As a recipient of Lake Effect Snow, London, Ontario can quickly become a wonderland in the wintertime. While frozen ponds and snow-covered forests are beautiful to enjoy at a distance, the cold weather tends to keep people inside where it’s warm. In an attempt to make the most of the holiday season and explore winter while it lasts, here are 10 fantastic destinations in and around London, Ontario for outdoor activities, holiday cheer, and family fun.
1. See Downtown London and Victoria Park in Winter
The first destination is a multi-stop tour of downtown London. The tour begins with the Lighting of the Lights in Victoria Park around the end of the November. From then on to the end of December, the Park is illuminated nightly, setting the scene for a beautifully lit evening walk. Once Victoria Park’s “winter wonderland” is open, another draw is the free, public skating that turns the park into an outdoor skating rink. From December onward to March (weather permitting), skating is open daily with rentals and skate sharpening available as well.
If you are downtown anyway, you might as well check out some of the other stops on the winter tour as well! Next is the Covent Garden Market, a year-round indoor market with all the benefits of shopping local in one convenient spot. Throughout December, the market is also hosting a variety of special holiday events and concerts - not to mention an excellent selection of seasonal, local goods for gifts, entertaining, or personal enjoyment. While you’re there, grab some tickets for a London Knights game at the next-door Budweiser Gardens! There are also plenty of restaurants and stores to make Downtown London a one-stop shopping destination for the holiday season! Even if you aren’t down there for shopping, the Museum London and the Grand Theatre are a memorable way to spend a winter afternoon.
2. Step Back in Time this Winter with Fanshawe Pioneer Village
Located Northeast of London’s core, Fanshawe Pioneer Village is a living monument to the history of Middlesex County. The Pioneer Village strives to recreate an accurate representation of early rural communities using restored buildings, tools, and costumed staff members. Especially in winter, the village knows how to celebrate the holidays in style! Exemplified by a Christmas dinner right out of the 1800s or a breakfast with St. Nicholas himself, the village has a festive lineup of events to highlight the holiday season. Moving into February, the village decorates for winter and offers sleigh rides, wagon rides, maple taffy on snow, and other traditional seasonal activities! Fanshawe Village is worth visiting for the events alone, but the pleasant winter atmosphere and chestnuts roasting on an open fire provide an endless source of winter fun for visitors of all ages!
3. Skiing, Snowboarding, and Tubing at Boler Mountain
As soon as the snow stays on the ground, it’s ‘go time’ for Boler Mountain! During its winter season, this hill in Byron in the Southwestern corner of London turns into a hub for local winter sports. Boler Mountain boasts fifteen downhill trails, four chairlifts, three tube runs, and a terrain park for freestyle play. The hill’s Snow School provides Ski and Snowboarding programs for children ages 5 to 15, a separate stream for adult lessons, and private lessons in skiing or snowboarding. With the holiday program, certain lessons and programs continue over the Christmas holiday and over March Break! Additionally, Boler Mountain is serviced by its very own Tech Shop which provides equipment waxing, sharpening, and adjustment on site. In 2017, a 16,000 square foot chalet was opened, providing a warm and relaxing spot to take a well-deserved break from the slopes. With family deals on season passes and holiday availability, Boler Mountain is the best place near London, Ontario to get your family and friends hooked on winter sports!
4. Winter Season Skating at Storybook Gardens
Springbank Park is beautiful in every season, but there is another reason to make the trip to the forested path along the Thames River this winter. Storybook Gardens, the family park themed after nursery rhymes and fairytales, can be found right on the banks of the Thames in Springbank Park. In warmer months, Storybook Gardens offers rides, play structures, and splash pads for visitors to enjoy all while promoting literacy for children. Beginning in December and spanning the remaining winter months, Storybook Gardens opens its outdoor skate track, complete with a pit-stop for beavertails and hot chocolate. Other events in the Gardens include the Snowybook Village and a special New Years Celebration with an early countdown, crafts, and campfire for younger skaters.
5. Experience a Victorian Christmas at the Eldon House
Snowfall on the historic Eldon House in downtown London paints a stunning picture of Christmas seasons passed. Though it has been in the City of London’s care since the 60s, Eldon House is one of the oldest homes in the city and has been preserved as a perfect time capsule in the heart of the otherwise bustling city. In addition to its rich heritage, Eldon House also functions as a bit of a museum, offering education tours and other activities to teach residents of London and visitors about the history of the elegant house. Starting in November, special events at the Eldon House begin to take a festive turn with holiday table setting workshops, Victorian Christmas decorations and exhibits, Christmas Tea, and a Christmas Ghost Tour of the house. In January, with Christmas festivities out of the way, Eldon House is also offering a New Year's celebration in the drawing room and even more events into the New Year.
6. Complete the Christmas Market Tour in and Around London, Ontario
Between November and December, London and the surrounding area play host to Christmas Markets and Holiday Craft Fairs in a variety of local flavours. First is the Old World Christmas Market held at the end of November. Taking place inside the Bellamere Winery, this market invites visitors into the past with period-appropriate costumes, local artisans, hot beverages, a lunch room, and carolers. Right on the last weekend of November, the London Christmas Craft Festival takes over the Western Fair District for four days! This all-ages festival boasts a roster of 200 vendors from across Ontario and Quebec as well as family entertainment like meeting with Santa Claus. In mid-December, the Covent Garden Market hosts its “Christmas Merry Makers Fair” selling a variety of local, handmade decor, jewelry, clothing, and more - just in time for the Christmas season! What better way to enjoy the festive season, tackle that extensive holiday shopping list, and support your local community? Whether it is a bazaar at the nearest church or community centre or a larger multi-day spectacular, Christmas Markets are a truly magical gathering of local talent and holiday enthusiasts!
7. A Canadian Tradition: McLachlan Maple Syrup and Pancake House, Komoka, Ontario
While Maple Syrup is a staple in Canadian kitchens and stereotypes alike, seeing how the sweet, sweet topping gets made can be turned into a fun family outing. Maple Syrup is collected and processed in the later part of Winter, but come February - usually just in time for Family Day - McLachlan Maple Syrup and Pancake House opens to the public! Have you ever seen the white plastic jugs depicting a quaint winter scene in your local grocery store and wondered where it came from? Well, the McLachlan family farm is actually only a 25 minute drive West from the centre of London, in nearby Komoka, Ontario. The farm offers Horse-drawn wagon rides, tours of the tapping and boiling facilities on the farm, a delightful pancake house serving a Canadian Maple breakfast, and a small playground for the children visiting the farm. If you are curious about the journey of Maple Syrup or looking for a full afternoon with the family, a sugar bush is just the sweet treat you are looking for!
8. Visit Santa’s Cabin at Apple Land Station, Thorndale
Apple Land Station, a great Fall destination, changes with the seasons and becomes an equally awesome winter fun land for families. The farm is located in Thorndale, Ontario, just a 20 minute drive from downtown London. While the apple picking orchards are closed for the winter, a new area called Santa’s Cabin opens up. Accessible by a train ride, Santa’s Cabin is a chance for younger children to meet and chat with Santa Claus as well as a unique photo opportunity for parents. While Santa and the train ride are certainly the main attraction, the winter area includes a tree barn where families can go to pick out their Christmas Tree for the holidays. The apple harvest from the fall can still be enjoyed by visitors in the form of fresh baked goods or preserves and chutneys in the farm shop. The bakery serves fresh sweet and savoury pies alongside hot soups all made without the use of preservatives for an authentic farm taste. The best way to combat the cold is with one of Apple Land Station’s hand-made mile high apple pies!
9. Find New Trails at Circle R Ranch, Delaware
Just because there is snow on the outdoor trails doesn’t mean that they close for the season! Outdoor facilities like Circle R Ranch actually take advantage of the winter snowfall to create new opportunities for fun and physical activity. The Ranch is located 20 minutes Southwest of London in Delaware, Ontario. During the winter season, Circle R Ranch grooms 13km worth of trails through their land to enjoy both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. They offer six different trails ranging in difficulty from “easiest” to “more” and “most difficult” at the top end. Facilities at the Ranch include a ski maintenance area, a lunch room and snack bar, and a shop for equipment sales and rentals. It can be difficult to go jogging or play outdoor sports in the wintertime, but individuals and families can stay active and learn new skills by picking a pair of skis or snowshoes. So bundle up, enjoy the picturesque forest in wintertime, and hit those trails!
10. Pick the Perfect Christmas Tree at Tree Lane Farms, Ilderton
Nothing beats the fresh smell of pine that comes from a real Christmas tree in the living room. If it’s a longstanding family tradition or one that you are curious about starting, then consider paying a visit to Tree Lane Farms in Ilderton, Ontario. Open from November through December, this unique winter experience is only a 25 minute drive North of downtown London. The farm offers White Spruce, White Pine, Fraser Fir, Serbian Spruce, and Korean Fir in pre-cut or U-cut options. What is a U-cut tree? That is a special opportunity for customers to not only choose this year’s special tree, but also to cut it down themselves. Talk about memorable! In addition to the trees, the farm also offers wagon rides, campfire settings, and live reindeer and alpacas as entertainment for guests of all ages. No trip to Tree Lane Farms is complete without visiting the retail store for a whimsical selection of Winter Seasonal and Christmas decor to personalize your new tree!
In Canada, Winter lasts longer than most places. In many cases, our snowfall can start as early as November and persist until the end of March! Hopefully this list has provided some appealing alternatives to waiting for the weather to improve. Whether it’s attending festivals or fairs to prepare for Christmas and the holiday season or enjoying some wholesome winter activities, there are plenty of reasons to embrace the cold weather this winter in London, Ontario.