Victoria Park is located in the heart of downtown London and is a central hub for all kinds of events and goings on. The park itself is beautiful with walking paths, benches, lots of tree shade, and monuments to view. It’s within walking distance of so many pubs, coffee shops, restaurants, and ice cream stores, that it is almost begging for post-meal strolling of various kinds. It’s so close to shops and the Grand Theatre, it’s a great excuse to stay downtown, rather than to just have a quick evening out and go back home. Victoria park slows things down a bit, lets you walk around and admire the outdoors and the beauty of the city.
It’s also a great place to visit during lunch or break for people who work downtown to get out of the office, stretch their legs, and catch some rays. Victoria Park is also a perfect spot for a leisurely picnic or a game of frisbee. The park is also home to the rare eastern grey squirrel so animal enthusiasts will want to head there to see if they can spot one!
But this park is so much more than just a beautiful park to walk through and visit. It holds so much history, has so many fun events, and really is the heartbeat of London Ontario.
Summer is my absolute favourite time to live in London, and one of those reasons is because of all of the amazing festivals that Victoria Park holds. There is often fun activities, cute little booths set up to by unique trinkets, live music being played, and the absolute best part, by far, is the food trucks. I’m talking deep fried delicious foods that absolutely do not fit in with a restrictive diet, but that make summer time all the more wonderful. These events are free admission, but you’ll want to bring your wallet for the delicious treats and super cute wares that people are selling.
Ribfest & Food Fests
There are a bunch of different fests that center around food that pop up in Victoria Park, such as Feast Fest, Poutine Fest, and of course the infamous Ribfest . Ribfest is the absolute best weekend all summer. The entire downtown gets filled with the mouthwater aroma of smoked meats and meat connoisseurs from all over southwestern ontario come to London with their absurdly giant booth signs and offer you their award winning ribs, pulled pork, and sides. If I can give you any kind of friendly advice, it would be this: go with friends and each get ribs from different booths and split them. Because, honestly, half the fun is deciding who you would pick as the winner that year. For those of you who can’t eat pork, or don’t like ribs (is that a thing?) there are PLENTY of other food booths available for you, so you will not be disappointed. In 2018 they added craft beer to Ribfest, because nothing goes as well with barbecued meat as a nice cold, delicious beer.
But even if you’re not big on food, Ribfest is still the place to be. They have live music, shopping, rides, and there is always some kind of interesting competition to watch like chopping the most amount of wood in a time frame, which is actually quite riveting to behold.
For families, Children’s Festival is the absolute must-go-to event in the summer. Admission is free! Just bring your kids and the entire park will be filled with crafts, interactive activities, games, and rides! Your whole family can go and play giant jenga. You can draw with sidewalk chalk and show off your artistic side. There’s kid-themed music and performers. There are bouncy houses to bounce out the energy and yummy food trucks to re-fuel. It’s a place for your family to go and spend a fun day together and enjoy the beautiful outdoors!
New Years Eve in the Park
New Years Eve in the Park is a winter festival that ring in the new year. There are fireworks, and bands, and of course, a countdown! Grab a bite to eat downtown and then head straight to the park and enjoy the festivities! If you’re sick of parties but still want something fun to do to celebrate, then Victoria Park is the place to be. And the best part is that it won’t cost you a dime.
Pride in the Park
Pride in the Park is just one of the wonderful events that London puts on to celebrate Pride Week. There is great entertainment, delicious foods and thirst-quenching drinks! The vibe is always energetic and exciting! If you only have the chance to attend one of the many Pride events that London Ontario hosts, I totally recommend that this be the one.
If there is one festival that you attend in Victoria Park, make sure that it is Sunfest . It’s been a thing in London since 1994 and attracts over 200,000 visitors to the park. It’s the place to be. It’s a festival that celebrates art, music and culture. The bandshell in the park serves as a stage for performances and many different types and genres of live music. People rave about the music at Sunfest! And in front of the stage is an area for people to gather and dance! Craft vendors sell their unique wares throughout the park. There is art and dancing and celebration happening all around you as the sun shines down on your face and the squirrels run up the trees. Food trucks and stations are everywhere, offering a wide variety of culture in the cuisine. If you love food, you’re not going to want to miss this event. There are competitions, talent shows, and games. It brings a vibrant energy to downtown London, and is an event that I never miss.
MOVIE NIGHT IN THE PARK
It’s the perfect family event in the summer. Gather at the bandshell with your beach chairs and blankets in tow and get set up. They screen family-friendly movies in the park for any one and every one to enjoy. There are food trucks around to offer delicious movie snacks that is sure to satisfy every member of the family. Get there early for the food and fun at 7pm, but the movie starts screening at 9pm. Oh, and the best part is that admission is free. Parents can even get set up to have text reminders about what movies are coming up so that you never miss one!
The bandshell sits near the center of the park and is the hub for so many things. Live bands, entertainment, art pieces have had their time to shine up on the bandshell. It has become a place to host interesting events, like the live-streaming of The Tragically Hip’s last concert. It projects the movies during movie night in the park. It is the place where people gather to dance during Sunfest. It has a wonderful sound quality and the music just projects at you and washes over you.
The park has a rich history. It served as a spot for military occupation between 1838 and 1869 and had framed infantry barracks and other building. The barracks burned down around 1869, but the spot is the largest and best preserved historical site in London, Ontario. In the 1850s the barracks were also used a camp for refugees and escaped slaves from America. There are still archeological remains of the Barracks.
The park is full of so many monuments, celebrating and preserving history. There is the Boer War Soldiers monument, three war cannons, a Holy Roller tank, the Women’s Memorial Sculpture, and the Veterans Memorial Garden. These pieces are so integral to the park, as it serves not only as a place to relax and have fun, but it’s a place for reflection and remembering.
And on one corner of the park, stands the powerful presence of The Cenotaph. The plaque on it reads: “In Honor Of Those Who Died In War And Conflict.” It’s a replica of the one at Whitehall in London, England that was designed by Sir Edward Luytens. London holds a Remembrance Day Observance at The Cenotaph on November 11th and those who attend stay intensely silent for two minutes at 11:00 am in honor of the fallen.
LIGHTING OF THE LIGHTS
Every single winter something magical happens in Victoria Park. The terrible cold, the harsh bitter winds, and the annoying snow fade away into the background and winter suddenly feels wonderful. The reason for this good cheer? It’s the Lighting of the lights in Victoria Park. I love it. It’s so magical. More than 75,000 lights transform the trees and make the whole place fill up with the holiday spirit. They also put up festive displays like a Santa’s workshop or reindeer on Santa’s sleigh. It’s really a magical sight. Grab a hot chocolate and take a stroll through the crisp winter night and behold all of that dazzling beauty. It’ll put you in the Holiday spirit, actually make you WANT to be outdoors, and is the perfect way to end your day.
Every winter victoria park gets transformed by winter. It becomes this beautiful wonderland. The lights twinkle, and it’s the perfect spot for a romantic date night, or a fun family outing. They always have a part of the park that gets turned into a skating rink. It’s open every day 10am-10pm (closed only for an hour for the ice to be resurfaced) and it’s absolutely free to use. There’s a place to rent or sharpen skates for a small fee.
Sometimes they even transform the rink into curling sheets for anyone interested in trying their hand at the strangest (and most fascinating) sport known to man.
Victoria Park is so much more than just a park. It’s a place for remembering. It’s a place for celebrating. It’s a place for families, for friends, and for couples. It’s a place that gives you a reason dance, and play, and just enjoy life in general. It’s a place that gets you out of the house without costing a lot of money. It’s a place that lets you enjoy the outdoors and this beautiful city at the same time. It’s a place that you really should check out more often. There always seems to be a reason to pop by to Victoria Park! So grab your family or some friends or maybe a loved one and head over there through the summer and the winter. You’ll be so glad you went. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for those rare grey squirrels!