up for the waiting list and only 2,600 of them got tickets. Hopeful diners who want to try their luck this year must register by July 28 to be put on the official waiting list.  On June 30, everyone on the list gets an email with access to a site where tickets can be bought, on a first-come, first-served basis.  (But you better be a quick draw with your mouse – In the past, tickets have sold out almost instantly.)

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