Looking for a new place to call home includes many considerations. You want to make the ideal choice to ensure you’re happy and prosper in your location.
If you don’t know much about London, Ontario, or it’s one of many on your list of cities to move to, this guide highlights what it has to offer. Of course, no one can entirely capture the spirit of a city in words, however, Chris Campbell, 2019 JUNO Host Chair put it well:
“London is a continuously growing city where you can find anything and everything you need within a short distance from home. From entertainment, sports to culture we cover all the bases for consumers of all demographics. With a remarkable culinary scene, unique brew culture and astonishing parkland London is rapidly growing into the city that has it all.” – Chris Campbell, 2019 JUNO Host Chair
Director of Culture & Entertainment Tourism, Tourism London
Hopefully, this guide will help you get a feel for this wonderful oasis on the Thames River and why you’ll want to live here.
British Roots Sprout a Thriving City
It’s no accident the city’s called London and it sits on the Thames River. Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, a British Army general and the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, named the settlement after London, England and renamed the river the Thames.
Founded in 1826, the city and its identity have changed dramatically through the years. In 1880, the Imperial Oil Company ran sixteen southwestern-Ontario refiners from its London office. It was also the nation’s second-largest cigar-producing city, and home to Wolseley Barracks, a small military garrison
Today, London is one of the largest urban municipalities in Ontario with fourteen wards, however, it retains many of its historic buildings.
Flourishing, Diverse Community
The geographical location of London offers many advantages. It lies midway between Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Superior, with easy access to Detroit, Buffalo, and Toronto.
Fortunately, London remains a beautiful city despite its growth. It’s surrounded by woodlands and farmlands, instead of the usual unattractive urban sprawl. The 2016 census cites a population of 494,069; ideal for convenience, but not so big you feel overwhelmed by the masses. This family-oriented community also has plenty of room for a healthy retirement population and singles.
As the city grew, it also diversified. While most people speak English, you’ll also hear French, Spanish, Arabic, Caribbean, and Asian languages on the streets. London is truly Canadian as it offers an ethnically diverse home and the music, dance, food and ideologies of countless countries.
Healthy Housing Market
Many Canadian housing markets are beyond the reach of buyers. Luckily, London is very affordable when compared to Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Niagara and Ottawa.
Unfortunately, the demand for homes in London is far greater than the supply. The London and St. Thomas Association of REALTORS® (LSTAR) states new home listings are down 31.8% from last January and active listings are down 27.7% from this time last year.
Last year saw a huge spike in sales due to influx of Torontonians cashing in their homes for top dollar. This year, home sales are steady, but the lack of inventory is still an issue. LSTAR estimates there’s only two months of homes available to buyers. Happily, a solution exists – build your own home and get precisely what you want at your price point.
Business Drives Growth
Employment is a concern for most people when looking for a new place to live. London’s healthy mix across many major industry sectors offers innumerable opportunities.
Many successful manufacturing, financial, educational, and healthcare businesses have their offices in London, including big names such as Labatt, 3M Canada, EllisDon, Diamond Aircraft and Trojan Technologies.
Ten businesses from London made the Profit 500 list as the fastest growing companies in the nation too.
London also has a large tech and gaming sector, due to exceptional technical and creative talent from many colleges and universities.
Ample Educational Choices
The Thames Valley School Board is one of the largest in Ontario, operating 138 elementary and 28 secondary schools dotted throughout the city. The London District Catholic School Board operates another 48 elementary and eight secondary schools, and French language and private schools also exist.
London also has numerous colleges and universities including the University of Western Ontario, Fanshawe College, Brescia University College and King’s University College, and others.
The University of Western Ontario ranks third overall in Ontario colleges and Fanshawe College had the top post-graduation hiring rate in Ontario in 2017, both impressive credentials.
The London Public Library also provides valuable resources, seminars, and activities in its multiple branches throughout the city.
Invested in Arts & Culture
A great city is more than just buildings and people. It’s abuzz with impressive art and culture which inspires and informs. Art and culture teach us about ourselves and our city and it improves our quality of life.
London boasts a $5.4 million cultural industry with more museums per capita than Toronto or Ottawa. It also has over 100 heritage properties, and heritage conservation districts and cultural heritage landscapes of significant community interest. Notable architectural styles include Queen Anne, Art Deco, Modern and Brutalist.
Those with the creative spirit and those that appreciate art can wander through plentiful galleries, dabble in paint, take an acting class, or learn to write poetry. London has a well-established art community and arts council.
Theatre is alive and well in London too. We have a vibrant, well-rounded theatre scene including the cutting-edge London Fringe Theatre Festival, classic, and contemporary theatre.
Everything You Need…and More
As a mid-sized city, London has all the necessities. With three large shopping malls, all the major retailers, farmer’s markets, and specialty shops, you’re sure to find what you need.
Government, professional and personal services are readily available, including childcare and before and after care. As you should expect from any worthwhile city, London also offers many ways to stay fit, unwind, and have fun.
London has many community and recreational centres, arenas, outdoor rinks, and outdoor and indoor pools, including the 50 metre, 8-lane Canada Games Aquatic Centre.
If you like to swoosh the slopes, Boler Mountain is the Southern-most ski hill in Canada. It also has a Treetop Adventure Park with 40-foot climbing bridges and a zip line.
The Forest City Velodrome offers recreational riding, and training and racing opportunities on the world’s smallest permanent indoor track. They offer to learn to ride and Cyclefit programs too.
London also has numerous municipal 9 and 18-hole golf courses if your idea of relaxation is playing a round of golf. Breathe the fresh air, have a drink or meal in the clubhouse, and meet new friends.
Looking for something more exciting? How about betting on the sulkies at Western Fair Raceway? You’ll enjoy harness racing at its best on this half-mile track and you can partake in their award winning buffet and comedy too.
For over 55 years, Delaware Speedway has brought Canada’s best stock car racing to London in their family-friendly, affordable amphitheater. Sanctioned championships and specialty events such as the monster trucks make it the go-to place for racing enthusiasts.
Impressive Outdoor Experiences
The North Thames River and Thames River meet at the centre of the city in an area known as “The Forks”. Meandering paths and parks line the waterways and are integral part of the life of Londoners and local activities. London is very much a walk-friendly and bike-friendly community with over 330 km of bike paths and lanes.
London has 9 major parks and many small ones dotted throughout the city, including community gardens, off-leash dog parks, a skateboard park, and picnic areas.
The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority also manages the Fanshawe, Pittock, and Wildwood Conservation Areas in and around the London area which offer hiking, camping, boating, fishing, hunting, and off-roading.
You’ll never need to worry about missing the action when you live in London either. The city attracts world-class entertainers and events and it is home to many regional festivals and shows too.
The largest venue in London is Budweiser Gardens. Big name music performances, hockey games, skating performances, WWE, and Broadway shows all make a stop at this 10,000 seat facility. With an ever-changing, continual stream of events, you’ll never lack entertainment.
Music lovers will not want to miss the TD Canada Trust Sunfest which runs annually. Featuring international and national stars in all music genres, this 3-day event has something for everyone. This year, catch top world performers between July 5 and 8, 2018. London also has many halls such as the Aeolian which present ongoing music, art, and dance performance and film events.
Pursue Your Passions
Do you like to sit in the stands on a sunny day and watch a ballgame? Why not catch a London Majors baseball at Labatt Memorial Park, the world’s oldest continuously operating ballpark? They’re an independent, minor league baseball team of the semi-pro Intercounty Baseball League, sure to thrill fans.
Dog lovers, or those thinking of buying one, won’t want to miss Pawlooza, Canada’s biggest dog festival with over 25,000 participants and 6,000 dogs. It features training and grooming demonstrations, as well as nutritional and first aid information, and vet advice.
Dogs can participate in a “Top Model” contest, play in the fun zone, or just wander the grounds and watch other dogs as they participate in the diving or agility demonstrations. You can also adopt a rescue animal, or “Pawdoptable”, instead of shopping the pet stores. The event happens on Aug 18, 2018.
Gear heads need to check out the Speed and Custom Car Show. This year it features turbo-charged racing vehicles, hot rods, classics, and custom rides. They also offer a “Pinstripe Panorama” showcasing unique artwork with an opportunity to do your car too. The event runs annually and this year it’s on Mar 24 and 25th.
Exceptional Food & Drink
London restaurants offer exceptional food and variety. With such a diverse community, you’ll find authentic Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Thai, Indian, and more. From budget restaurants to fine dining, you’ll find food to suit your budget and tastebuds.
Let’s not forget the many pubs and bars, breweries, and wineries in the area. Take in a brewery tour, taste test your new favourite wine, or discover one of the unique local craft beers the region has to offer.
Love to try new foods? The International Food Festival is the place to try some of the most popular and tastiest foods from around the globe. The event features craft beer, live entertainment, and everything from arepas to shawarmas. It’s known as Canada’s biggest party, so bring an appetite and a thirst and enjoy the fun.
Now that you’re thinking of food, why not check out the London Ribfest, a free event featuring Canada’s top ten rib masters and the largest authentic barbecue competition in the nation.
It’s your chance to sample some of the best ribs around, watch entertainment, or take in the fair. The event runs Thursday through Monday of a holiday weekend, and there’s even a vegan pavilion so no one need feel left out.
London knows how to celebrate too, and Canada day is a big deal. Thousands of Londoners gather in Harris Park to start the celebrations, but it doesn’t stop there. People take their oath of allegiance and become citizens, others paint their faces red and white, and kids cover their bicycles with Canadian flags. There’s also the firing of a historic cannon, a huge fireworks display, entertainment, and food. It’s a time to celebrate community, our great nation, and the people within it and few do it as well as London, Ontario.
Each year the city welcomes in the New Year with equal gusto. Victoria Park offers non-stop entertainment and fun for the whole family. London has plenty to celebrate as it approaches its 200th year as a city. We’ve created a safe, friendly, affordable city that you could call home.
Looking for even more to do in London? Check out this article on the 20 top things to do in London.
Creating Homes, Not Houses
Since finding a home in London can be a challenge, consider building one instead. At Forever Homes, we’ve built homes and created communities in the London area since 1993. We have the wealth of experience, expertise, creativity, and professionalism you need to create your new ideal home.
Interested in reading more? Check out our other blogs.