Although London does have a Thames River, a Covent Garden Market and a Piccadilly Street, don’t mistaken it with London, England. Instead, this London is a substantially smaller city in Southwestern Ontario that is surrounded by woodlands and farmlands. In fact, it is known as ‘The Forest City’ because when it was first formed it was done so by clearing land in the middle of a forest.
Today, the rectangular shaped city is one of Ontario’s largest municipalities, made up of commercial and residential areas. It also has numerous landmarks and attractions, as well as having a variety of things to do. When visiting this area of Canada, London should not be overlooked, as it has much to offer.
Lets explore the best things to do in London, Canada:
1. Go to the park
The 7.3 hectare Victoria Park is one of London’s major gathering places. The park was designed in 1874 as a British military base and cricket ground, but today is a recreational centre.
Victoria Park is host to numerous annual events, as well as having a bandstand, a skate park and a skating rink. It also has a number of monuments, like the cenotaph, veteran’s plaque and Boer War Monument.
An interesting activity that can be enjoyed at the park is squirrel fishing, which is due to the large population of Eastern Grey squirrels that live in the park. If you have never tried this before, it is a must.
2. Go to church
The historic St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica dates back to August 1834, though the original log structure burned down in 1845. What stands now is a magnificent 13th century French Gothic Revival church that was built in 1851.
The cathedral features beautiful stained glass windows and a Casavant organ. In 1958, the façade’s twin towers were added, as was the Lady Chapel and the stunning interior paintings.
St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica is home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of London. In can be visited throughout the day, or you can even go to mass.
3. Learn about the birth of insulin
Banting House is the former house of Dr. Frederick Banting; the inventor of insulin. Today, the house is a museum dedicated to his life and his discovery of insulin.
In 1997, Banting House became a National Historic Site of Canada. Inside the museum are his desk, medicine cabinet and personal artwork, amongst other things.
Visit the museum and learn about the birth of insulin by looking at artefacts and apothecary that was used to create this fantastic medicine. It is also worthwhile to wander around the adjacent Banting Square, which is home to a garden, a life-sized sculpture of the doctor, the Flame of Hope and a massive globe sculpture.
4. Wander around a museum
There are a few great museums in London that any history or art lover should visit. Of these, London Museum is the most popular.
The London Museum is home to over 5,000 works of art and 45,000 artefacts. Most of the collection was created by regional artists, though there are also numerous pieces by the famous Group of Seven on display.
The Museum of Ontario Archaeology, the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum and the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame are also great places to wander around. If you are visiting London with the kids, be sure to check out the London Regional Children’s Museum.
5. Have fun at an event
London hosts numerous festivals events throughout the year. Depending on when you are in the city, these will make your visit that much more fun and exciting.
Sunfest, which takes place every July, is the second largest world music event in the country! It is held at Victoria Park, and in addition to live music, also boasts some fantastic food from various parts of the world.
Speaking of food, the London Ribfest is another must for foodies. If you love the theatre, visit London in June during the London Fringe Theatre Festival.
6. Take a tour of a brewery
Canada’s largest brewery (Labatt) has its headquarters in London and tours of the brewery are available all year. The entire tour takes around 2 hours to complete and includes samplings.
Tours of the brewery must be booked in advance, which is easy to do by email. Anyone can take the tour, though you must be of legal drinking age to enjoy the beer samples.
There are also a few smaller breweries in London that offer tours, like the family-run Anderson Craft Ales and the Toboggan Brewing Company. If you would prefer to tour a non-alcoholic brewery, visit Booch Organic Kombucha.
7. Explore Covent Garden Market
Dating back to 1845, Covent Garden Market is a London treasure, not unlike the famous market in the UK city of the same name. The market is a landmark, filled with stalls that sell fresh meat, fruit and vegetables.
In addition to just selling raw food, Covent Garden Market is also home to restaurants, bakeries, bars and delis. You can also buy flowers, local handicrafts and chocolates, ending the day off with a massage.
From May to December the market takes it outside with their outdoor farmers’ market. Sample fresh produce and chat with the farmer’s themselves about their passion.
8. Head to the races
Just a few minutes west of London is the Delaware Speedway, which happens to be one of Canada’s oldest continuously operating tracks. The speedway opened in 1952, and since then has hosted numerous races.
Delaware Speedway has a race every Friday night between April and September. It is also home to a museum that displays original posters, programs and photos of races that have been held here.
Today, the track hosts seven different divisions of races, as well Bone Stock Chaos Cars. It has also hosted major races, including the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, the ARCA Series, the CASCAR Super Series and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
9. Enjoy a long walk
The 109 kilometre Thames Valley Trail runs along the Thames and North Thames Rivers. The trail is paved and passes through a few of London’s parks, including Gibbons Park and Springbank Park.
The trail runs from Delaware to St. Mary’s, passing through London along the way. It is well marked at regular intervals, making it easy for you to find your way.
The Thames Valley Trail is a lovely hike and is a great way to spend a beautiful day. It offers spectacular views of the valleys and other elevated areas. Group hikes are offered, or you can enjoy it on your own.
10. Jump into a storybook
Storybook Gardens is a family-friendly amusement park that will make you and the kids feel as if you jumped right into a storybook. The park is open year-round and is home to plenty of attractions.
Rides, games, recreational activities and even animals can all be enjoyed at Storybook Gardens. You can even watch a play, explore vegetable gardens and ride a wagon.
Many of the attractions at the park are based on fairy tales, including Humpty Dumpty, the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe and Three Men in a Tub. In the winter you can go ice skating, while in the summer the splash park opens up.
11. Play golf, slide down a water slide or go rock climbing
All of these things (and more) can be done at East Park Golf. The golf course/amusement park is great for the whole family, with things for everyone to enjoy.
The golf course is an 18-hole, Robbie Robinson designed course that is stunningly beautiful and a great place to play. In fact, it has frequently been voted as London’s best golf course.
If golf isn’t your thing, head to the amusement park portion of East Park Golf. There, you can go rock climbing, ride a bumper car, jump in a go kart or cool off in the waterpark.
12. Go on a self-guided tour with your phone
Download the ‘Heart of London App’ onto your phone and let your personal tour guide lead you around the city, telling stories along the way. Stroll along the riverside and through the city centre, seeing all of the main sights.
The app has 90 minutes of commentary, which includes 28 stories on the history of some of London’s finest sites. These include the Eldon House, the Middlesex County Building, the London Museum and Labatt Park.
The app also tells you stories of historic moments that took place in the city, like the Battle of the Atlantic and the city’s first ever hanging! It is a fun and informative way to tour around the city on your own.
13. Head to the beach
There is no beach in London itself, but there is around 40 kilometres south of the city in Port Stanley. This harbour community sits along the north shore of Lake Erie and is a great place to spend a sunny day.
Port Stanley is home to two large sandy beaches, both of which have been given a ‘Blue Beach’ designation. There are restaurants lining the beach, as well as accommodations for those that want to spend the night.
The village is also home to numerous shops and marinas, as well as the lifting bridge across Kettle Creek. As well, there are some lovely historic homes throughout Port Stanley, so it is worthwhile to explore a little bit.
14. Spend a night in nature
There are two conservation camps not too far from London where nature lovers can truly immerse themselves in nature. Both of these areas offer camping between March and October.
The Dalewood Conservation Area consists of 25 hectares of wetlands. It has 200 served camp sites, 12 kilometres of hiking trails and an outdoor pool.
The 10 hectare Lake Whittaker Conservation Area sits along Lake Whittaker and features two beaches, a public boat launch and canoe rentals. It also has 205 campsites, some of which are serviced and some that are not.
15. Step back in time
Step back in time at the Fanshawe Pioneer Village. This open-air museum uses historical re-enactments to tell the history of the rural communities that used to be in the area.
Sitting on around 19 hectares of land, Fanshawe Pioneer Village consists of 33 structures, some of which are original and some that are replicas. It also has a collection of over 25,000 artefacts.
The village is split into four areas, each of which represents a different period in the development of the area. These date from 1820 to 1920, complete with buildings and staff dressed in costumes of that time showcasing what life was like.