2017 Top Park In London Ontario

Victoria Park located in London ON is our Top Park of 2017. In the heart of downtown London, Ontario, you can find a beautiful 18 acre (7.3ha) park, which has become the hub of community events in London Ontario.

History of Victoria Park

Victoria Park was originally located at the site of an old British military base and the cricket grounds in the 1800s.  During and after the Upper Canada rebellion in 1837, the garrison expanded with new buildings.  The British withdrew to Europe in 1853, but the buildings were used to hide slaves that had escaped the Canada as one of the end stations in the Underground Railway.  In 1861, the troops returned in fear that the American Civil War would extend into Canada.  In 1874, the park was relocated to the City of London and was officially named, Victoria Park after Queen Victoria.

While the park once housed elaborate fountains and a lily pond, there are no water features remaining in the park, today.

Victoria Park’s original design was the work of a prestigious landscape architect, Charles H. Miller, who was the head gardener of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and designer of the American Centennial Expo grounds.

The park was designed for recreational activities, but was used as a military garrison, as needed.  Because London was the centre of the Western Ontario military district, troops were stationed in the park during Second Boer War, World War I and II, and during the Conscription Crisis of 1944.

Three cannons from the Crimean War were placed in the park in 1907.  A memorial statue of the Boer War was erected in 1912, and an exact replica of the cenotaph in Whitehall, London, England was built in 1934.  A Sherman tank, known as the Holy Roller, that was used in WWII was placed there in 1950.  In 1994, the Women’s Memorial for the victims of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in Montreal, was built.

Events & Activities at Victoria Park

Many festivals and events are held in this beautiful park, including Sunfest, the Home County Folk Festival, the London Ribfest, the International Food Festival, and the Victoria Park Kids Expo.  As well, there are a number of sporting competitions that take place in Victoria Park, including, The Street Hockey Tournament and the Stihl timbersports competition.

In 2008, the “Greening of the Festivals” was implemented which required all events since then to have a waste management plan in place to eliminate unnecessary waste to landfill sites.  All food and beverage containers need to be either recyclable or compostable with EcoStations readily available for waste disposal.  The high number of events in the park has been a concern for the park with the resulting damage to the grass and foliage; therefore, some events have been rescheduled and have been limited to reduce the wear and tear on the park grounds.

In the winter, the trees in the park are decorated with Christmas lights.  In early December there is an annual celebration when these lights are lit, called the “Lighting of the Lights.”  Victoria Park hosts an annual New Year’s Eve Event, with fireworks and music, and winter is celebrated at Snowfest in February.  Every year since 1913 the park has an ice skating rink in the winter.

A bandshell was built in 1950, and was rebuild in 1990.

Wildlife at Victoria Park

The park is home to a large population of melanistic (black) Easter Gray Squirrels.  Gray Squirrels are not native to London, Ontario.  They were first introduced to the park in 1914 when four pairs of squirrels were purchased and released into the park.  As an interesting note, squirrel fishing has become a bit of a sport in Victoria Park.  Squirrel fishing is the sport of “catching” squirrels and attempting to lift them into the air using a peanut on a string (or fishing pole).

Victoria Park is London Ontario’s version of “Central Park, NY.”  You can retreat in the green space under old shade trees for reprieve from the busy city, or you can head there during a special event to experience great music, food and people. You can pull up a lawn chair or blanket, enjoy a picnic, watch people go by, or engage in one of the many activities that the park has to offer.

For other places to visit in London Ontario