London, Ontario: A Great Place to Live But I Wouldn’t Want to Visit

So I read this article the other day at OurLondon.ca about how London, Ontario made TripAdvisor’s list of Top 25 Travelers’ Choice Destinations in Canada, and I have to say, as a Londoner, I disagree with this inclusion. Here’s the writeup from Tripadvisor.ca:

You’ll see double-decker buses and even the River Thames, but while London, Ontario, has clearly been inspired by its British namesake, this is a distinctly Canadian destination. Attractions like Fanshawe Pioneer Village, Banting House and Eldon House will captivate history buffs. Or indulge your, shall we say, slightly less cerebral side with a tour of the Labatt Brewery.

I enjoy living and working here, but what kind of writeup is this?! First of all, this makes it sound like we’re a quaint village where you’ll get a taste of jolly old England without the travel costs and with a Canadian twist. Well, aside from maybe seeing a double-decker bus three times in my life, here’s a comparison of the Thames River in London, Ontario and London, England:

Thames River: London, Ontario vs London, England

As you can see, their version is a touch nicer.

And lets talk about those attractions… maybe I take for granted the fact that I drove by Banting House almost every other day when the boxing club I frequented was located in crack alley (Adelaide near Dundas, lovely area of the city), but it’s not somewhere I would suggest civilized people spend their time. Fanshawe’s Pioneer Village is kind of hokey and not an attraction worth spending hours of travel time to see, Londoners really only care about the camp ground nearby. And what kind of selling line is that about the Labatt Brewery? It might as well have said “and, if you’re a beer swilling moron, you’ll love touring this factory that makes your favourite brain cell-killing beverage!”

The “OurLondon.ca” article is something else too, it includes quotes from Marty Rice, who is the “Director of leisure travel and advertising for Tourism London”. Hopefully my taxes don’t go towards paying this man’s salary because I don’t like paying the salaries of liars. Aside from a bunch of buzz words that don’t mean anything (he mentions that we’re “broad-based” and have a “big selection of tourism infrastructure”, and that he was able to promote the city well “using social media”, none of these things really mean anything), here’s my favourite gem from the article:

“[Marty Rice] said the city is also laid out nicely, so it’s easy for visitors to get around London.”

I’m sorry, what part of the city is nicely laid out? As someone who’s lived here a long time, I constantly find myself forgetting about the one-way streets that make absolutely no sense downtown (like King Street and Queen Street, one of which stops being a one-way street at one point), the random signs that tell you that you can’t turn left between certain hours, if at all, and the street festivals that block chunks of the area off on the weekends in the summer. That’s just downtown, never mind the streets that just dead end at some point and magically re-start somewhere else (like Huron, or Wellington), and the fact that the city crawls during rush hour traffic despite it only being a mid-sized city of 400,000 people. Try to drive the 9km down Oxford Street from Fanshawe College to the apartments on Proudfoot Lanes at 4pm in the 14 minutes Google Maps says it should take… good luck. And should a visitor try to use our public transit system, well… enjoy waiting 15 – 30 minutes for a bus that’ll take you part way to your destination, before getting a transfer to wait another 15 – 30 minutes for the next bus. I timed it once, it took me 45 minutes to go from Argyle Mall to Masonville Mall by bus, a trip that should take no more than 10 if you drove there going from Clarke Road to Fanshawe Park Road. If this is the experience of someone who has lived here for 29 years, how is a guest to the Forest City going to fare?

Wellington Road and Huron Street. Why do they just arbitrarily end, then begin again? Is it too much to expect that once you’re on a street, you should be able to follow it to its conclusion?

So, what about other landmarks? Sure, we have the JLC, and it’s nice to see some big concerts in a smaller venue than, say, the Rogers Center, but the acoustics are awful for concerts. Maybe it was just the sound guys working the shows I’ve been to there, but everything was echo-ey, and I couldn’t hear what was actually being said by the performers on stage when they stopped playing to talk. We’ve had some sporting events that were decent draws like the Memorial Cup and the Brier, but those would have been draws to any city, it had nothing to do with how nice London is. There’s the museum… it’s kind of boring and doesn’t really specialize in anything, there’s some art, there’s some artifacts, sometimes there’s some sort of installation, but I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a museum of art, or of history, or what. There’s the Children’s museum, which I’m told hasn’t changed since I used to go there as a kid. There’s East Park, which is ok but ultimately a shell of Wally World, the water-park that London used to have before everyone stopped going to it and it went broke. Other stale attractions include Storybook Gardens and that Native Archaeologist Museum out on Wonderland… we have some nice parks I guess? Oh, or you could take in a ball game at the world’s oldest continuous-use baseball diamond, Labatt Park, with about 98 other people (London used to support their old semi-pro baseball team, the London Tigers, until they started losing, and since this city has no loyalty to anything that’s not a winning franchise, the fans abandoned the team and they moved).

As for the rest of the city? Nothing special… lots of fast food and chain restaurants and Wal-Marts and Best Buys and all the kind of stuff that’s great for a city you’d want to live in, but it’s not the type of place I’d think would be a good tourist destination. “You know, I want to do some traveling this year… where can we go? Oh, I know, how about a city just like every other city in North America!” Don’t get me wrong, London, Ontario, Canada is a decent place to live and work. If you’re a college kid, there’s an entire street devoted to places to destroy your liver. If you’re raising a family there are lots of schools and places to buy school supplies. If you’re an old person there are lots of retirement homes, hospitals, walk-in clinics, pharmacies, and funeral homes.

The problem is, there’s nothing to set us apart from other places on the list. Even Windsor, despite being a dirty hole of a city, has the casino (we have a horse racing track and some slots at the Western Fair, but a casino it is not). Niagara-On-The-Lake has the wineries and such, Niagara Falls has the tourist traps, a couple casinos, and of course, the Falls itself, Edmonton has the West Edmonton Mall, Jasper, Whistler, and Banff have the ski resorts (don’t even embarrass yourself by mentioning Boler Mountain)… basically, there had to be some city or town, ANY city or town, more deserving of #25 on the list. What about Stratford? If people are bored of seeing the festivals, they could go see Justin Bieber’s house. Maybe Grand Bend, the place Londoners go to when they’re sick of doing nothing here? Port Stanley is a nice quaint little village with little independent shops and places to eat, and it at least has a beach. The point is, I don’t know how much London paid to get on this list, but they don’t deserve to be there and I want my portion of the tax money that was spent on being added to this list returned to me, post-haste.

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18 Responses to “London, Ontario: A Great Place to Live But I Wouldn’t Want to Visit”

  1. AmandaB Says:

    Wow, as someone who apparently “enjoys living and working” in London you sure are quite bitter about your city. Maybe living in London for 29 years does that to someone. You have such little respect and pride for the city you live in. No wonder London never gets any recognition or promotion from the rest of the country. Judging from your perspective we’re apparently a bunch of bitter, whining snobs who are jealous that London couldn’t be as exciting or diverse as cities like Toronto, Stratford, etc. You know, if you don’t like it here, you can just move. If you can’t be happy that London is at least getting some recognition and good promotion, then maybe you shouldn’t be here.

    • I never said I didn’t like it here, I said it’s not an exciting tourist destination. I know it’s a long article, but feel free to read it again, there appears to be a reading comprehension issue.

      As for “pride” and “respect”, it’s a patch of ground with buildings on it, I really don’t understand that one, you shouldn’t be “proud” of a city, you should be “proud” of yourself or your friends and their accomplishments within that patch of ground with buildings on it.

      If there was a list of top 25 college cities or top 25 cities where you can raise a family, I could see London making those lists. But in terms of a place you would go for a vacation? I think not.

      • I agree. London is by no means a tourist destination. In fact it’s extremely boring. For some reason it feels like a bedroom community. The city suffers from horrible planning and is by no means easy to get around (assuming there has been any planning whatsoever). I think we have a good park system and that’s about it. If you don’t want to walk along the Thames for a few hours then there really is no reason to come here. To me it feels like a little town, but with horrible traffic and 350 000 people.

  2. I am sure you are ware that London has also been deemed a compassionate city. Looking at the unemployment rate and indifference to the homeless, I wonder what the city paid for that label as well.

    I have to agree with you, Adam. London does not strike me as a booming tourist attraction and that article announcing same was so very misleading. Imagine those who fall for it, come to London on vacation and realize they were bamboozled…the negative word of mouth publicity will undo whatever positive publicity that article garnered.

    It seems like there has been a lot of talk lately about London’s identity. The Forrest City just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. Is it possible people see a Gump reference there? I doubt it, that was so long ago. It is okay to just a be a “nice place to raise a family” or as I referred to it whilst living in Toronto, “Sleepytown”.

    If London needs an identity I say we, (we=city hall) should put everything we have into communication, internet technology and all sundry of computer and gaming innovation. Even get some robots from Russia. I’d like to see London’s tagline be more like, London: Wired For The Future.

    Did I digress? Likely. To your point. I don’t want our tourism to rely on a false moniker and unsubstantiated buzzwords.

    (Do all the animals at Storybook Gardens still look depressed?)

  3. PS adoseofbuckley, you should be on twitter.

    • I’m already on WordPress, YouTube, Facebook, and have my own site… I don’t see the appeal of Twitter, since only a couple hits a month currently come from someone actually searching “A Dose of Buckley”, so hash-tagging that isn’t going to get me a whole lot more. I may consider it as my YouTube channel continues to gain subscribers (I’m up to 200 there), I was told having a WordPress presence would boost my traffic all around but aside from this and a couple other articles, I see very little traffic at all here.

  4. Adam, my biggest pet peeve when I come home for a visit is hearing that yahoo on whatever radio station say something like, “London, the best city in the world!”
    Really! So London is on par with say, Toronto, New York, Paris, Tokyo, LA and the rest? If the city were so happening, how come every year thousands of graduates from UWO or Fanshawe get out of dodge permanently. As for tourism, have you ever checked out the sad little playground at spring bank park which is a tourist destination? How about that downtown…nothing like walking past a strip joint to get to the movie theatre or library. Great planning! I have sent many of my American friends on vacations in the great white north and I assure you, never did I suggest London.
    Pioneer Village, Banting House, are you kidding me?

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  7. This city is a joke. End of story. Glad I moved. I actually relocated to Toronto for a bit, but got sick of rude and robotic people that lived there. On to England I went where I now live in Machester. Fantastic place and will not be returning to London, Ontario – the city that goes nowhere and will never be anything to take seriously.

  8. I have to disagree on with you on this. I’d rather visit for a night but God I wouldn’t want to live there.

    As someone already mentioned, it’s one of the worst places to try to navigate through. During the summer months there is ENDLESS road construction being done but oddly enough it’s almost always the same roads. No thoroughfares, expressways and the pitiful LTC all add to the dismal experience of one’s daily commute to work.

    And work? London’s job market is awful – abysmal really. It was one the hardest hit places in the country in terms of employment in 2009 and while it’s ever so, so, sooooooo slowly getting better: it still stinks. Innovation, cutting edge and forefront are NOT words that can be used legitimately when discussing the city’s job sector.

    Oddly enough, for a city hosting two of some of the largest post-secondary schools in the province, there’s a lack of things to do. Sure there is the Budweiser Gardens (formerly the JLC) and an ok amount of clubs/bars but there’s really nothing special about any of those things either. The shopping in the city is weak, the once bustling downtown of 25 years ago has long rotted and been given over to crackheads and skid balls; no thanks in part to big box stores, criminal parking fees, methadone clinics and that welfare office next to the McDonald’s on Richmond and Dundas.

    It’s almost like London puts no effort into retaining any of the close to 60, 000 full-time college and university students that pass through annually. But hey, let’s build giant Goodwill centres, Salvation Army residence’s, a half dozen Missions, detox centres, meth clinics and “job resource centres” (these are favourite places for lowlifes to smoke weed and and hangout all day when the weather is warm) right downtown. Yes, cater to that demographic some more London, ON.

    Sure, there are some nice parks, gorgeous walking paths and a handful of decent festivals in the summer but it’s not enough to make up for the city’s flaws.

  9. I have to agree with the above posts. I have lived in London my entire life and graduated from Western University. The city is brutally boring and the women are extreamly cold and unfriendly as it is a transient town where people come to go to school and leave.
    I have traveled into Europe and the States and its completely different in regards to friendliness and outgoing-ness of the people and things to do (I have had 3 women approach me in 35 yrs of living here vs 3 weeks in the states having 3 different women, complete strangers, inviting me to Christmas dinner….night and day difference)

    I have read posts about London being a “white” anglo city, this is completely untrue and the levels of immigration are increasing dramatically (yes I am white) While the new Londoners are great in the way of being respectful etc, they tend to group together and not mingle with others, which seems like it creates a divide among the population and not this utopian all inclusive society.

    The job market boasts a 10%+ unemployment rate and your lucky to land a half decent job unless your an immigrant because we have this lovely “affirmative action plan”, look at the composition of public positions and they are mostly foreigners. Forget about an occupation and set your sights on being employed at a Walmart or McDonalds, the best offer I have received is around $17/hr, saddly this doesn’t allow me to purchase a home which are over priced unless you want to live in a undesirable area of the city (Drugs and Break and Enters). Speaking of crime rates, since the city caters to mostly students for some reason we have a very very over inflated Break and Enter rate around the schools, attributed to the students. Coupled with the unfriendly women we boast a high number of sexual offenders, peeping toms, flashers, rappist and child molesters etc. ( check the sexual offenders web site )
    The city does have a rather bad drug and alcohol problem, heroin and pot are rampant with the occasional coke bust, methadone clinics and dispensing pharmacies are becoming more abundant. The entertainment consists of bars and clubs to suck the money out of the students, the JLC or Budwiser gardens hosts some good events but far and few between.
    The rest of the attractions are best described as “field trip” material for children, learn how to make candles at the Pinoneer Village….

    Its a great place to raise children (or come to die in) and is very kid focused, minus the bars and avoid the East and South ends as they do have “gangs”, which might be better described as severely bored children trying to entertain themselves.

    I would not suggest living here and I am praying I receive a offer for a OCCUPATION somewhere else because they don;t exist here, we have temp agencies, contract work and low wages. Hell don;t even visit you will be disappointed

    • One less cock sucker like you would definitely be a good thing for London.

    • I know this is an old thread but I just wanted to chime in about the unfriendly women. You hit the nail on the head. I’ve been here a year and a half and have made just one friend and she’s new to Canada, having moved here after I did.

      Where I come from, if you meet somebody and mention that you’re new in town and don’t know anybody there, you are immediately invited over for a family dinner. And before dinner, somebody else will drive you around and give you a tour of the city and introduce you around. Not in London though. I’ve never felt so alone and isolated in my life. I swear I can see them shrink back when they find out I’m not from here.

      Funny thing…I came across this post because I googled ‘London Ontario most unfriendly city’ just to see what I’d find.

      • Billy Bishop Says:

        Like yourself I googled “London Ontario worst city in Canada” and found this old thread. I could not agree more with the author’s statements about London. My wife and I first moved here in 2008 to be closer to her family, as she was promised a job through her mother’s workplace. We both came from Windsor and both having worked in the service/bar industry for 12 years prior, each making a modest tip income of 6 to 800 a week in Windsor. In any case we came here, and experienced financial ruin for a whole year as the mother-in-law’s ‘job’ fell through and each of us could not get hired at any bar or restaurant (2008-2009 Recession). My wife decided to apply to UWO and succeeded in getting acceptance in Sept. 2009. The only bartending job I found was in Niagara Falls and traveled there each weekend just to pay the bills. One month we had to sell our second car to pay our rent, because of her tuition payments. Since most minimum wage jobs claimed that I needed a post-secondary education just to get hired at their establishments, I decided to attend UWO in 2010. Fast forward to now? She has recently completed her degree and I have 6 months to go to complete mine. During my school career I have worked many terrible paying/low wage jobs which were difficult to obtain. I’ve experienced extremely rude interviewers, hours cut for no reason given, and the all around ‘cold’ and miserable Londoners who make living here a terrible experience. This is a phenomenon unique to London, Ontario that I have not experienced in Windsor, GTA, Niagara, and even Los Angeles, all places that I have lived and never experienced the series of bad luck, financial ruin, and asshole people that occurs in one place. I have only gotten into 3 fistfights in my life, and they all occurred here in London, and I used to hangout in many of Detroit’s bars during my time in Windsor. I hear of criticism from the London Free Press and the Western news that each year 60,000 students leave the city once they got their degrees? Its true, for my wife and I and many of my fellow Western students who have shared the similar experiences and views towards London as well.

        The city has grown on us, and we recognize that it would be a fantastic place to raise children, however we can’t stay here if there are so many minimal career options in the city. Maybe Londoners should become innovative and take steps to provide better options if they want to keep highly skilled grads from leaving the city ASAP. If anyone reads this and claims “Good Riddance” and gets all defensive, you have obviously ‘arrived’ and are comfortable with your life here and I say ‘Cheers and Good Luck’ to you! I think struggling to get things going for 6 years was an ample amount of time for us in London, and we can’t to leave.

  10. Mo Schiffman Says:

    Have relatives in London. I’m from the Detroit suburbs. I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl. Never felt anything negative. People have always been nice. Always enjoyed the music festivals, shopping, quaint buildings and food. If you don’t like where you live, you should move. I’ve talked to many people in my area who have only nice things to say about London when I tell them I’m going for a visit. :^)

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