While London, Ontario, shares many features with its British namesake—including double-decker buses—it retains a pointedly Canadian flavour and a culture all its own. Visitors find a wide variety of things to do in London, a culturally active city about halfway between Toronto and Detroit, Michigan. Sitting astride the fork in the Thames River, London hosts numerous music, art and food festivals, as well as national and international sporting events, against that backdrop.
London is a college town, home to both Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario, but its schools are not the only reason for its notoriety. The city’s reputation as a tourist destination continues to grow as it welcomes big-name events, like the 2013 International Skating Union World Figure Skating Championships, which will be held at London’s Budweiser Gardens. About 150 million viewers around the world will watch the top 200 skaters from 50 countries compete here in televised men’s, ladies, pair and ice-dance competitive events.
In summer, London holds many things to do, as the city is abuzz with music, art and other cultural festivals. Sunfest, the annual Canadian world music festival, is held each year in London’s Victoria Park and is one of the North America’s top 100 summer festival destinations. Since 1973, the city has also presented the Home County Folk Festival, an admission-by-donation festival held each June in Victoria Park. Rock the Park, London’s annual rock concert, happens at Harris Park near the fork of the river Thames. The festival raises money for Bethany’s Hope Foundation in support of metachromatic leukodystrophy research and has featured classic rock artists like ZZ Top, Peter Frampton, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, the Doobie Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Heart and Steve Miller Band.
London’s tourist attractions include its summer art festivals. London Ontario Live Arts Festival, or LOLA Fest, is held in the third week of September around downtown. The roster is filled with visual and musical arts performances and exhibits and has featured well-known contemporary arts and musical groups like Grizzly Bear, Akron/Family and Brian Eno. The London Fringe Theater Festival is held at the end of each June, and each year London’s Imadon Street Painting Performance Group puts on the Expressions in Chalk Street Painting Festival.
In addition to its art and music tourist attractions, London also hosts the International Food Festival in Victoria Park, as well as the London Ribfest. The festival is the second-largest of its kind in North America, in which vendors compete to make the best barbecued beef and pork ribs. Visitors can sample the barbecue and related cuisine, as well as view some of the hundreds of exhibits and live bands. The Fiesta! London Mexican Festival rounds out the summer calendar by transporting the music, culture and culinary traditions of Mexico to London.
After a visit, you will not mistake this city for its namesake. London’s penchant for lively cultural festivals mirrors the international feel of the U.K. metropolis while retaining its own brand of Canadian charm.