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London Music
Hall

The Music Hub Of London

The London Music Hall is located in Downtown London and is one of the go-to venues for music lovers in London. It’s always packed full of amazing concerts from every music genre you could think of, so it’s a great idea to keep an eye on what is going down in the London Music Hall so that you don’t miss a thing. There have been some really big names that have performed at the music hall such as Snoop Dogg, Skrillex, August Burns Red, Calvin Harris, The Trews, and Killswitch Engage to name a few. It is also a great place that holds concerts for lesser-known groups. This is amazing for fans because you get a much more intimate experience listening to one of your favorite groups at a venue like this.

The London Music Hall has been a beloved part of the music scene and the downtown culture in London for so many years and recently went through a facelift that took it from a small event location to a medium-sized venue. People who frequent the London Music Hall concerts and events love it.

One of the things to note about the London Music Hall is that you’re not going to be able to access the main area from the front of building on Dundas street. Instead, you’re going to need to enter the venue from the Queen Street parking lot, which isn’t a big deal but it’s good to note when you go to a concert so that you’re not wandering around looking for the entrance. Security and staff that work at the London Music Hall are always very friendly and nice to interact within, so you’re sure to enjoy your time when you go!

The Rooms

Rum Runners

This part of the venue holds 350 people. It has a green room that includes a private bath and shower. It also has access to the sky view patio, which is absolutely beautiful on summer nights. It has two bar locations and five washroom locations.

When you see a concert here, the feeling is close and intimate. It’s a really great venue for music lovers and for when you’re really into the band and want to experience their music up close and personal. It is a great small size venue.

If you’re looking to rent out Rum Runners for an event, the venue is not too big where it will feel overwhelming to try and decorate and figure out logistics, but it still has all of the amenities and features that are great for your guests.

On Fridays, Rum Runners turns into more of a bar/club scene and plays rock music. On Saturday’s, if you’re into electronic music, you’re going to want to head to Rum Runners to hang out, drink, and dance there.

London Music Hall Main Room

The main room of the London Music Hall can hold 1,600 people. It has two different green rooms for the performers with a private bathroom and two showers. It has a three side mezzanine that looks out over the stage. There are five bars in total for you to acquire your beverages. There are even two bus parking spots with power for the traveling and touring bands. There are four large bathrooms in this area and of course, it also has access to the sky view patio.

Concerts here are pumping. They give you the vibe of a large venue without needing to squint to see the performance on stage. You’re still close enough to feel like you’re a part of the action, but the event space is big enough that you feel like you’re at a big concert.

My old workplace used to host our Christmas parties here, and let me tell you that it is an amazing space for big events. There is so much height and space to transform the hall into whatever you want to make it.

The Expansion

In 2013 the London Music Hall had a facelift that left it looking like a brand new building inside. They added a large new stage that can host bigger sets for bands and performers. They also added a second-floor mezzanine that surrounds the main floor so that you can watch from above if you want to get out of the crowd. They added three private boxes for those who get to be in the lap of luxury with the VIP treatment. And they also added more bars and exits. But the best part for the bands that come to play is the added greenroom.

The greenroom is a separated space for the band to relax and unwind in. At one concert that I went to in London Music Hall the lead singer actually mentioned the green room saying that it was a pretty swanky addition from the last time he played at London Music Hall, so you know when the lead singer feels so passionately about it enough to mention it on stage that it must be really nice.

Food and Beverage

There is an A&W attached to the London Music Hall and they have a window that opens into the venue so that while you’re enjoying your music or event and you get a little peckish you can order a delicious burger or fries, or get one of their heavenly ice-less root beers and when you’re full of adrenaline and excitement from watching an amazing band tear it up on stage, the fast food hit the spot perfectly.

The music hall has multiple bars open during events so that you won’t have too long of a line up to wait through to get your drinks. The prices are more on the higher side, as is expected at a venue like that, but on Saturdays, Rum Runner has cheaper drinks.

There are also a lot of really great restaurants close by since the London Music Hall is located downtown. So if you have a later show the best thing you can do is grab a bite to eat somewhere downtown and just walk over to the venue.

Events

Block Party After-Party

Block party is one of London’s best events of the whole year. It’s one giant party that starts in Harris park with amazing performances by the biggest and hottest names for performers. The music is pumping and the vibes are great and when it’s all over but you want the party to continue, the London Music Hall is the official after-party location so that the good vibes and fun don’t have to end.

Roch’n’Con

The ultimate rock and roll experience, you’ll be surrounded by other lovers of rock as you make your way through all of the rock and roll presentations and attractions. There are vintage guitars, rare vinyls, cool collectibles, and amazing merch for sale at this event. And there are of course concerts and special rock gods to get up close to. For any rock fan, it is the event to attend in London.

Forest City Metal Fest

Metal music lovers unite — this all-ages event is for every metal fan in London. It has great names in the metal world and brings them all to you in one venue.

Concerts

There are so many amazing concerts and performances here. Make sure you keep an eye out for what’s upcoming so that you don’t miss something that you love.

The London Music Hall really is a shining gem in the downtown core of London Ontario. It’s the place to be for music lovers and it is bringing a culture to the Dundas and Richmond area that is promoting a love of music and entertainment. It’s surrounded by great eats and fun things to do, so if you have an event that you’re attending there try and make a whole day of it! It’s also an amazing choice if you’re looking for a venue to suit all of your needs. Check them out!

Rock The Park
2018

London Ontario’s largest live music festival

It’s summertime in downtown London and you know what that means – Festival Season! The city hosts a wide array of themed events over several months, but perhaps none are a bigger draw than Rock the Park. The annual 4-day concert held during the last week of July offers something for everyone, no matter what their jam might be. So pick your night. Dig into the back of your closet and find that old Supertramp t-shirt or even a neon fanny-pack to pull together the perfect look for your bill of choice. Get your friends together, grab a few water bottles, and get to the park. This thing is going to rock.

History

Formerly known as ‘Hawk Rocks the Park’ from 2004 to 2008, London Ontario’s Rock the Park festival began as a celebration of classic rock, shaking the downtown area and enthralling live music lovers with a new bill of musical acts each summer.

Fifteen years ago, with an eye on London’s Harris Park – a venue with enough space to support a large number of projected attendees, staff, sponsors, and vendors – The Jones Entertainment Group set about realizing their vision for a multi-day rock’n’roll spectacle that would put the city on the festival map. Today the event draws legions of live music fanatics from across Ontario and even the United States every summer, dramatically boosting the city’s tourism revenue. It’s safe to say that The Jones Entertainment Group succeeded in their mission.

In recent years, Rock the Park has diversified from its original focus on classic rock, to help earn broader appeal from festival goers. In 2014, the festival dedicated one of its nights to country music performances for the first time in its history. Following the success of this shift in audience focus, the Jones Entertainment Group saw the value in splitting up the festival thematically, dedicating each night to a distinct musical genre or trend.

In 2017, Rock the Park promoted a 90’s hip-hop night, announcing acts such as Salt-N-Pepa, Naughty by Nature, and Young MC among others, selling out in record time. This year, organizers have put together a bill that riffs on lasts years familiar themes, featuring the likes of Platinum Blonde, A Flock of Seagulls, Men Without Hats, and Cyndi Lauper, attracting similar numbers.

At Rock the Park, nostalgia is always on tap!

A Legacy of Sponsors Rocking Out for Worthy Causes

At its inception, the event was the annual summer blast, presented by its lone sponsor, 103.9 The Hawk, and was the primary fundraiser for Bethany’s Hope Foundation, raising over 2.2 million in the fight against MLD (Metachromatic leukodystrophy) in its first 12 years. Eventually, the charity had plans to embark upon a more nation-wide awareness strategy (made possible in no small part by the funding generated by Rock the Park), and respectfully stepped aside as prime beneficiary in order to make room for other charities to benefit just as they had.

In 2016, the event returned, with three new radio station sponsors sharing the bill – 98.1 Free FM, FM96, and the country station BX93. The number of charities benefited by Rock the Park has grown likewise and has included Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and Area, Make a Wish Southwestern Ontario, The Brandon Prust Foundation, and the ‘Children’s Health Foundation, also acting as sponsor to Western Mustangs Football, raising over $3 million for London area charities. Today, the festival is supported by their main sponsor, Start.ca, along with iHeart Radio, FM96, and 97.5 Virgin Radio, Palm Bay, Tourism London, Coors Light, Pizza Pizza, London Honda, The Ontario Media Development Corporation, and the London Free Press.

Headliners

An impressive list of indie, rock, hard rock, country, pop, and R&B acts have graced the Rock the Park stage since the festival’s inception, including Steppenwolf, ZZ TOP, Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Steve Winwood, The Tragically Hip, The Arkells, Stone Temple Pilots, and younger, up-and-coming acts like July Talk to name just a few. See the official Rock the Park entry on Wikipedia for a complete list of all headliners throughout the event’s 15-year history.

Tens of thousands of rock’n’roll fans attend Rock the Park each and every year. Like most festivals of its size, it has overcome its setbacks. In 2007, one of the headlining bands was meant to be Boston – the band canceled all their tour stops after the untimely death of Brad Delp – but with Pat Benatar, Deep Purple, Nazareth, Cheap Trick, George Thorogood and Creedence, the event was hardly left lacking for a big name draw.

Rock the Park’s promoters have done a great job over the years, not only in signing and promoting great acts for the festival but have also carefully considered the needs of their different audience members, offering flexibility and amenities to ensure that a safe and comfortable experience is had by all, no matter the size of your budget.

Different Ways to Enjoy the Show

The different types of passes available will determine how you can enjoy the show:

Gates open at 4 pm each day of Rock the Park, with live performances scheduled to begin at 5 pm. General admission passes are specific to the general admission area, with access to two large beer gardens and an expansive, standing area right up against the stage.

The VIP Reserved Table Passes are a nice touch for people who like to be entertained in style. These passes guarantee you a seat in a special, reserved- seating table area, also close to the stage. The VIP area is equipped with its own washroom facilities, a separate entrance to help avoid the crowds, and food and bar service at designated stations. VIP pass holders are also welcome to stand for their favorite acts (if they prefer) at a VIP standing area.

The VIP Standing Room Only Pass gets you into the VIP standing area but does not reserve you a chair among the tabled seating.

For those seeking the royal treatment for themselves and their party, concert organizers have ‘suites’ available. These elevated and covered areas look like miniature outdoor stages themselves and provide up to 40 attendees with private bar service and washrooms for the duration of the show. Any interested parties are asked to contact Jones Entertainment Group for pricing.

A raised, designated seating area is always available for attendees with physical disabilities and their companions on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Rock’n’Roll (with Rules)

Due to the size of the park and the need for organizers to keep spaces open for large, moving crowds, there is no camping allowed at the park. Lawn chairs are likewise prohibited. Other similar regulations apply to what festival-goers may bring:

  • No umbrellas longer than 24 inches
  • No lawn chairs
  • No blankets
  • No selfie-sticks
  • No pets
  • No professional cameras / cameras with removable lenses
  • Outside food or beverages will not be allowed into the park
  • Bags, backpacks, and coolers will be confiscated by staff
  • Attendees may not leave and re-enter the park

The event website also says that sound and video recording devices are strictly prohibited, but presumably, smartphones are OK so be sure to capture lots of great moments with you and your friends – share them on social media, tag #rockthepark, and show everyone how you like to rock out!

Area Conveniences

London’s downtown area is home to multiple attended parking lots that offer overnight pricing if you plan to stay with friends. If you and your party would prefer to have your own base of operations for the duration of the festival, downtown London features numerous hotel and Airbnb options that are guaranteed to suit your needs – all within walking distance of Harris Park.

Grab a last-minute bite to eat at any number of London’s downtown eateries, pubs, and bistros, only steps from Harris Park. Check out the Covent Garden Market for snacks and fresh produce. And if you’re still not satisfied after the show, hit up FitzRays or the Richmond Tavern for more late-night rock’n’roll. Visit the London Tourism website for Rock the Park to see a great list of nearby options.

Richmond Row, Downtown London, Ontario

Tickets and Lineups

Tickets for the event have been on sale since March 3rd. The cost of passes ranges in price depending on which nights audience members wish to attend / how much of the four-day festival they wish to see. Different tickets are good for different days, so pay attention when you’re purchasing, or you could well end up seeing a very different lineup than the one you were anticipating!

Two Day Rock Pass (July 11th  and 14th) – $120

Wednesday – Shinedown, Chevelle, Machine Gun Kelly, The Lazys, Bobnoxious

Saturday – Rise Against, Three Days Grace, Theory (formerly Theory of a Dead Man), Pop Evil, Texas King

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday – FM 96 Presents

General Admission Pass – $70 *including HST and service charges

VIP Pass (reserved tables – SOLD OUT) – $125 *including HST and service charges

VIP Pass (standing room only) – $125 *including HST and service charges

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday – Mixtape Rewind

General Admission Pass – $70 *including HST and service charges

VIP Pass (reserved tables – SOLD OUT) – $125 *including HST and service charges

VIP Pass (standing room only) – $125 *including HST and service charges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday – Bring Back the 90s

General Admission Pass – $70 *including HST and service charges

VIP Pass (reserved tables – SOLD OUT) – $125 *including HST and service charges

Saturday VIP Pass (standing room only – SOLD OUT) – $125 *including HST and service charges

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday – FM 96 Presents

General Admission Pass – $70 *including HST and service charges

VIP Pass (reserved tables – SOLD OUT) – $125 *including HST and service charges

Saturday VIP Pass (standing room only – SOLD OUT) – $125 *including HST and service charges

 

Attendees have two ways that they can pick up wristbands, regardless of which nights they wish to attend. If still available, they can be bought at the Harris Park gates on the evening of the show but buying them in advance is strongly recommended.

The box office at Centennial Hall is the only point of sale and credit card holders must be present at the time of purchase. We have a large box office/will call tent at the main entrance where passes can be picked up. Check with Centennial Hall for their box office hours and note that the box office is always open late during evening performances. Unfortunately, the box office is not able to mail out wristbands or replace lost or stolen wristbands.

Last-Minute Checklist

While there are a lot of things that you cannot bring into the park, there are definitely a few key items that you should in order to ensure that you have a safe and happy experience attending the best music fest in the west.

Water

And more water. The event is scheduled to run rain or shine, and while we all hope for clear skies, this can also mean hot sun and dehydration – especially if you’re planning to consume alcohol. Be prepared to have your bottles inspected upon entry into the park. Like many other outdoor concerts, security may only permit you to bring in unopened bottles of water.

Sunscreen

Of course, dehydration isn’t the only risk the sun poses. Keep you and your friends safe with a high-SPF sunscreen and bring it with you so that you can reapply.

Sunglasses & a Hat

Why not spend the show NOT squinting at the stage – and look cool at the same time. Shades and hats are music festival staples, people! Don’t forget them.

Rain Poncho in a Pouch

Rain or shine, the show must go on! Stay dry to maximize your comfort and help guarantee an enjoyable experience.

Hand Sanitizer

Don’t trust dispensers on premises to NOT run out, and don’t expect everything you need to touch to be clean. Rock’n’roll can be a dirty business. Stay healthy.

Bandana

Another great reason to bring water is to soak a regular old bandana and wrap it around your neck for a great way to beat the heat. It’s an old lifehack, but one that really works. Don’t believe us? Try it for yourself.

Portable Charge Pack

Losing touch with your friends at a music festival because of a dead phone is never advisable. Bring a portable charge pack and take all the photos you want.

Toilet Paper / Tissue

Again, don’t expect necessities like these to NOT run out. When nature calls, you want to be ready.

London Ontario’s Rock the Park just keeps getting better, bigger, and badder. If you’re a local live music lover, you know where you want to be during the last weekend in July. If you’re an out-of-towner, start making your plans now. Sure, Toronto’s got some big festivals that bill big names every summer, but attendees must contend with traffic, enormous crowds, precious little parking, and over the top prices for food and drink.

Why not take a short trip down the 401? Order your wristbands today. Book a nice place to stay, sleep, and relax between the four days of Rock the Park and check out everything else that’s happening in downtown London, Ontario. Work on your air guitar moves, sport that old band t-shirt, and remember to bring the right necessities to ensure that you have a great time, no matter the weather, at Western Ontario’s premier music festival.

See you at the park.

The Best Hair Salons and Barber Shops in London

In London, and across the world in all honesty, going to a hair salon or barbershop to get a cut has always been a somewhat dreaded experience. If you have bad luck and get a bad cut, you basically have two options: shave it all off or wait weeks, if not months, for your hair to grow back out and look normal. Since the former is an incredibly bold statement most people aren’t willing to make and the latter is awkward as can be, the best solution is to get a good haircut in the first place.

Finding the perfect hair stylist can be like looking for love. It takes time and effort to search for “the one.” You might get a bad cut or two on the way, and that might make you want to give up, but you persist on your search. Finally, you find him or her, and it’s a match made in heaven.

At any of the salons and barbershops on this list, you’re in great hands. The scissors, clippers, and razors are handled with precision and care, guided by the stylist’s expert eye. In their care, you’ll have no problems getting the perfect new style to stun family, friends, and the folks at work.

Vanity House

Neighbourhood: Downtown London
124 Dundas St. (map)
https://www.vanityhouse.ca/

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We might be biased on this one since Vanity House is the place that Santa himself, Matt Santagapita, gets his hair cut and styled. That’s right, a select few people have been afforded the opportunity to work on Santa’s majestic mane, and owner/stylist Aran Beattie has been Matt’s go-to stylist for over half a decade, since the salon opened their doors.

Vanity house, found on Dundas in the heart of downtown, offers one of the most luxurious hairstyling experiences out there. Upon your arrival, you will be offered either French pressed coffee or freshly brewed tea – on the house, of course. Every appointment includes a consultation with a stylist and a fresh wash, regardless of the service you’ve chosen to make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for.

The boho-chic aesthetic of exposed brick, full length mirrors with ornate frames, and chandeliers dotting the ceiling give the salon a high class feel while still being warm and comforting. The time and effort going into the look and feel of the salon is an indicator of how much effort will go into your new hairstyle.

The handful of stylists at Vanity House are experts at their craft, offering a wide range of innovative and exciting styles for everyday life or special events. Whether you’re looking for a simple trim, an extravagant updo, or a crazy new colour, these guys will make your vision a reality and make it look fantastic.

The service and skill of the stylists at Vanity House is unparalleled, such that customers are driving in from as far as the GTA for appointments with Aran and his team.

For your next haircut, why not go ahead and treat yourself to the Vanity House experience?

Whistling Dick’s

Neighbourhood: Old East Village
760 Dundas St. (map)
https://www.whistlingdicks.com/

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For a haircut that feels like a blast to the past, Whistling Dick’s is the place to go. Whistling Dick’s emulates the style and feel of a 1930’s barbershop, from the tunes on the stereo to the straight razors they use to shave their customers.

Whistling Dick’s harkens back to the good old days, where the barbershop was an institution, a safe haven. When you cross the threshold into their Old East Village shop, the feel of the place beckons you to leave your everyday stress at the door and relax as you’re pampered with high quality service and products.

The vibe in Whistling Dick’s is rustic and as masculine as can be. Stained wood, brick, and leather comprise most of the surfaces in the place, with vintage tools and other flair adorning the walls, all because the owners, John Parlow and Gregory Kahnert, believe a haircut should be more than just an errand, it should be an experience.

No fancy ombres, highlights, or hair dyes of any kind will be found in this establishment. All these guys do is cut, trim, and shave. They don’t offer a whole lot of variety, but they are masters of their trade. Scott Wilkins and Jose Interiano are both educated and experienced barbers with seemingly more years of experience than there are hairs on a head.

Being primarily a men’s barber, Whistling Dick’s focuses on shorter hairstyles. So fair warning to those with luscious, flowing locks: you might not get the hairdo they desire unless you’re looking for something drastically shorter.

The feel and experience of Whistling Dick’s is more than enough reason to go, but the fact that you can get a great new hair style in the process just makes the prospect worth its weight in gold.

Salon Entrenous

Neighbourhood: Downtown London
579 Richmond St. (map)
http://www.salonentrenous.com/

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Found in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Richmond Row, Salon Entrenous has been cutting London’s hair for over a quarter century. The award winning team is committed to making sure you leave happy and looking fantastic with your new style.

The vibe is clean and stylishly minimal, offering a welcoming open space that is devoid of clutter and mess, even at their workstations with all the tools of the trade. The staff always aim to ensure their customers are as relaxed as they can be and enjoying their time in the salon.

Salon Entrenous is committed to making sure you get the style you want, including a thorough consultation with all services, alongside a scalp massage, and a blow dry. And they have a multitude of services from classic cuts to colouring to texture treatments for relaxing and smoothing your hair or adding permanent waves.

In the salon, they also offer an extensive variety of shampoos, conditioners, and styling products for you to grab on your way out to keep your new do looking pristine days, even weeks, after your appointment. All of their products are professional grade with endorsement from the Salon Entrenous stylists, so you know you’re getting the good stuff. Ask your stylist which product will work best with your hair type, they’re highly informed and can give excellent recommendations for your needs.

The award winning stylists at Salon Entrenous make it a prime choice for your next haircut.

Love Alchemy Lifestyle Boutique & Organic Hair Studio

Neighbourhood: Old East Village
764 Dundas St. (map)
http://lovealchemy.ca/

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Love Alchemy’s organic and holistic approach to hairstyling and beauty is a welcome addition to London’s Old East Village. Opening their doors in February of 2017, Love Alchemy offers haircuts, styling, colouring, and holistic therapies like reiki, blue matrix, and massage therapy.

Long or short, curly or straight, natural or dyed, Love Alchemy is a great spot for your trim, cut, or style if you’re strongly eco-conscious. Every single product in their salon is socially sustainable and ethically sourced, making it the perfect spot to stay stylish while reducing your carbon footprint.

Love Alchemy’s number one goal is to keep the Earth as beautiful as they make you. With the help of their partners at Green Circle Salons, they recycle every bi-product they possibly can, such as empty colour tubes, foils, and leftover hair colour. This prevents the plastics and other non-biodegradables from entering landfills. Even your clipped hair gets put to good use, with their partner Matter of Trust, they use clippings to make hair booms for cleaning up oil spills.

Their dyeing services are extensive, from full colour to balayage to root touch ups, all without harmful chemicals, toxins, or carcinogens. Whatever you need, these ladies will be able to provide.

And if you’re looking for some ethical fashion to match your new hairdo, Love Alchemy has a selection of clothing, accessories, and home décor that proudly features local, national, and international brands that are all sustainable and ethical.

For eco-friendly, guilt-free hair, Love Alchemy is definitely the place to check out.

 

Nova Vita Hair Studio and Esthetics

Neighbourhood: Downtown
740 Richmond St. (map)
https://novavita.ca/

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“Nova vita” translates to “new life” and the stylists at Nova Vita Hair Studio and Esthetics will do just that. You will feel like a new person after the pampering and styling that you receive at Nova Vita.

Whether you’re looking for a basic trim, a designer cut, or even a perm, the stylists at Nova Vita will be able to give you a hand. Hair of all lengths and textures are welcome and will get the attention they need. Their skilled hair stylists will have you looking ready for a photoshoot, or at least to take on the day with newfound confidence from your new hairdo. Customers are always ecstatic when they leave Nova Vita, excited to flaunt their new style.

This Richmond Row salon offers more than just hair styling though. They offer a variety of other services, including massages, airbrush tanning, waxing, and makeup application. Despite having so many options under one roof, their attention to detail is incredible, and the end results of every service is always top tier.

Regardless of what you’re there for, at Nova Vita, the best is the only option, and anything else is unacceptable. From the products to their expert stylists, there is no second rate. Premium service, premium products.

West Haven Golf and Country Club

When it comes to golf, there are few places that can compare to the sheer amount of courses on offer than the London region. Searching for golf in London can lead to a sense of being overwhelmed – there are in truth too many options on display to be able to easily sort through them all. The locals all have their own favourites, as do those who grew up here and have since moved away. When my brother came down to visit he brought his clubs, stating that there were a few courses that he’d always wanted the chance to play but hadn’t ever gotten to. Among these courses were the ones that all the locals eventually get around to mentioning on their stories of golf carts and conquests: places like Echo Valley, Sunningdale, and West Haven. We decided to give West Haven a shot since the course always came up in the conversations we would have growing up with our father, grandfather, and uncle; our grandfather, especially, was a regular at both Echo Valley and Nilestown but had played West Haven as a guest with a member before and had nothing but good things to say. You have to be a member to play, of course (or, crucially, the guest of a member) but we luckily happened to know a member and decided to find out if we could twist his rubber arm and get a round of eighteen holes accomplished. Asking him if he wants to play a round of golf in the summer, as it turns out, is like asking him if he wants to breathe.

West Haven Golf Course is located on the north-western side of London, on the edge of the neighbourhood of Hyde Park, between Hyde Park and the little village of Melrose. Hyde Park was, when my brother and I were young, a little village on the outskirts of London, a collection of a few houses and some rustic retail shops surrounded by the endless expanses of farmer’s fields that characterized life outside of the city in those days. Now, it’s a vibrant, growing part of the city of London itself, a neighbourhood of gorgeous new housing subdivisions and sprawling big-box retail complexes and all the restaurants, both chain and independent, that you could ever ask from one neighbourhood. On the western edge of the neighbourhood lies West Haven, on a rambling, stunningly beautiful expanse of greenery that is maintained to exacting professional standards.

Entrance of west haven golf course in London Ontario

The Facilities

The first impression one gets of West Haven as they drive up, park, and head into the club house is that West Haven is a well-built, well-maintained, classical type of course, where the staff and facilities are equally at home in hosting formal events as they are in hosting lineups of casual and executive golfers. Walking into the clubhouse has a strange feeling, akin to walking into a church. This isn’t necessarily because West Haven is some sacred golf destination like St. Andrews, of course; it has more to do with the fact that the Great Room of the West Haven club house features a gigantic vaulted ceiling, much like the main part of a cathedral and that the feeling that both evoke is that you are a small part of the greater whole that is the experience, be it religion or golfing. It’s an airy feeling and it gives the whole club house a feeling of class and sophistication over and above many other courses. Everything in that vaulted Great Room focuses on a classically built flagstone fireplace, a behemoth of elegance that lends its grace well to the rest of the room. It’s the sort of clubhouse where you can imagine holding a non-golf related banquet, or a wedding.

In fact, there was a wedding there at the time. It was a sweltering weekend, the kind of summer day in Ontario where I can honestly phone up friends in Tupelo, Mississippi and tell them that it’s actually hotter here than there. The bride was resplendent, the white of her dress seeming to shimmer in the searing heat. The West Haven club house also features sizeable patios and a big deck, all of which were being put to good use despite the soaring humidex of the day. The staff on hand at West Haven are consummate professionals for any situation that presents itself at the course, and they are especially good at turning their golfing-oriented club house into a dream wedding venue. The view helps, of course. The view on the way into the club house is carefully manicured, with expertly placed stands of mature trees and professionally maintained gardens that mark West Haven out as a place of exceptional class. Inside, the windows of the club house look out onto a sweeping expanse of the course, juxtaposing the carefully wrested structure of the golf course with the wilder, rougher parts that lie between the fairways. It’s an amazing viewpoint and one that complements any sort of formal occasion that is taking place inside the club house proper.

West Haven Golf Course's Banquet Hall

For such formal occasions, the club house can hold a maximum of 160 people, perfect for any type of mid-sized wedding. The staff isn’t just for simple serving, either; the West Haven team can handle nearly all of the planning and coordination that goes into putting together the best wedding possible. The staff can handle decorations, planning out seating arrangements, set up and display of wedding flowers, sound and lighting, and can even provide entertainment if required. They also provide full-service catering, including both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Their catering service extends to specified menu design as well; their catering staff will work with you to provide the exact special menu you request, regardless of what sort of meal plan is necessary for your wedding. Nearly every aspect of your wedding can be accounted for. Of course, one of the problems inherent in weddings is that inevitably either the bride or the groom will start getting the “wedding jitters”; that is, they’ll start getting nervous and need counselling before they can go through with the most important moment of their lives. While the staff on hand at West Haven isn’t licensed to provide that kind of counselling, that’s what the golf course is for. Once you start swinging a driver it’s hard to freak out about anything else that isn’t the fact that you sliced your ball into the rough and you now have to try to figure out how to best angle the next shot to make it to the green in two.

The Golfing

On that note, of course, it bears stating that the main attraction at West Haven Golf Course is, in fact, the golf. This is the key measure of any golf course, after all, and in this respect West Haven certainly does not disappoint. It presents a stellar balance between giving experienced players a challenge and giving a lift up to players who are just starting out with regard to their level of play. The course starts off in exciting fashion, with a dog-leg fairway that hooks to the right and lays a series of sand traps on the left-hand approach to the green. Trying to overpower those bunkers with a one wood is a terrible idea, as it turns out, since there are also nasty bunkers on the other side of the green that will take some decent skill with the sand iron to chip out of. Once you’re through that, the second hole kicks it up a notch. If you have a slice in your shot you’re definitely going to want to cure it before taking on this hole, because there’s a bunker so deep on the right side of the fairway you’d think you’d actually spent the afternoon taking the family to the beach. Luckily I have a shot that stays more or less where I’d like it to go. My brother, as well, thankfully has a bit of a hook to his shot; instead of digging out the beach he spent some time kicking around the heavy rough on the left side of the fairway for his ball. There are three par 5’s on the course, and the second hole is one of them; you can easily run up the score by going to far to either side of the green, since there are bunkers guarding those areas. If you aren’t used to the particular approach on this hole I’d say you’re doing well to come out of it with a bogey.

Luckily the pressure eases off a little on the third hole, a pretty straightforward par 3 where you can make up some ground on your score. The fourth is also easy enough to figure out, although if you’re like my brother and you have that hook you’re going to be taking your second shot through a heavy section of trees with no real indication of the exact position of the green. The fifth hole is also like this at first, until you get to the green and realize that chipping the ball to the wrong spot will leave your ball rolling severely straight off the green. It’s a tough one, a real challenge for an experienced golfer: you have to get your ball to the exact right spot below the hole, where there’s a flat area, and putt from there. Putting from anywhere else requires you to be able to read a green at a glance, which is a skill I for one have yet to acquire. I also apparently have yet to acquire the skills for the sixth hole, which requires a short game a little more advanced than mine; there is a little hill on the front left of the green and a plateau on the back that requires you to chip it just right in order to avoid three-putting the hole.

West Haven Golf Course in London, Ontario

If your driving game is on point, at least, the seventh hole shouldn’t be too bad; sure, you have to carry the ball nearly 200 yards over a water hazard but on the other hand you have to shoot it straight to avoid the rough. The eighth hole removes the water hazard but keeps the necessity of shooting it straight; having to play this hole more than a few times would be an effective inducement to cure any slice or hook your drive might be suffering from. Don’t worry, however, the ninth hole leaves little traps all over the place for you, including a hidden bunker that prevents you from making a useful approach from the right and several that make an approach from the left rather difficult as well.

After a rest and a couple of discreet drinks in that gorgeous, expansive club house, the back half of the course feels a little easier, or at least more approachable. There is a more sedate pace to play here, right up until you get to the thirteenth hole, which is easily the most challenging hole of the entire eighteen. Your tee shot has to be dead on to avoid having to scrounge in the woods for the ball and your approach has to be just as careful, given the sheer amount of hidden bunkers near the fairway and bordering the green. It’s the sort of hole designed to run up the score, where getting par can feel like a major achievement. A close runner-up would be the seventeenth hole, a par 3 that feels much longer, the sort of par 3 where you need to make a fairway shot just to make it to the green without getting stuck in the sand.

West Haven Golf Course in London, Ontario

The course is challenging but fair; it’ll take all of your skills to make par but it never once feels like a frustrating experience. While membership is, again, a necessity to playing the course, the price is competitive with many other clubs in the region and if you plan on spending spring through fall golfing on a fairly regular basis then it’s well worth the outlay. The landscape of the club is expansive and breathtaking, the club house is easily one of the most comfortable and well-appointed in the province of Ontario, and even though you’ll never make par on the fifth without putting your time in, it’s still a worthy challenge for the experienced and a great learning situation for golfers looking to develop their skills.

The Best Places to Watch Fireworks in London

Canada Day is coming up this weekend, and it is tradition across the country to celebrate with fireworks. These dazzling displays bring awe and wonder to the faces of children and adults alike in commemoration of another year of Canada’s existence as a country.

Harris Park

Neighbourhood: Downtown
530 Ridout St. N (map)
https://www.londonheritage.ca/canadadaylondon

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Head on down to Harris Park for an event-filled Canada Day. A 12-hour extravaganza of Canadian and multicultural celebrations beginning at 11AM, fun for the entire family.

There is a new act performing basically every half hour throughout the day, ranging from First Nations drumming and singing to interactive Bollywood dancing to Hells Bells, an AC/DC cover band. There is bound to be something for everyone throughout the day.

Don’t worry about the kids either, they’ll be plenty entertained. The Kids Zone will have bouncy houses, face painting, airbrush tattoos, and other activities to keep the kids busy until the sun goes down and the sky is dark enough for fireworks.

There will be an array of food vendors to grab snacks and meals while you hang out and enjoy the day. For the adults, a beer garden opens at 8PM serving a variety of cold and boozy beverages.

Their fireworks show begins at 10PM and promises to be a colourful display to dazzle and astonish all. If you’re looking for a full day of fun in the heart of downtown London, head on over to Harris Park.

White Oaks Park/South London Community Centre

Neighbourhood: White Oaks
1119 Jalna Blvd. (map)
http://southlondoncanadaday.com/

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This Canada Day celebration is a whole day event, beginning at 2PM and running into the night. With a variety activities for children and the family, this south end celebration is bound to be exciting.

Live musical acts play throughout the day, with acts such as Big Bang, Men Without Cats, and the Night Crew. The kids will be kept busy with inflatable rides, a spray pad, and a movie in the gym of the community centre in the early evening, all for free! They also have a variety of food vendors selling their wares and a cake cutting ceremony, so you won’t go hungry.

Their firework display begins at 10PM and is intended to be 20 minutes in length. For a fantastic, budget friendly, family-oriented day, the South London Canada Day celebration is a great spot to check out.

Argyle Arena

Neighbourhood: Argyle Park
1948 Wavell St. (map)
http://www.eastlondonoptimists.com/

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The Optimist Club of East London is hosting this celebration, and it promises to be epic. This is a two-part event: an indoor vendor fair and an outdoor activity area and stage.

The event’s opening ceremony begins at 1PM, followed quickly by a cake cutting. Music starts after the cake has been sliced and continues on into the evening. The musical acts include rock and country artists such as Kill Effect and Truelove Ways.

This celebration has some of the most interesting things for the kids to get up to, including face painting, a reptile show, and mad science exhibits, all for free! There are also carnival games with prizes and a raffle, so don’t miss out on your chance to win.

The vendor fair features local businesses such as Baby-Bee Design, Karen’s Kreations, and Metal Man Mike. So peruse at your leisure and maybe even grab something if it catches your eye. We always admire supporting small businesses.

Fireworks begin at dusk, so keep an eye on the sun as it sets so you can get a prime spot to watch.

Outside of London

While we typically prefer to keep our recommendations in London, there are also some excellent firework displays outside of the city limits in surrounding townships and municipalities. Even though this would require some more driving, they’re definitely worth checking out.

Grand Bend

Neighbourhood: Grand Bend
Lambton Shores (map)
http://canadadaygrandbend.ca/

 

Grand Bend is a beach town to the northwest of London on the shores of Lake Huron. Their event consists of an evening of music, featuring Jessica Allossery, Vintage Flight, and Highway 21. This, of course, is all an opening act for the pyrotechnics.

The fireworks begin at 10PM after the singing of the national anthem. The show that Grand Bend puts on is the largest in southwestern Ontario and is visible from mostly any point in the town, but the prime seating is definitely on the beach. Best of all, the whole event is completely free, except for public parking!

Port Stanley

Neighbourhood: Port Stanley
William St. (map)
http://www.portstanley.net/

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Port Stanley is a lakeside town to the south of London, offering Canfest, an event that runs the entire long weekend, from Saturday June 30th to Monday July 2nd.

Basically the whole town participates, but the centre of the action is on the main beach, where you’ll find live music, a kids zone, and other events throughout the weekend, such as a BBQ on Saturday evening, a parade on Sunday morning, and of course, fireworks on Sunday night.

Their fireworks being at 9:45PM, just after the sun has set and people can stop worrying about sunburns. The fireworks are sure to impress as the colours reflect off the water, making it seem like twice as many explosions of colour than there actually are. It’s a truly wonderful experience and heading out there is highly recommended.

The London Majors

They call baseball “America’s Pastime”, but the truth is a little more complicated than that. The sport’s history and resilience in southern Ontario is as vital a part of the history of the game as it’s more-ballyhooed history in New England, Ohio, and Michigan. Despite this, Ontario’s history as a baseball hotbed has been largely left out of American accounts of the game.  Regardless of this glaring oversight, the game of baseball, played on an amateur or professional basis, has remained a highly popular pastime in Ontario. This is especially true of London, Ontario. Equidistant between Detroit and Toronto, London has always been a hotbed of Detroit Tigers fans, and the expansion of Major League Baseball to Toronto in 1977 brought even more fans into the game. While London has been perennially passed by in terms of major league play, there has almost always been a home town team for fans to cheer for. Since 1925, that team has by and large been the London Majors, playing in the Intercounty Baseball League. That team, their home stadium, and the history of the game in the London region itself are all items worthy of further examination.

The History Of Baseball In London

For years, the commonly accepted origin story of the game was that, before winning fame and glory for basically saving the Union at Gettysburg, General Abner Doubleday had invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York in 1839. There were more than a few problems with this story, however. The roots of this origin lie in a letter that an Ohio mining engineer named Abner Graves wrote to the Akron Beacon Journal in 1905. Graves claims to have been in and around Cooperstown at that time and had witnessed Doubleday drawing out a baseball diamond and setting out a game based on the English game of townball that involved eleven players per team and four bases. Conveniently, however, the diagram that Graves claimed to have that Doubleday had lost had since been lost, and the players at that mythical first game were all determined to have since passed on. Some quick math also showed that Graves would have been five years old when the supposed first game was played. He was also, as it turned out, virulently anti-English and would go on to spend some time in an asylum for the insane. There was also the inconvenient fact that, in 1839, Doubleday himself was a first-year cadet at West Point and not likely to be in Cooperstown either. No one who knew Doubleday could say that he’d ever breathed a word about inventing baseball, which was during the last decade of the man’s life a rather popular game in his native New England. Doubleday himself couldn’t refute anything either, since he’d been, by 1905, dead for fifteen years.

Crucially, however, a homegrown account puts the supposed origins of baseball a year earlier. Dr. Adam E Ford wrote a letter to Sporting Life in 1886 that was an account of a game of “base ball” played on June 4th, 1838 in Beachville, Ontario, a small town about 40 minutes east of London.  This has become an essential bit of national myth-making in it’s own right, much as the Doubleday myth was originally used to stoke sentiment of baseball as a purely American-made, American-played game. The welcome sign for the town of Beachville is designed around the idea that baseball was invented there, and the staff at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary’s, Ontario fervently support this idea. It wasn’t exactly baseball, of course; the game Ford described had eleven players rather than nine, five bases rather than four, and bats that more closely resembled the flat bats we think of as cricket bats but were likely adapted from the centuries-old English picnic game of rounders. This was the “Ontario Game”; the origins and rules of early baseball are messy enough that every region has it’s own particular take on the game. Shortly before the American Civil War the game began to be standardized under the more modern, nine-player four-base version of the game (the “New York Game”); Ontario largely adopted this version around 1860.

Whatever the origins of the game, the growth of baseball in Ontario kept pace with the growth in America. A pair of local London baseball clubs – the Forest City Base Ball Club and the London Base Ball Club – merged in 1868 to form the London Tecumsehs, sponsored by the Tecumseh House Hotel that then stood on the corner of York and Richmond. The team would spend a decade playing other regional teams in exhibition games and tournaments before becoming an inaugural member of the International Association of Professional Baseball Players in 1877. The International Association, a collection of Canadian and American baseball clubs in a league designed to act as a rival to the first recognized major league, the National League (the same one that would go on to make billions and still exist today). The London Tecumsehs would end that season at the top of the heap, winning the pennant in a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Allegheny. That season would also briefly pit London’s star pitcher, Fred Goldsmith, against his rival (and future Hall of Famer) Candy Cummings of the Lynn Live Oaks, before the Live Oaks folded part way into a dismal season of play. Both Goldsmith and Cummings would claim credit for the invention of the curveball and would display it during that season.

Unfortunately, after winning the pennant (and being offered a spot in the National League), the London Tecumsehs found themselves in deep debt and were forced to fold before the 1878 season; the International Association would follow suit in 1880. The Tecumsehs would return in 1888 when the International Association was resurrected; their star outfielder Patsy Donovan led the league in hitting and would go on to play in the National League. Despite the International Association again folding after the 1890 season, the London Tecumsehs would again be brought back in 1920 for the Michigan-Ontario Baseball League. The Tecumsehs dominated the first season of the league, easily clinching the pennant and breaking attendance records for minor league teams. That 1920 team is ranked as one of the hundred best minor league teams to have ever existed.

Labatt Memorial Park

For their storied 1877 season, the London Tecumsehs moved from practicing and playing at the Western Fair Grounds to their own home field, which was then dubbed Tecumseh Park. It was state-of-the-art when it was built, featuring a 600-seat grandstand for spectators, piped-in water, and official spaces for scorekeepers, reporters, and telegraph operators. It’s placement at the forks of the Thames River was likely no accident; the area had been used as a common area for as long as a settlement at London had existed. This placement has also proved to be problematic at times; a flood of the forks in 1883 led to the destruction of the original grandstands, and a second flood in 1937 destroyed the grandstands again. The first flood in 1883 led to a change in the position of home plate; originally in what is now left field, home plate was moved in order to orient the diamond so that it faced downtown London. This led to some controversy many years later. Since there are comparatively few sports structures remaining that were originally built in the 19th Century, it is a commonly cited fact that Labatt Memorial Park, having been used by ball clubs every year since 1877, was the oldest continuously operating baseball grounds in the world. This is true in so far as it is recorded in the Guinness Book Of World Records as of the 2009 edition. However, Fuller Field, in Clinton, Massachusetts, claimed the title since it had operated since 1878; since Labatt Park moved it’s home plate in 1883 following the flood of the Thames it was alleged that it wasn’t the same park. This argument led the record keepers to give Fuller Field the title for many years, before people finally realized what a convoluted bit of logic that was and rightfully gave the nod to Labatt Park.

The fact that it is “continuously occupied” of course means that baseball has been played there year after year, and quite naturally then a number of teams have held court at Labatt Park. The most high-profile of these was London’s short-lived AA farm team affiliated with the Detroit Tigers, the London Tigers. While only staying in London from 1989 to 1993, the team racked up an impressive record at first, winning the Eastern League championship in 1990 and featuring such players as future Detroit Tigers third baseman Travis Fryman and hitting coach Phil Clark. The team was also managed by Yankees legend Chris Chambliss, lending the team some serious star power. Despite this, waning fortunes and declining attendance led the Tigers organization to move the team to Trenton, where it eventually switched affiliation to become a part of the Boston Red Sox organization. This experience was London’s sole encounter with professional Major League baseball since the end of the Second World War. Since then, efforts to put independent professional minor league teams have mostly fizzled, such as the London Werewolves (of the Frontier League) who moved to Canton, Ohio after the 2001 season and the London Monarchs of the Canadian Baseball League, which folded halfway through it’s inaugural season.

LONDON MAJORS

That’s not to say that there isn’t great baseball being played right here in London, Ontario. The longest-running club to play at Labatt Park is the London Majors, who have occupied the forks of the Thames regularly since 1925. The Majors, currently a perennial contender in the Intercounty Baseball League, maintain a semi-professional ranking, attracting retired or otherwise unemployed professional players as well as up-and-coming NCAA college baseball players and local Ontario talent. The Majors have been a mainstay at Labatt Park for decades, although not always under the same name. They were originally known as the London Cockneys on their formation in 1925, and since then have played under names such as the London Winery, the London Silverwoods, the London Army Team (during the Second World War), the London Majors from 1944 to 1959, the London Chester Pegg Diamonds, the London Majors again from 1962 to 1963, the London Pontiacs, the London Avcos, and the London El-Morocco Majors. As you might imagine, the name of the team changed often depending on who was sponsoring them during that period. Since 1975, however, the team has been consistently known as the London Majors, and at any rate they have torn up the Intercounty Baseball League under any and every name. The Majors have won twelve pennants in the Intercounty Baseball League, and have taken a number of historic championships in other tournaments, including the Senior A Ontario Baseball Association championship four times and the Canadian Baseball Congress championship four times.

The London Majors have been a popular destination for players at all levels of their career; some of the bigger names to have come through the club include colourful former Tigers pitcher Denny McLain (the last man to win 30 games in a major league season, in 1968), former Cubs pitcher, Cy Young winner, and two-time Harlem Globetrotter Fergie Jenkins, and former Tigers pitcher Dave Rozema. The most effective of these big names remains former Tigers reliever Mike Kilkenny, who capped off his nine-year Major League career by going 9-0 for the London Majors in the 1975 season and being the driving force behind the team’s championship win that year.

The grand old baseball grounds at the forks of the Thames is a time-honoured place to spend a Friday night watching the home team strive for victory; if you’re more of the type to crawl the Richmond Row at that time, it’s also a time-honoured place to spend a Sunday afternoon. There’s always baseball going on down there, and that fits squarely into Ontario’s traditional love of the game. A sunny day, a hot dog or two, and a game of baseball at a local landmark like Labatt Park – if there’s a better way to spend a few hours, I don’t know it.

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