a heroine’s travel guide to London, Ontario / by Kerry Hishon
Welcome to London! No, not that London…
I’m writing about the “other” London, here in lovely southwestern Ontario, Canada. I’ve lived in London for over a decade, and although I wasn’t born here, I’m happy to call London my home.
London has a small-town feel in a big city (it’s the 11th most populated city in Canada).
On its surface, London may seem like a stereotypical Canadian city.
On Friday nights, the downtown area is a sea of green as we cheer on the London Knights hockey team, but it’s not all just toques and poutine.
Yes, we love our winter sports – London is home to Olympic ice dancing champion Tessa Virtue, and where Olympic champion speed skater Christine Nesbitt grew up – but we are more than just sports! London has a bustling arts scene and a great sense of local pride.
Budding thespians can look to Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls, The Notebook) and Amber Marshall (TV’s Heartland).
All these women are proof that with hard work and perseverance, you can achieve anything you set your mind to, and that’s definitely a mark of a heroine to me.
If you are an artsy soul, embrace all things geek-chic or are obsessed with food (or like me, and all three apply), you’ll fit in just fine here.
Shall we begin our tour? Meet me at the corner of King and Talbot Streets, and we’ll get going!
Everything on this is within walking distance, so be sure to wear comfy shoes (or good, thick boots if you’re visiting in the winter!) and bring a bag to carry any treasures you pick up along the way!
Start with a hefty breakfast at The Early Bird
Every heroine needs a hearty breakfast to begin her day of adventures (and to keep her from getting hangry). I love The Early Bird, a cozy setting with its tiki bar and kitschy décor, featuring an awesome set of busts decorated like the members of KISS.
I recommend the Fat Elvis, a monstrosity of a sandwich smothered in bacon, peanut butter, honey, panko, maple syrup, and powdered sugar. Bring a bag; you’ll need it to carry your leftovers with you.
Peruse the shelves at City Lights Bookshop
What’s a heroine without a good book? A bored heroine, that’s for sure.
Enter City Lights, which describes itself as “a living collage, crossed with a circus that was frightened by a Dadaist” and I couldn’t agree more.
Its two floors are packed with books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, vinyl, sheet music, play scripts, postcards, and more. Everything is reasonably priced, and a heroine could while away hours exploring its depths.
Explore Covent Garden Market
I spend a lot of time at Covent Garden Market for my work with Original Kids Theatre Company (we present over twenty productions a year!), and there’s just so much to do!
In the winter, you’ll find a free skating rink outside; and in the summer, there’s an outdoor farmer’s market on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Inside the Market is a ton of local vendors – if you’re not still stuffed from breakfast, I recommend visiting Petit Paris and ogling their massive array of sweets and goodies, and The Salad Bowl for amazing and healthy wraps and soups (Andrew somehow remembers everyone’s specialty order and it’s awesome).
Take a walk through Victoria Park
London is known as the Forest City and it’s not hard to see why. During the winter holidays, Victoria Park’s trees are lit up with thousands of beautiful lights.
It’s a lovely place to take a walk with a cup of hot chocolate, or go skating (again, it’s free!). In the summer, it’s host to tons of festivals (such as the Home County Folk Festival, Sunfest, and London Rib-Fest) where there are live bands to listen to, local vendors to peruse, and of course, fabulous food and drinks to be sampled.
Take in a show
London has a thriving theatre scene, and the downtown area is the heart of it. The Grand Theatre has tons of amazing shows and even its own ghost (look up Ambrose Small for more details!), while The ARTS Project hosts local theatrical projects, as well as a free, ever-changing gallery, and various art classes.
In the summer, London is host to the London Fringe Festival, where theatre artists from all over Canada and abroad bring together an amazing selection of theatrical delights. Take a chance and see something that sounds intriguing – you never know what you’ll get at the Fringe!
Budweiser Gardens is right across the street from the Covent Garden Market, and offers tons of concerts and touring theatre shows. This year alone I’ve been able to catch Metric and Our Lady Peace, and I’ll be seeing Green Day there soon too!
Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant. She blogs at both Kerryhishon.com and Theatrefolk.com. When she’s not immersed in theatre, Kerry enjoys reading, knitting, and travelling.
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